On Wednesday, a United Airlines crew spotted a drone flying ‘near’ the Statue of Liberty. It disappeared before the NYPD could ground the ‘illegal’ unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Reportedly the drone flew about 3,000 to 4,000 feet away from the landmark sometime between 6 pm and 6:30 pm on Wednesday.

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Drone near the Statue of Liberty

According to the NY Post, a drone was spotted flying ‘near’ the Statue of Liberty sometime between 6 pm and 6:30 pm on Wednesday. The unmanned aircraft system (UAS) allegedly flew about 3,000 to 4,000 feet away from the landmark and then “vanished before officials could ground the illegal craft,” said the NY Post.

According to authorities the drone also flew close to an airplane that was bound for La Guardia

“The crew of United Airlines 1254, an Airbus A319, reported observing an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) near the Statue of Liberty at 6:23 p.m. last night. The New York Police Department was notified. The FAA will investigate,” a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration said according to the NY Post.

Aviation units were looking for the drone but were unable to locate it. Local authorities, including the NYPD, have been on high alert as the United Nation General Assembly started this week. We reported on the NYPD hunting down illegal drones some time ago.

Illegal UAS?

The newspaper describes the drone as ‘illegal’ as it flew ‘near the Statue of Liberty at a distance of 3,000 to 4,000 feet. This in itself does not make the drone flight illegal as the FAA’s restriction is only 400 lateral feet from the National Monument. This restriction that was put in place as of October 5th, 2017.

The FAA and DOI have agreed to restrict drone flights up to 400 feet within the lateral boundaries of these sites:

  • Statue of Liberty National Monument, New York, NY

The restrictions will be effective October 5, 2017. There are only a few exceptions that permit drone flights within these restrictions, and they must be coordinated with the individual facility and/or the FAA.

The UAS flight might have been illegal if, for instance, it flew higher than 400 feet, closer than 5 miles from an airport, such as LaGuardia. Or when there was a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) in place. Unfortunately, the article in the NY Post does not give us any further information. If the drone pilot did not break any of these or other rules while flying his UAS, it might have been a perfectly legal flight. Keep in mind though that no drone flights are allowed in New York City. And that even if you find a place to fly legally, the NY airspace is extremely busy with three major airports, countless heliports, federal facilities, and power plants. Here’s a screenshot from Airmap that shows you the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor. The large yellow circles are 5-mile radius zones from airports such as LaGuardia and Newark. Pay attention to all the small circles. Those are the heliports. There are many. Find more information on the FAA drone rules here.

Airmap.io New York City Statue of Liberty

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Photo credit: Elliot F.

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