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How (And Where) To Legally Fly Your New Drone In Kansas City

Don McCullough
KCUR 89.3

Did you get a drone for Christmas? You're not alone.

The Federal Aviation Administration wants you to register it ASAP (if it weighs over .55 pounds and under 55 pounds.) If you do it before Jan. 20, they’ll even waive the $5 registration fee.

So far over 181,000 people have registered. If you decide not to register your drone you risk a civil fine of up to $27,500.

“Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system.” US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a press release.

Once you’re in the air, the FAA also has  a few safety guidelines:

  • Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport. Here’s a map and a smartphone app to help you out in the Kansas City area.
  • Stay away from national parks and stadiums (sorry, no Royals games from the air.
  • Keep your drone within your eyesight at all times.
  • Don’t fly over 400 feet high. (As a frame of reference: One Kansas City Place at 12th and Baltimore is the tallest building in Missouri at 624 feet.)
  • Don’t fly in bad weather.
  • Don’t fly over unprotected people.
  • Steer clear of private property and sensitive infrastructure (like power lines).
  • Don’t drink and fly.

It’s also a good thing to learn how to fly your drone properly. Drone accidents resulting in injury have been reported all over the country.

To look for open air and learn how to pilot you can head to public parks (away from unsuspecting people, of course.)

Some parks have airfields for RC (radio controlled airplanes and helicopters) enthusiasts: Longview Park in Lee’s Summit, Shawnee Mission Park, Minor Park in Kansas City, Missouri, and a few others (you can see a full list at Academy of Model Aeronautics website). Be sure and check their posted guidelines.  

The open flying space at Minor Park is run in collaboration with Kansas City Parks & Rec and The Eagles Associates Club. David Parra, club president, says pilots must be members of AMA and get a park pass from the Kansas City parks department to fly at the parks.

"We have never turned anyone away that showed an interest or wanted to come down and take a closer look,” Parra said in an email. “We just have to be careful about safety, these machines may look like toys, but they can severely injure and even kill spectators in the blink of an eye.”

On the Kansas City Subreddit users reported flying their drones in the West Bottoms and the Oppenstein Brothers Memorial Park downtown. One user reported being questioned by the police while flying in Kansas city, which did not result in a fine.

The takeaway: take precaution and be safe. And If you get any great (and legal) pics from your drone, tweet them to us @kcur.

Kyle J Smith is an intern with the digital department at KCUR 89.3. You can find him on Twitter, @kjs_37.