Day 58: Interstate Tour 2018
Today was destined to be a blast, but it would also be a work day as I collected footage for The Drone Zone and Coaster-2-Coaster on Patreon. Having scoped out aerial maps of the surrounding area, I headed out early to see about a launch point near Kings Island.
There's a small amount of hoop-jumping that comes with flying a drone in certain areas. FAA regulations state that a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) can't fly above 400' and not within five miles of an airport, although smaller airports and less-restricted airspace will sometimes just require that you contact them with your coordinates, planned altitude and duration of flight. Even smaller airfields do not have restrictions around them and you are free to fly with caution ("head on a swivel, see and avoid"), yielding to larger aircraft.
Then, once you're ready to fly, you need to avoid flying over crowds or events, don't interfere with emergency or rescue operations and fly responsibly. This isn't flying for the yuks. It's photography with an increasingly controversial controller. When you've got yahoos that fly these things up to skyscrapers and through busy international cities and through theme parks in full disobedience to the rules, they make it tougher on everyone else who toes the line.
And admittedly, it's a very thin line.
NFZs (No-Fly Zones) are areas that require Federal-level clearance and they're usually international airports and military sites. And Walt Disney World. Disney, somehow, convinced the FAA to make the area above their Florida property a NFZ.
Beyond that, other parks have likewise declared the airspace above their properties as no-fly zones but the FAA calls 500' above ground level "negligible airspace" in uncongested areas, so an endless debate rages over air rights; how much of the airspace over your private property do you own?
It's a lot of stuff to consider, which is why I tend to play it safe and stay around the edges of a park without crossing over it at any point, even when they're closed. I launch from a public place, keep it in my line of sight, navigate the edges and get the shots. I'll sometimes drive to the opposite side of the park in order to get a different angle without having to fly the Mavic all around the circumference of the property (it has great battery life, but not that great.)
I also don't launch from park property, unless I've received permission from their PR/Marketing Department, something I've been doing since planning the very first Coast-2-Coast Coaster Tour back in 1996. Some of the smaller parks are delighted to have aerial shots and I let them use the footage.
Cedar Fair parks are notoriously a "No Drone Zone", so I've had to familiarize myself with the surrounding area before planning a shot. With Kings Island, I flew down a residential street just to the south of the park, which put me perfectly in line to capture The Beast from a rarely seen angle. I uploaded it to Reddit r/rollercoasters and it's become a hot post.
I worked hard for it, though. Called no less than four airfields, racing against the rising sun. My online site surveying turned up gold. Level launch point, clear view to farthest distance, spin 'em up, off we go. Maybe a total of 8 minutes there and back, always keeping it over the trees that lined the street, tilting the camera, manually riding the rotation. It's a photographer's dream attached to a flying weed-whacker.
My Cedar Fair Platinum Card got me into yet another park for free, so I leveled up with Fast Lane Plus and never waited longer than five minutes for any of the park's coaster line-up (except for The Bat, which isn't included in FL+.)
This is one of my favorite parks, I visit annually when I'm in town for the Cinti shows, and it was even nicer getting in early with the Platinum card. And free parking! Perks!
Needless to say, it was an amazing day that took me back to those days of running up and down the loading dock, checking lap bars and giving the thumbs-up.
And now, for some real relaxation.