Public parks would probably the best places to fly your drone as a hobbyist drone pilot. There’s one around every corner, they’re usually empty if you time it right, and there’s a lot of space. But are you legally allowed to fly your drone in a public park?
In most cases, you are allowed to fly your drone in a public park. There aren’t any FAA regulations that restrict this, however, you need to double-check that there aren’t any county or city level laws against flying in your park, and you need to make sure there aren’t any flight restrictions over the park.
So even though that in most parks this would be perfectly legal, at the end of the day it depends on local drone laws, and if there are any flight restrictions over the park. There are a few easy ways you can make sure of this before flying your drone.
How To Check If You Can Fly A Drone In Your Public Park
There are some simple things you can do to help you find out if you’re allowed to fly in your public park or not.
Check the Airmap app.
The FAA has partnered with apps such as the airmap app to give drone pilots an easy way to see if there are any flight restrictions in the area. If you don’t have the app you can also use airmap.com.
Airmap will give you more than enough information to decide if it’s legal to fly at your local park. Here’s how you can do this.
- Open the app or go to the website airmap.com.
- Click on the search icon or click on plan a flight.
- Enter the address of the park you want to fly at.
- Once you’ve done the search, you should see “advisories” pop up. This will show you a list of any flight restrictions in that area.
- If there are none, it means it’s legal to fly in the area.
If there are advisories, such as “airports in the area,” then you’ll need to apply for LAANC authorization, which stands for low altitude flight authorization. Doing this is actually pretty easy and it can be done within the Airmap app or at airmap.com.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Even hobby drone pilots need to apply for LAANC authorization if they fly within a 5-mile radius of any airport.
The process is simple and authorization generally happens instantly after the online application has been submitted. I wrote an article on how you can notify the airport as a hobbyist drone pilot here, so make sure you read it if you need to apply.
LAANC authorization is simply designed to let air traffic controllers know that there are drones operating in the area, to keep other aircraft safe.
Are there are military bases or airports in the area
If there are any military bases or airports in the area then this might be a clue that you won’t be allowed to fly in the public park. FAA rules determine that you can’t fly your drone within a 5-mile radius of an airport, or close to any government buildings.
Ask Google if there are any local drone laws.
Google has all the information in the world. If you would like to know if there are any local restrictions at your local park, then simply google the park’s name followed with “drone laws.”
City-level drone laws are localized and they are changed frequently, so they might not show on the airmap. Which is why you would want to do some extra research before taking to the skies.
Just to give you an example, some parks will have drone laws that only go into effect during events such as concerts and festivals etc. This would be something that would only show up in your city’s drone laws.
Meet other drone hobbyists in your area.
If you’re new to flying drones or new to the area, try meeting some other drones pilots that have been flying in the area for a while. There’s no better way to find out other than getting first-hand advice from other pilots.
This also saves you from learning from trial and error. Who knows, it might even save you a fine.
Here are some places that you can look for other drone pilots in your area:
- Look for Facebook pages or groups.
Hope this helps your hunt for some new friends!
FAA Laws That Apply To Public Parks
Now that you know you’re allowed to fly in your public park, you need to be careful not to attract any unwanted attention by breaking FAA drone laws. There are a lot of people who despise drones, so they’ll be watching you closely for any mistakes. But as long as you stick to the law, there shouldn’t be any problems.
INSIDER TIP: Public parks are generally a lot quieter in the morning on weekdays, so if you want as little people around as possible then try to stick to the quieter times. The fewer people that are around, the fewer problems you’ll have.
Here are laws to follow that will keep you out of trouble:
- Keep your drone in a line of sight. No one actually knows what this means, however rule of thumb is as long as you can see your drone you should be fine. Don’t behind building bushes or trees out of sight.
- Don’t fly over people or vehicles. This isn’t just a law, but its respect. People go to the park to relax and enjoy their day, the last thing they would want is a buzzing drone flying over them. It can also be dangerous, drones could do some serious damage.
- Don’t fly at night. There’s one exception to this unless there is enough lighting for you to keep your eyes on your drone all the time. As soon as you feel you’re losing sight of your drone it’s time to call it a day.
- Don’t fly recklessly. This means no drone racing, and no trying to scare people. This puts people in harm’s way which could land you in some serious trouble.
- Stay away from emergency services. If there are emergency services around, land your drone. Emergency personnel need to be able to focus on the task at hand, so help them by staying out of their way.
- Don’t drink and fly. This won’t just get the wrong kind of attention at a park, but it could also get someone hurt. If you’re still not convinced that a drone can do some serious damage to a person, make sure you read this article. If that doesn’t convince you, then nothing will.
- Stay below 400 feet above ground level and stay away from other aircraft. Another law that could get you a hefty fine if you don’t follow it.
If you’re curious about what kind of fines and penalties you can get for breaking these drone laws, I wrote a full article on it here.
Where Else Can You Fly Your Drone?
There are probably more places that you can fly your drone than not. But you need to do your research first. Here are some of my favorite places to fly a drone to help make your research a bit easier.
- State parks. This is also heavily dependent on the state you live in. So make sure you do find out before you take off. If you want to be sure you can call the park’s admin offices, they’ll be able to advise you further. I have more information on flying your drone in state parks here.
- OVER national parks. You’re NOT allowed to take off or land within national parks, however, you are allowed to fly over national parks. Read my article that covers if you’re allowed to fly in a national park.
- Sports fields. Another one of my favorite spots. Sports fields are especially great if you’re new to flying a drone because they have so much space. Make sure you ask for permission first and stay away from flying during sports games.
- In my own residential area. Just make sure you let your neighbors know and stay away from any grumpy neighbors. I wrote an article on how to know if you can fly your drone in a residential area. Check it out!