Drones are more popular than ever before. The small remote-controlled aircraft can take photographs and shoot video and they are getting easier and easier to use.
However, drones are also more and more controversial. Critics say their buzzing propellers are an unwelcome intrusion in wild lands that are meant to feel remote and natural.
New York State is now trying to figure out when and where these tiny aircraft should be allowed on public lands.
New presence buzzing overhead
This summer on the summit of Mt. Marcy, the Adirondack Park’s highest peak, you could hear laughter and hikers sharping picnic lunches. But you could also hear a distant buzzing sound, like a model airplane. Up in the sky, a small white drone circled with Jacob Sells working the remote control.
“I literally just pulled up my [phone app] and it said I’m clear to fly,” Sells said. He’s originally from Binghamton and he studies now at Virginia Tech, but he spends a lot of time traveling to wild places in the U.S., posting photographs and videos on Instagram.
“I’m an Eagle Scout and I’m very conscious of the environment,” he explained. There are a lot of rules for flying drones and Sells said he tries to follow them. “There are rules you can’t fly in national parks and rules you can’t fly within five miles of any airport.”
On this day, a summit steward asked Sells to shut down his drone. He says he was told that they’re not allowed in the Park’s officially designated wilderness areas.
A first ticket for drones this summer
“This summer, the first ticket was issued at Johns Brook Lodge,” said Mike Lynch, a reporter and photographer with Adirondack Explorer magazine. “A Canadian man launched a drone in a wilderness area and he was seen by a ranger.
Lynch has looked at the question of how drones will be regulated in the Park. Right now there are a lot of gray zones and the only specific limitations are in areas managed as wilderness.
“All they can do is give a ticket to people who are using drones in wilderness areas because drones are considered motorized vehicles. However if you are standing on the edge of a wilderness and not actually in the wilderness, you could actually fly the drone over the wilderness area within sight distance and not get a ticket.”