Flying over Grand Canyon

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As we all know, if we launch and retrieve outside of a national park, it's legal to fly over the national park. I was wondering if anyone has flown over the Grand Canyon with this legal flight rule from the FAA. Looking at Google Maps, assuming they are correct for park boundaries, I have found an interesting launch target that's near the canyon gorge of "Little Colorado River", on the East side of the park boundary. The map below has it marked. This location is near Hiway 64 near the east entrance to the park, and actually has a parking lot at the edge of the river gorge. It appears the all of the potential canyon flight area isn't in the actual park. Has anyone flown this area before? I'm just wondering if any signs are posted here, as we've seen at other tourist view points. Looks like a great area.


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3D image of the location looking from North to South.

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How would you fly to it then descend to 400’
to stay legal without losing signal.
 
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How would you fly to it then descend to 400’
to stay legal without losing signal.
Since the parking lot is on the edge of the gorge cliff, I would certainly descend down into the canyon from the edge of the cliff. That's the attraction, going to the bottom. Of course I would need LOS connection, otherwise it would just RTH, but keeping LOS with the craft looks doable from the edge. The river is 1400' below the parking lot, according the Litchi Mission Hub.

From this location, legally is looks acceptable to fly West, which isn't over the canyon, but over national park territory when you get about 3.84mi West of the parking lot. My flight range is limited to about 4 miles, but I could relocated the launch point closer to the NP by just driving farther West on hiway 64. The notion of flying that direction really isn't as interesting as going deep into a canyon. However there is some smaller canyons Westward that might be interesting.

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Good research. I did that in Death Valley this year, tho the actual location was in the Panamint Valley, an adjacent valley to the actual Death Valley. Still had a great time. However, in your case, one would need to fly over two miles to the boundary and then further to see any of the cool stuff there. I've flown two miles before but I don't think I'd go further. Most folks would wet their pants thinking about it!
 
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However, in your case, one would need to fly over two miles to the boundary and then further to see any of the cool stuff there.
True, from the parking lot it would be 4mi. However, nothing prevents driving East on 64 closer to the NP land. I just don't have much interest, based on my map info, but if I arrive there that may be a different story. There is another dirt road a few miles north, taking you outside the NP boundary, making a legal flight area. That area might be more interesting to fly, and right next door to NP land.

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GCNP is not only closed to UAV operations per the regular National Park prohibition - its airspace is also closed. As a result, launching from outside and overflying is also illegal
Thanks for that reminder, I had forgot about the special flyover rules. You're correct. There's only one slim area that planes are allowed to fly over GCNP at 10,000'. So forget going 2mi north from the target parking lot. However the parking lot, and down into the Little Colorado River canyon, 1400' below looks acceptable and legal. I'm still researching to see if there's any other issues.

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Horseshoe Bend, near Page AZ also looks like a good target, just outside the GCNP no fly zone, but only flyable from the highway, about a mile away from a good turn-out area. Launching that far way eliminates flying down into the canyon, only above it, up to about 300' away from the cliff. It seems like an epic flight area while I'm in the area, a few months from now.


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Possible flight path, trying to stay away from being in front of the viewing cliff.

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I’m looking at going out through utah including horseshoe bend mid Jan. I’ll scout it out and let you know. If you prep a flight plan in mission hub, let me know
 
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Thanks for that reminder, I had forgot about the special flyover rules. You're correct. There's only one slim area that planes are allowed to fly over GCNP at 10,000'. So forget going 2mi north from the target parking lot. However the parking lot, and down into the Little Colorado River canyon, 1400' below looks acceptable and legal. I'm still researching to see if there's any other issues.
Seems like a great view there for a drone flight. I would still be wary of police in the area that do not fully know the regulations and could just hassle you for flying over the canyon. Besides that, you mentioned that everything at that spot "looks acceptable and legal". However if the authorities wanted to ding you for the flight, you would be breaking other regulations based on some of the details you provided:
  • You mentioned flying 2 to 4 miles to a different spot. That is obviously beyond VLOS and thus illegal.
  • As soon as your drone passes the lip of the canyon it looks like a very steep sheer canyon wall straight down so your drone would quickly be at 1,400 feet AGL and if you are flying under recreational rules (not Part 107) that is illegal.
If you do plan on flying down into the canyon, be careful for loss of GPS lock and entering ATTI mode. That combined with shifting winds, updrafts and downdrafts due to the canyon topology, could lead to some tricky flying conditions. Be careful.
 

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Thanks for that reminder, I had forgot about the special flyover rules. You're correct. There's only one slim area that planes are allowed to fly over GCNP at 10,000'. So forget going 2mi north from the target parking lot. However the parking lot, and down into the Little Colorado River canyon, 1400' below looks acceptable and legal. I'm still researching to see if there's any other issues.

View attachment 116010

Horseshoe Bend, near Page AZ also looks like a good target, just outside the GCNP no fly zone, but only flyable from the highway, about a mile away from a good turn-out area. Launching that far way eliminates flying down into the canyon, only above it, up to about 300' away from the cliff. It seems like an epic flight area while I'm in the area, a few months from now.


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Possible flight path, trying to stay away from being in front of the viewing cliff.

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These are all great places for aerial photography but contriving ways around flight operation prohibitions by flying way beyond VLOS seems rather pointless - you are just breaking a different law instead.
 
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Years ago, estimate 20, we flew in a private plane to the Grand canyon from Las Vegas. We went over the canyon quite low, several timed, but never into the canyon. Great trip and some photo ops. Would love to be able to fly the Phantom there.
 
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These are all great places for aerial photography but contriving ways around flight operation prohibitions by flying way beyond VLOS seems rather pointless - you are just breaking a different law instead.
Yes, these are great places for aerial photography, that's the point. Contriving? I call it planning, and research. However, when I arrive the location, my research can be easily trumped by other circumstances that would cancel the flight, such as high wind, no drone signs, storms, or simply a bad feeling. That occurs all the time. The absence of a No-Drone sign in an area like this is an invitation. Yep, I may abuse the FAA VLOS guideline occasionally, like most, but in such rural areas, it's safe. Nobody else should be flying manned aircraft there, so I can relax on that risk factor.

Nobody will ever know, as I always seek out non-visible launch/retrieval areas, so the public doesn't bother me or get in the way. I hope to find a big rock along side the cliff, to hopefully shade-up. Sometimes I have to hike around a bit to find the right spot.
 
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In most attracting sites of the country (speaking more for the Europe) you can not fly as it is prohibited or overcrouded or not appropriate. That's the reality we drone flyers have.
 
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In most attracting sites of the country (speaking more for the Europe) you can not fly as it is prohibited or overcrowded or not appropriate. That's the reality we drone flyers have.
I was surprised to hear in various YouTube reports on the MavicMini that drones in that weight class can be flown in the city over people in Europe. Is that true? In the US being under 250grams is not an exception to my knowledge, flying over crowds is always taboo.
 

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Yes, these are great places for aerial photography, that's the point. Contriving? I call it planning, and research. However, when I arrive the location, my research can be easily trumped by other circumstances that would cancel the flight, such as high wind, no drone signs, storms, or simply a bad feeling. That occurs all the time. The absence of a No-Drone sign in an area like this is an invitation. Yep, I may abuse the FAA VLOS guideline occasionally, like most, but in such rural areas, it's safe. Nobody else should be flying manned aircraft there, so I can relax on that risk factor.

Nobody will ever know, as I always seek out non-visible launch/retrieval areas, so the public doesn't bother me or get in the way. I hope to find a big rock along side the cliff, to hopefully shade-up. Sometimes I have to hike around a bit to find the right spot.

You are confused - VLOS is no longer a guideline - it's a legal requirement in the 2018 FAA reauthorization act.
 
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In the US being under 250grams is not an exception to my knowledge, flying over crowds is always taboo.
Correct. In the USA you cannot fly over people under the current regulations. However if the new proposed rules go into effect as written, flight over people will be allowed based on certain criteria and categories. Under these proposed rules, drones under 250 grams will be allowed to fly over people.
 
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Yep, I may abuse the FAA VLOS guideline occasionally, like most, but in such rural areas, it's safe. Nobody else should be flying manned aircraft there, so I can relax on that risk factor.

Nobody will ever know, as I always seek out non-visible launch/retrieval areas, so the public doesn't bother me or get in the way. I hope to find a big rock along side the cliff, to hopefully shade-up. Sometimes I have to hike around a bit to find the right spot.
Making assumptions about lack of air traffic in the vicinity (in a tourist area especially) and flying way out of VLOS is how accidents happen.
 
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Clearly planning on violating FAA regulations and posting about it. Not wise to do either of those things.
 
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