One of the best feelings in the world is unboxing your new drone! Getting out there and flying gives you a totally new perspective on familiar places. It’s also a fabulous way to see new places.
In this guide, we’ll lay out where you can fly drones, where you can’t, and what you need to fly legally.
Can I Legally Fly a Drone in the US?
Yes, you can legally fly a drone in the US. There are a few rules and regulations you need to know.
You don’t need to take a test or get a license for recreational drone flying. Getting started as a recreational flyer only costs five dollars to register your drone with the FAA.
A professional requires a license. If you use your drone commercially, such as selling photos or videos captured with your drone, you are considered a professional.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the governing body for anything that flies in the US. The most recent update to drone regulations came in the FAA Reauthorization of 2018.
Some requirements for drones are:
- Maintain an altitude between 50 and 400 feet above the ground.
- The drone must weigh. less than 55 pounds
- Fly in daylight
- Maintain a visual line for the operator or an observer in contact with the operator
- DO NOT interfere with manned aircraft
- Give way to manned aircraft
- DO NOT fly over moving vehicles
- DO NOT operate from a moving vehicle
- DO NOT interfere with an emergency response
- Fly at or below 100 mph
You must register your drone with the FAA if it weighs more than .55 pounds. It only costs $5 and is valid for three years. You can register quickly and easily on the FAA website.
The FAA app B4UFLY provides live maps of different kinds of airspace, restricted areas, and special alerts. For example, a wildfire or flood will result in a temporary no-fly zone.
Where Can I Fly My Drone?
Generally, drones are allowed in Class G airspace, which is anywhere outside of controlled airspace around airports and military bases.
You can apply for a special exemption to fly your drone near an airport. There are Class B, C, D, and E airspace. You can use apps like AirMap to apply for a Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC). The app communicates directly with the FAA, and you usually get a response in seconds.
Open areas are best for beginners until you get the hang of piloting your drone.
Also, check out the Hover app for information on where you can fly.
Good Areas To Start Flying
Knowing where you can legally fly your drone is just the first step. Here are some excellent places to get started.
You can fly your drone on your own property between 50 and 400 feet off the ground. Depending on how much open space you have, it is a great place to practice steering your drone.
Drone pilots are subject to privacy laws. If it is illegal to take photos of your neighbors in their yard or homes when standing on the ground, the same applies to drone photography.
National Forest wilderness areas are another fantastic place to fly your drone. Be sure to check restrictions in an area before take-off. But generally, drones are allowed to fly in national forests.
While you are getting some breathtaking photos, don’t disturb the wildlife.
Some cities and localities have bans or heavy restrictions on drones. New York City has a total ban, and parks in Orange County don’t allow them.
However, most beach towns allow recreational drones to fly around the boardwalk within the 50-400 foot rule. Follow federal regulations in these areas and check local laws before take-off.
Boardwalks make an amazing backdrop for photos, especially during the sunset hours.
Historic or Abandoned Buildings
Be sure to obtain permission before entering any closed-off property. You may have to do a little searching in the case of abandoned buildings, but the photo opportunity is well worth it.
The expansive grounds of historic sites or institutions that no longer operate are excellent places to capture unique photos and fly for long periods, always seeing something new.
Over a River
Following the course of a river is another chance for breathtaking photos. If you love capturing moving water and forest scenery, a river is a perfect place to take your drone out for a spin.
Be sure that your piloting skills are fairly advanced before setting out over the water. The last thing you want is to plunk your drone into the river due to an error on your part.
Where NOT To Fly
There is plenty of airspaces open to the half a million drone operators in the US. In addition to the space around airports, there are a few more places that are no-drone zones.
Large Sporting and Entertainment Events
This rule also has safety as a priority. Capturing the cheering crowd or an amazing play on your drone would be awesome.
You can get a bird’s eye view of your favorite stadium or venue when no events are in progress, though. Observe the FAA rules and any local ordinances while flying in large event locations.
Emergency Response Areas
Capturing footage of a raging wildfire, mudslide, or flood sounds may sound like a fantastic opportunity, but it isn’t safe. The FAA typically declares Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) over disaster areas anyway, making it illegal to fly there.
Drone flying is not allowed in any National Parks and land administered by the National Park Service. The rationale behind the drone ban is to minimize the impact on wildlife, natural resources, and historic resources.
Commercial flyers can apply for a special permit under certain circumstances.
So, where can you fly drones? Many places are open for a recreational drone flyer to get off the ground and enjoy the view. Start in your backyard and broaden your horizons to historic places, the boardwalk, and National Forests. Wide open spaces not over water are best for beginners.