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Flying a Drone over an Amusement Park – Good Idea?

With the advancements in UAV technology over the past few years – coupled with the explosion of video online – it’s no wonder these devices are becoming increasingly popular. But, before you go off buying and flying one of these incredible devices at your local park – know what you’re getting into first…

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Photo by American Coaster Enthusiasts, Northern California region. Used with permission.

1.) Flying over anything is inherently dangerous – gravity ALWAYS wins:

Many people don’t realize that when you’re flying, you’ve got several pounds of equipment hovering over other people’s property and / or selves when you’re flying. That payload can strike someone or something at damaging velocities. One doesn’t have to look far to find plenty of spectacular drone crash videos.

A dead battery, gust of wind, or unexpected obstacle could spell instant disaster for your aircraft, and serious injuries or worse to anyone below. Know that if you cause damage to a park employee, guest or ride as a result of your UAV – they’ll be calling you to recoup the damages – and it won’t be cheap.

There are also significant airspace restrictions to be aware of, too – as you’ll soon see…


2.) Getting permission from a park to fly over is ALWAYS the best move:

(Video by William Francis)

Don’t be like this guy and cause a panic amidst Disney security and guests – while it should be common sense knowledge – you DON’T fly over a park that already has major security protocols in place.

Make whatever argument you can (“The Ferris Wheel was closed,” or “FAA says only MANNED aircraft aren’t allowed over”) the fact remains – flying an unmanned drone, without telling anyone is begging for panic and unnecessary resources diverted away from real emergency situations. There are reports everyday of people shooting these aircraft down – not informing someone you’ll be in their space sets the wrong precedent and reflects badly on the community as a whole. You wouldn’t jump over a fence for a photo update – so how is flying over at low altitude any different?

ALWAYS ask ahead of time and more importantly, HONOR the decision – even if it isn’t what you wanted.


3.) Privacy rights may not be set in stone, but there are common sense limits:

Fences are there for a reason – it’s to keep people out. Flying over construction sites, while a cool perspective at low altitude – can be considered an invasion of privacy. Now, this is where it get’s muddy…at what altitude is too low? Aircraft are required to stay at least 1,000 AGL (above ground level), but drones aren’t quite aircraft – they’re considered “model aircraft” by the FAA at this time. That means they cannot exceed 400 feet AGL. But the privacy barrier isn’t set in stone.


4.) Commercializing (monetizing) your drone video requires more than just a click of the mouse:

When you monetize a video on YouTube, you’re certifying that you own all the rights to the video, you made it yourself and you had all the necessary paperwork to allow it to be commercialized. This means getting insurance, paying all location fees oh – and GETTING PERMISSION TO FLY IN THE FIRST PLACE! When you monetize a video online, you’re making money off of it – which makes you a commercial film producer. There’s far more work that needs to be done as a result…

So, to recap – while UAV’s (drones) offer incredible angles once reserved to just airships / helicopters – it comes with great responsibility to ensure the safety and privacy of everyone involved, including the parks you’re considering a flyover of. Know what you’re getting into before you fly…

*FULL DISCLOSURE: “Great American Thrills” and “Lost Parks of Northern California” utilizes UAV (drone) footage in our work, following all recommended practices, under the supervision of trained professionals and with permission of property owners.


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