DC/VA/MD Droners: Worth Owning a Phantom 4?

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Hello everyone,

My first post here in need of some advice from droners in and around the DMV area. I received a Phantom 4 for Christmas, but ended up returning it yesterday after learning about how restricted the area is in terms of flying anywhere legally. I live in Annandale, VA which I'm aware is in DC's NFZ but just a short 20 minute drive from open, unrestricted airspace. I originally intended on flying my drone in state/regional/county parks nearby to get some scenic shots, until I realized that this as well is not allowed.

So my questions to DMV droners are:
-Is owning a drone in this area even worth the cost and risk?
-If yes, can you please provide specific locations you frequently visit to fly? I'm aware of two local R/C clubs in the area, but don't want to be confined to visiting the same field(s) every time I want to take my drone out for a ride. I think that for me, this defeats the purpose of owning a drone in the first place.
-Am I free to fly over sparsely populated town centers/apartment complexes so long as I am not putting any third parties at risk of injury?

Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated. Just a bummer when you get so excited about getting a drone for Christmas and then learning about all the legal issues you come across with owning one.

Happy New Year!
 
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I am assuming you are flying for recreation. I am not in the DMV, but i thought I could help. Looking at the navigational charts Annandale is firmly within the 15 mile radius no fly zone. You could fly recreationally outside of that 15 miles radius No Drone Zone , but the airspace in that area looks like a real nightmare. If you were going to take your P4 on vacations or to cool destinations it would be worth it in my opinion, but I would not try to fly on a regular basis for fun in your area. It would be too much work...
 
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I am assuming you are flying for recreation. I am not in the DMV, but i thought I could help. Looking at the navigational charts Annandale is firmly within the 15 mile radius no fly zone. You could fly recreationally outside of that 15 miles radius No Drone Zone , but the airspace in that area looks like a real nightmare. If you were going to take your P4 on vacations or to cool destinations it would be worth it in my opinion, but I would not try to fly on a regular basis for fun in your area. It would be too much work...
Appreciate the reply, Theo. I do travel a lot and plan on taking the drone with me wherever I go. I just wanted to hear from other DMV droners in situations similar to mine because I think they can provide some detailed insight to things I may have overlooked.
 

Mark The Droner

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I live 19.5 miles north of the White House and FAA headquarters as the crow (or drone) flies. So, I can't relate well with your problem since I can simply step out my back door and fly. It's really up to you whether you think it's worth the inconvenience of having to take a drive. I think most pilots do tend to fly from areas other than their home, so seems to me having to drive a bit isn't a deal-killer.

If you look at the FAA registration record, you might be surprised to see there are dozens of UAS owners in every zip code within the DC FRZ, so they must be flying somewhere.

I have flown at Longwood Rec Center just north of Olney quite a few times, and I've had guys who live in the DC FRZ come out to fly there with me a couple times (yesterday somebody drove up from Fairfax). It's a great place to fly the first time because it's a pretty good sized field free of trees and other obstacles, it's perfectly flat, and it's even protected from the west wind. Longwood is right up Georgia Ave. I've also, just by chance, had another Phantom owner from the Olney area show up and fly there at the same time I was there.

Nobody has ever approached me when I fly which is just the way I like it. The field is almost always empty.

I have quite a few other spots in my head which I think would be great places to fly but haven't actually flown in them. I can show them to you if you want. Sugarloaf Mountain also has great potential.

Not sure if you want to cross the river just to fly though.

As far as your last question, you might take a close look at Part 101 since you're a hobbyist.

Hope this helps.
 
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As long as you don't mind a short drive to fly, why not? You're just not going to buzz off for a quick flight from your backyard.

There are plenty of great places to fly in the region, just outside the 15 NFZ. When it was 30 it was a nightmare but the 15 is workable.

Get yourself a good case or backpack, charge up and hit the road. To the North in VA, WVA and MD there are tons of places, just as you do to the South. West and of course, East on the Bay.

That said, there are a ton of restricted spaces as you can't swing a dead drone without hitting one, just pay attention to where you are going.
 
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I live 19.5 miles north of the White House and FAA headquarters as the crow (or drone) flies. So, I can't relate well with your problem since I can simply step out my back door and fly. It's really up to you whether you think it's worth the inconvenience of having to take a drive. I think most pilots do tend to fly from areas other than their home, so seems to me having to drive a bit isn't a deal-killer.

If you look at the FAA registration record, you might be surprised to see there are dozens of UAS owners in every zip code within the DC FRZ, so they must be flying somewhere.

I have flown at Longwood Rec Center just north of Olney quite a few times, and I've had guys who live in the DC FRZ come out to fly there with me a couple times (yesterday somebody drove up from Fairfax). It's a great place to fly the first time because it's a pretty good sized field free of trees and other obstacles, it's perfectly flat, and it's even protected from the west wind. Longwood is right up Georgia Ave. I've also, just by chance, had another Phantom owner from the Olney area show up and fly there at the same time I was there.

Nobody has ever approached me when I fly which is just the way I like it. The field is almost always empty.

I have quite a few other spots in my head which I think would be great places to fly but haven't actually flown in them. I can show them to you if you want. Sugarloaf Mountain also has great potential.

Not sure if you want to cross the river just to fly though.

As far as your last question, you might take a close look at Part 101 since you're a hobbyist.

Hope this helps.
As long as you don't mind a short drive to fly, why not? You're just not going to buzz off for a quick flight from your backyard.

There are plenty of great places to fly in the region, just outside the 15 NFZ. When it was 30 it was a nightmare but the 15 is workable.

Get yourself a good case or backpack, charge up and hit the road. To the North in VA, WVA and MD there are tons of places, just as you do to the South. West and of course, East on the Bay.

That said, there are a ton of restricted spaces as you can't swing a dead drone without hitting one, just pay attention to where you are going.
Thanks for the feedback, Mark & Formstone. I'm considering running back to the store now to grab it! It would be great to hear some more of your recommendations for general/specific areas to fly in, just so I can grasp the dos and don'ts of flying. If I can message you both privately, I will.

Basically, the thought of having a cop breathing down my neck anywhere I would want to fly was the reason I decided to return the drone. With all the regional, state and national parks off limits, I literally pictured myself standing in residential streets of random neighborhoods flying the thing, just waiting for a concerned neighbor to report me, all for just a few minutes of fun and shots of roof shingles.
 
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Umm, while the 15mi from DCA is a hard fast where you can't even fly a gnat, the 30mi area is also highly restrictive. I have my doubts Mark The Droner can really step out his door and fly. Look long and hard at the regs. Most of the 30 mile area you can fly, but you need to squawk to a tower which essentially means it's limited to manned aircraft that can communicate.
 

Mark The Droner

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So I'm lying? :p

I can really step out my door and fly. One is only required to "squawk to a tower" if one is flying within five miles of an airport, but that has nothing to do with the DC SFRA. The DC SFRA (outside the FRZ) does have restrictions, but they are not horribly restrictive and none of it requires squawking. They can be reviewed in FDC 6/2069. And for the record, I do squawk to a tower when I have to. Kinda. But it's not really a tower because they don't have a tower. And I don't squawk, I text. Takes about 5 secs. :smile:
 
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So I'm lying? :p

Naa, not saying you're lying, but seen enough people on the various forums that think that the 30 mile restriction is something they can simply ignore, like the airstrip at farmer joes farm that's on the record but is now a housing development kind of thing :) Enough that I doubt, which is certainly fair. I'm not asking for specifics (nor calling you a liar) because at 19mi north of the White House you're potentially on the edge of the 30mi since it centers at DCA. That said though, it's never wise to say that you're free to fly outside that 15mi and inside 30 without some caveats. As the FAA says on their own website: "The airspace around Washington, D.C. is more restricted than in any other part of the country. Rules put in place after the 9/11 attacks establish "national defense airspace" over the area and limit aircraft operations to those with an FAA and Transportation Security Administration authorization. Violators face stiff fines and criminal penalties"
 

Mark The Droner

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As I said, all one needs to do is read FDC 6/2069. It's all right there in plain English.
 

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