A Canadian resident has pleaded guilty to operating a drone in the High Peaks Wilderness in violation of environmental conservation regulations.
Keven Descheneaux of Trois Rivieres, Quebec, was ticketed by a forest ranger on June 17 for flying a drone near the ranger’s outpost in the Johns Brook valley.
Evidently, he is the first to be convicted of operating a drone in the Forest Preserve.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is preparing drone regulations for the Forest Preserve, but Descheneaux was charged under an existing regulation that forbids unauthorized persons to possess or operate “motorized equipment” on Preserve lands classified as Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe in the Adirondack Park.
Keene Town Justice Constance Hickey told the Explorer that Descheneaux pleaded guilty by mail on August 8 and was fined $75 in addition to a $75 court fee.
Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said many people do not realize that operating a drone in a Wilderness Area is illegal.
Indeed, the Explorer’s Mike Lynch saw someone operating a drone atop Cascade Mountain in the High Peaks Wilderness a month ago. “The guy was sitting on the summit with a bunch of friends and flew the drone about ten feet over them,” he said.
Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio saw a man operating a drone on the summit of Mount Marcy in September.
In both cases, a summit steward asked the operator to cease flying the drone.
DEC does not have jurisdiction over airspace. Technically, it’s illegal only to launch a drone from a Wilderness Area. It’s legal to launch a drone from elsewhere, such as a road, and fly it over Wilderness.
Woodworth said specific drone regulations for the Forest Preserve would help clarify the legal situation.
Woodworth said ADK has yet to take a position on how drones should be regulated in the Forest Preserve. Under current policy, they are allowed in Wild Forest Areas. Most of the Preserve is classified as either Wilderness or Wild Forest.
Click here to read an Explorer story about the use of drones.