According to the Adirondack Explorer, a Canadian Hiker has pleaded guilty to flying a drone in the High Peaks Wilderness in the Adirondack Park. The hiker, Keven Descheneaux of Trois Rivieres, Quebec was fined on June 17, 2017, by a forest ranger for operating a drone near the ranger’s outpost in Johns Brook valley. Descheneaux has the questionable honor of being the first person to be convicted of operating a drone in the Forest Preserve.
Drones are classified as motorized vehicles and thus are illegal
Drone regulations for the Forest Preserve are being prepared by the state Department of Environmental Conservation but Descheneaux was charged under the existing regulation that prohibits unauthorized people to possess or operate “motorized equipment” on Preserve lands classified as Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe in the Adirondack Park.
The Explorer was informed by the Keene Town Justice Constance Hickey, that Descheneaux pleaded guilty by mail on August 8 and was fined $75 in addition to a $75 court fee.
“Many people do not realize that operating a drone in a Wilderness Area is illegal,” according to Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club.
Mike Lynch from the Adirondack Explorer, saw someone flying a drone atop Cascade Mountain in the High Peaks Wilderness about a month ago.
“The guy was sitting on the summit with a bunch of friends and flew the drone about ten feet over them,” he said.
According to the Explorer, Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio witnessed a person flying an unmanned aerial vehicle on the summit of Mount Marcy in September. Instead of issuing a fine, a summit steward asked the operators to cease flying the drone, which seems like a more appropriate reaction, given so many people are unaware of the rules.
Legal to your drone launch from outside the park
Apparently, the state Department of Environmental Conservation does not have jurisdiction over airspace. Had Descheneaux launched the drone from outside the park and then flew it into or over the park, he would have been fine. It is legal to launch a drone from elsewhere such as a road and fly it over the park.
Woodworth said that more precise drone regulations would help clarify the legal situation for the Forest Preserve. Under the current policy, drones are allowed in the Wild Forest Areas, which applies to most of the preserve.
Photo: Afternoon fall colors at Marcy Dam, High Peaks Wilderness Area, Adirondack Park, NY, Sept 2010. Credit: SummitPost.org