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Forewarned is forearmed: Launch and land from PA State Game lands is Prohibited

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by William Gaddy, Oct 11, 2016.

  1. William Gaddy

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    I drove to Shohola Falls, PA to do a little bit of glam shooting and get some 360 aerial footage while I was at it. I had been shooting the other side of the falls from a separate access road when the last itinerant people left (it's a weekday, kids are in school, etc). Weather was perfect though, blue sky, no wind. Then I drove over to the other main side of the access to the falls to scout and do my main shoot.

    As I got out and began to scout the location, a game warden pulled up and got out with two other folks -- apparently the local Scout Troop had an Eagle project and they completely re-did a whole set of steps that had been washed out/eroded (shout out to the Scout Troop in Shohola, PA for a job well-done!). I continued down to the main waterfall to scout. I went back up to retrieve the Inspire, and do my checklist. Before I did though, I CAREFULLY read the posted rules. Nope, nothing about UAS, dones, nothing. Confirmed my location once I got down there -- location is completely emptied of people except for a couple of folks on a promontory well above where I'll fly maximum AGL. Good to go!

    I was walking to the entrance to the falls, and the game officer and his companions were walking the other direction to the dam. I never made any effort to be inconspicuous (why should I?), in fact, carrying the Inspire, I stopped to look at them to see if they would see me and give acknowledgement or maybe start a conversation like "what is that?" which is usually fun. Nope, busy. So I continued on.

    Down the falls I went, did my shoot (got about 15 minutes of footage). Came back up, and the game officer is sitting in his running truck. I do a couple of system checks, check a bit of footage, and stow my gear in the trunk. As I'm ready to leave, the game officer gets out (I'm thinking he's going to have the "What's that?" conversation with me).

    Nope. "What were you doing with the drone down there?" To wit I replied "Just getting some brief aerial shots." He informs me that ALL drone take-off and landing operations are now prohibited with all PA State Game Lands. I can launch and land OUTSIDE the Game Lands, and fly over and in, but not within them. I pointed out that that reg was not posted; he acknowledged that it's rather new and that they are sorting out the posting. I thanked him for his heads up, and we went on our merry way. (He was very polite, and didn't try and pinch me in any way since the deed was already done).

    Bottom line: it's not posted in most locations (at the moment) but without a special dispensation from PA DCNR, you are prohibited from taking off and landing with a UAV on State of PA Game Lands.

    Cheers
     
  2. RaptorMan

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    It's just a matter of time before all federal, state and local government owned and controlled land is off limits to drones. Then, when there's a missing kid and the SAR team says they can't use there best tool, drones, to look for him, will they reverse themselves -- nope!


    Brian
     
  3. The Editor

    The Editor Moderator
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    Here's the crazy thing..... there is no joined up thinking here because people will still want to get shots of waterfalls, canyons etc and by restricting take off and landing outside of park territory it is actually encouraging more dangerous BVLOS flights. However, obviously I can see a need for limits and rules prohibiting UAV use by the general public in certain areas for animal well being etc.
    With the likes of the Mavic capable of 7km I fear that people pushing that will be the norm not only just to see how far they can get but also to evade being caught when they are knowingly breaking the rules.
     
    slim.slamma and InspiredOne like this.
  4. RaptorMan

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    That's absolutely right, by denying the right to take off and land you are going to see people game the system by taking off and landing outside of the area and that will increase risks. Also agree that there should be areas that are no fly zones, areas where wildlife might be scared off and areas of pristine natural beauty. I can only imagine what Yellowstone would be like if it were legal to fly drones in the park.

    Just as with off road vehicles I think there should be an effort to NOT close off places but to designate a limited number of places to be off limits while other areas are permitted. Some of the more extreme leaf watchers will never be happy until only they are permitted in areas like that and on the flip-side, there are knuckleheads that think they should be able to do as they please anywhere they please.


    Brian
     
  5. William Gaddy

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    Eigh, at the end of the day, I think this is more about the govt wanting a piece of your commercial action. New York state has this figured out. You have to apply for a Film Permit $$ and a UAV Permit $$$ to fly in say, Harriman State Park. But the process is predictable and fairly methodical, even if it does cost $$$. If you're just flying for fun (no $$$) then they don't want to bother with you.

    Cheers
     
  6. William Gaddy

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    As for mixed incentives, I agree. Without organized "exception handling", e.g. an online form where a Part 107 or AMA member pilot can apply for a "permit", BVLOS flights are going to be more common and result in dangerous behavior. There are a lot of militant hobby flyers out there who do FPV, and this kind of thing only encourages that kind of risk-taking.
     
  7. Scott Gehlhoff

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    IMG_0772.PNG So the FAA already has a rule about not flying under 2000' AGL around most national parks, wildlife preserves. These are posted on VFR sectionals and don't change too often. You can get a sectional at your local pilot shop to see. Here's a snap shot of the key from ForeFlight app.
     
  8. Jon L 13

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    @Scott Gehlhoff aircraft rules don't carry over to RC rules, since RC aircraft ("drones", "quads", etc.) are not aircraft. That's why they came out with special rules just for RC (part 107 and an addition to part 101).
     
  9. William Gaddy

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    In this case, this is a State Game Reserve property, not a National Park nor a National DOC Wildlife Reserve. The new thing is that it was perfectly legal to fly a UAV in PA State Game areas (as long as you weren't "harassing widlife or game") until late July... then they completely banned launch and landing within those areas.
     
  10. Scott Gehlhoff

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    FAR 107.45 is referring to this I believe. But they've intertwined parts to include part 91. Such as 107.47. At any rate the problem with all of these is that the FAA hasn't defined a lot of these rules. Say for example flight over people. So how far is over. Or is it directly over? The truth is the FAA has a lot of wiggle room here.
     
  11. William Gaddy

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    The Game Officer that "pinched me" told me directly I could fly "over, in, and within" the airspace of the Game Lands, and that THAT is controlled by the FAA, as they control the "airspace", but that they prohibited launch and landing within the lands themselves as of July 26. As for Part 107.45, I suggest a reading of the Federal Register where the FAA has a lengthy discussion about their rationale for being less "proscriptive" than "use your good common sense as a pilot" in interpreting things like 107.45. If you're flying at 400 AGL, for example, you probably need a much wider cordon if there is a crowd nearby than if you're flying at 30 feet AGL. They want you to use your good ADM judgement and a single prescription (say, thou shalt not fly within 50 feet of a crowd of not less than 20 people or whatever) would be either too restrictive, or not restrictive enough.
     
  12. Bob Rush

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    Does this also apply to State Forests? They are run by DCNR. I received permission to fly a few summers ago but that may have changed!
     
  13. William Gaddy

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    State Forests policy can be found here:

    PA DCNR - Drones and UAS

    They have designated flying areas and they still want you to contact each state park's administrator before flying. Otherwise, prohibited (both Part 101 and Part 107 flying).

    Cheers
     
  14. Bob Rush

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    Thanks!
     
  15. slim.slamma

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    A true leader. Leads for all.
    Impressed as usual:)
     
  16. slim.slamma

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    Grab em by the...
     
  17. Jon L 13

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    @Scott Gehlhoff those guys sure are tricky... But that's only if you're operating under 107. I don't see the connection between part 101 and the 2,000' limit in the VFR charts. I don't see any AMA rules that prohibit this either, which part 101 loosely says to go by (or another set of community rules).
    https://www.modelaircraft.org/files/105.PDF
    Thoughts?
     
  18. White Airwolf

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    The main underlying reason for banning drones in state or provincial parks is not the fear of interfering with wildlife but the fear of crashing the drone in a remote area of the park where it will, over time, poison the property with its electronics and battery leakage.
     
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  19. RaptorMan

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    While the e-waste thing is a factor I would not put it at the top of the list. The administrative types running parks at all levels tend to be left of center and support environmental causes etc. Now I'm not in opposition to that mind you just stating what should be obvious. The consequence vis-a-vis drones is that they make noise and otherwise remind them of ATV's and other off road vehicles that they also hate. There is a mindset that parks are for them and the unwashed masses should be excluded.

    But, I do think there needs to be places that are off limits and many of the popular national and state parks would be on that list. If, for example, it were legal to fly drones in Yellowstone NP you would likely find it hard to be anywhere in the park without the sound of a drone or several drones about. Quite apart from the safety concerns that are legitimate the sound alone would be -- a buzz kill so to speak...

    So, I'm fully OK with the idea that certain places need to be off limits, however I think the boundaries should not necessarily include 100% or the park. Even in places like Yellowstone there are places that could tolerate drones, places to the periphery of the populated places and not likely to contain sensitive wildlife, plants or soils. As an example, the Grand Canyon park boundaries extend all along the Colorado River and reach more than a 200 miles upstream of the park itself -- up beyond Moab. I think that's excessive, but I see zero chance that the exclusion zone will be reduced and if anything, more likely to be expanded.


    Brian
     
  20. William Gaddy

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    Like everything else, there should be exceptions though (and a process to procure such exceptions). If I can prove (via a comprehensive operations plan) that I won't harm/harass/disturb wildlife, be a pain-in-the-ass/ear to people on the ground, nor pose an unmitigated risk of e-waste/damage to environment/property damage, there should be a repeatable, non-arbitrary process for obtaining such approvals. We're not quite there yet, but I have a few park approvals underway. This usually means written letters and permit forms. In a gleaming future, this could be done online with instant approval or rejection, but as I said we're not there yet...

    Cheers