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New no-fly map may keep you out of jail

Mapmaking app Mapbox debuted an interactive, user-improved map to help drone pilots avoid no-fly zones in the US.
Mapmaking app Mapbox debuted an interactive, user-improved map to help drone pilots avoid no-fly zones in the US.Mapbox

The rules for flying radio-controlled aircraft and drones are pretty tricky. Fly somewhere like a national forest, and you're fine. Lift off in a national park, and you're looking at a stern talking-to and possibly a fine. Fly over the White House? Well, we shudder to think how that might end.

There's a new tool in the box for RC pilots that could possibly save your skin. On Tuesday, web-based mapmaker app Mapbox posted an interactive map showing no-fly zones in the United States. This includes all national parks, military bases and areas within five miles of airports.

The map, titled "Don't Fly Drones Here," is pretty straightforward to use: Open the map, zoom in on where you want to fly and look for the red areas. Those are no-fly zones. It covers the entire United States, including major metropolitan areas like San Francisco, New York, and Washington D.C.

It's not yet entirely complete, though. It doesn't take into account any municipal bans (there are a few), nor does it include government entities like Lawrence Livermore or Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories, both of which would get you a lot of attention from the feds were you to fly over. Also not included, other sensitive sites including power plants, oil refineries and prisons, any of which could also make you wish you'd taken up snorkeling as a hobby instead.

The Federal Aviation Administration also issues temporary no-fly zones during special events like a visit from Air Force One, which may be challenging to keep on top of.

Users will be able to add known no-fly zones to the map via a public Github repository so that, with more input, it will become increasingly comprehensive and accurate. Mapbox explains the map is still in early stages and is asking users for feedback to add to it.

Find the map here.

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