Can you fly a drone near the Space Needle?
The short answer is that it is not recommended you fly around the Space Needle but technically it is legal to fly as long as the applicable rules are followed.
At just over 600 feet high the Seattle Space needle is higher than the FAA mandated maximum drone flight altitude of 400 feet above ground level so keep in mind you will not be able to view the needle from above. With that being said there are ways to capture the iconic imagery by using drones with a zoom lens or flying from a higher viewpoint.
The main concern with flying at the Seattle Center is the high foot traffic and large crowds of people. As with anywhere, it is illegal to fly over crowds or groups of people unless in a commercial operation with consent from the participants. While flying during the night time may seems like a good way to avoid crowds, there are additional restrictions in place if flying commercially. If asked by local law enforcement or Seattle Center personnel it is best to cease drone operations.
The Space Needle is also within the bounds of a class B airspace however the floor of this airspace is 1800 feet so there are no restrictions at ground level. Want to learn more? Check out our Part 107 Commercial Drone Pilot’s Licence Class!
If you would like to bypass one of the restrictions the FAA does offer special permitting through an application available through DroneZone.
I spoke with Jeff Wright, chairman of the Space Needle, and he made it very clear that the organization does not want people flying drones nearby without permission. Drones are used commercially for inspections of the structure but guests are encouraged not to use them. Wright mentioned that every year several drones are recovered, however, few result in police reports. If you crash a drone into the space needle at the very least you will loose the drone and hope you don’t get criminally charged.
On New Years Eve 2016 a man crashed a drone into the Space Needle while the fireworks display was being setup and was charged with reckless endangerment. There have been several other major drone cash incidents in the Seattle area some of which also led to reckless endangerment charges.