Can I Fly A Drone In A Public Park?

can i fly a drone in a public park
can i fly a drone in a public park
KeYang / Pixabay

So, you have your new drone and you are wondering where you can fly it. “Can I fly a drone in a public park?”, you ask. “Can you fly drones in national parks? “, you contnue. “Where can I fly the bloody thing?”, is eventually where this is leading. So where can you fly it and what are the rules? In this article we are going to discuss where you can fly your drone and a little about the current rules associated with it. Are you ready for a little drone knowledge? Let’s continue!

Can you fly a drone in  national parks?

The answer to this is a resounding “No”. In 2014 a law was established by the  National Park Service that made it officially illegal to pilot drones in national parks. The reasoning behind it is that flying drones in national parks is felt to disturb that natural wildlife and also because of safety concerns.

Is this ban just for national parks?

Nope. This also encompasses biking and hiking trails, historic sites such as battlefields, rivers, monuments… Basically any place managed by the National park service. That said, technically it’s not the flying that is banned. The law states that you cannot take off or land there. Still, if you decide to risk it, even if you take off outside of park jurisdiction there are a number of other charges that could be brought against you.

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Can you fly a drone in a national park with a permit?

can you fly drones in national parks
alles / Pixabay

Yes! The caveat, however, is that this is only allowed in very specific cases. In order to be able to pilot your drone around a national park you will need to secure a permit and the reason that you are flying must be one of the following:

  • Science studies
  • Approved other research
  • Search and rescue operations
  • Fire safety

Can you fly a drones in state parks?

Yes, indeed! You can pilot your drone all you like in state parks. This includes areas such as:

  • State beaches
  • State parks
  • State recreational areas and recreational vehicle areas
  • State historic areas

As a general rule you can fly in any state park areas as long as there is not a notice posted by the superintendent prohibiting the flight of drones in the area. If there is, it will be posted somewhere within easy view so that you won’t have to worry about accidentally breaking the law. The answer to “Can I fly my drone in a state park” is a resounding “Yes”.

Can I fly drones in normal, local parks?

Yup, go nuts! You can fly your drone around your local park, your local dog park… in general, public parks are fair game for fun with your drone. This doesn’t mean that you can legally be a nuisance(don’t chase people or their dogs, for example), but within reasonable limits you can fly your drone all that you like in public parks.

In some cases there are even drones outfitted with Tasers”

What about piloting a drone national forests?

Good news, you can fly your drone around most national forests. National forests fall under the jurisdiction of another entity,  the United States Department of Agriculture and currently, with the exception of a few locations, there are no prohibitions to flying drones within these areas. As a bonus, these parks are bigger than those national parks, so if you want to weave in and out of trees as you fly along the forest then you are in luck. You and your drone can have a lot of fun there and it is completely legal.

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So, who dictates drone law, anyways?

We’re glad that you asked. Drone law is determined by the Federal Aviation Administration. Generally the rules that are in place are all going to be in regards to safety. You will be free to operate your drone as long as you aren’t being a general nuisance/putting people in harm’s way. That said, be sure to go to Google and do a search for F.A.A. drone laws to get a comprehensive list of what you can and cannot do.

drones in national parks
geralt / Pixabay

Do I need to register my drone with the F.A.A.?

Any drone weighing over 250 grams(a little over half a pound) will need to be registered. There is no cost for this and once you have registered then you are free to recreationally fly your drone around all allowed areas. They will require some personal information but for the most part registration is quick and painless.

Can I fly my drone at airports?  

Don’t even think about it. This falls under the header of safety. Not only would you be fined but jail time is likely in this scenario, so it is best if you keep your drone flights limited to places like national forests, local parks, or even just around your neighborhood. As long as your are keeping safety in mind and not agitating people with your drone then you are quite likely operating within the limits of the law.

Are there any plans to lift the ban on flying in national parks?

Drones are slowly growing in popularity. Initially available only to the military in as early as the year 2000, the introduction of drones as a recreational device to the general public has made them more and more available. Drones deliveries of packages are anticipated to become commonplace. Some police forces(aside from special forces) employ drones for reconnaissance, and in some cases there are even drones outfitted with Tasers. The point we are driving at is that as their popularity increases and as they become the norm rather than the exception, that it is possible that ‘blanket bans’ will be removed in lieu of more specific legal guidelines. One day soon you might be able to fly around the grand canyon… just not today.

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Some final words

Well, there you have it. While you cannot fly in national parks or cruise their monuments, there are still quite a a few places to get your drone on. Keep it safe and we wish you happy aviation!