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CASTILE – Drones are all the buzz these days, giving photographers and videographers new opportunities to get a never-before-seen bird’s eye view of incredible scenery. In Livingston County, one naturally thinks of flying a drone over the gorgeous gorges in Letchworth State Park.
Though some look like big toy helicopters, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones, are in the end aircraft, and must abide by federal laws and safety regulations to legally fly.
In Letchworth State Park, operators must also obtain a permit and only fly between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Operators can be fined up to $250 for violating the park’s drone rules. Permits are available at the park’s Visitor Center during business hours.
Federal laws surrounding the use of UAS are available in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 here.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s website, individuals flying for hobby or recreation are also strongly encouraged to follow these safety guidelines anywhere in the United States:
Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles; keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times;
remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations; don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying; don’t fly near people or stadiums; don’t fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 pounds; don’t be careless or reckless with an unmanned aircraft as the operator could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft.
The FAA says that using a UAS to take photos for your personal use is recreational and does not require their permission. However, using the same device to take photographs or videos for compensation or sale to another individual would be considered a non-recreational operation and require FAA authorization.