Flying drones is a hobby that has become popular in recent years and as the pastime takes off more people want to know where they can safely and legally fly their remotely piloted model aircraft.
Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation provides such a place, complete with course obstacles and a shaded area for drone operators to work from.
The drone park is located at the west end of Mango Park & Recreation Center, adjacent to Mango Road.
It encompasses a clear area for drones to fly and includes obstacle-course fixtures and gates to sharpen the skills required to deftly maneuver the remotely controlled aircraft that can reach speeds of up to 90 mph. Drone pilots can operate their aircraft via handheld controls from under a canopy that offers necessary protection from the sun. Some pilots wear special goggles while flying their drones so they can view video streams of their flights, creating an immersive, first-person view of the action for them.
Adherence to applicable Federal Aviation Administration regulations is required and flying in airspace above areas such as the adjacent dog park and other recreational facilities is prohibited.
The drone park is an example of Hillsborough County’s plan to create ‘destination parks’ that serve the varied interests of residents who may find it worth the drive from Apollo Beach to Mango, for example, if it meets their recreational needs. County officials also cited the drone park’s value as making use of land that would not likely be developed for another purpose.
Cigar City Multirotor Club is a local organization that promotes drone and model aviation activities in the Tampa Bay area and was involved in designing the park.
Jason Mackenzie is Hillsborough County’s park planner and development manager. He says in a video on the county’s YouTube channel that the park is inclusive for all levels of skill in flying drones.
“We always want to make sure our parks are a place where people can find equal ground and equal footing so that when you come to the drone park there is something for everyone,” said Mackenzie.
The drone park is open from sunrise to sunset at the Mango Park & Recreation Center, located at 11717 Clay Pit Rd. in Seffner.