Are you planning a trip to Disney World and looking to take some beautiful pictures and videos of the park with your drone? If you answered yes, then stop and read this before you get yourself in trouble.
Disney World has been deemed a no-fly zone by the FAA(Federal Aviation Administration). Because of this, recreational drones are not allowed to fly in or around all Disney locations. The FAA classifies Disney World as national defense airspace and they take this rule very seriously.
So no you can’t fly in Disney, but there are a bunch of other places you can fly your drone. Check out this article on our website that covers 21 of the best places to fly your drone in Florida.
Disney World would be one of the best places to fly and film with your drone. So why would Disney ban drones from their parks?
Why Has Disney World Banned Drones?
You might have noticed that Disney World seems to be a world of its own. There’s hardly any noise pollution from planes flying overhead. Have you ever thought about why? Well, there are a few reasons.
Disney Worlds’ flight restrictions began in the 1990s when they opened up their Animal Kingdom park. They did not want big and noisy airplanes scaring the animals which might cause them to react badly towards residents of the park. But this was never a law back in the 1990s. It was more of a professional understanding between Disney and major airlines in the area.
It was just a request by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to pilots to stay 2,000 feet above [the park] and try not to fly within about two miles of the area. It started out as just Animal Kingdom, and then they expanded it to the whole property.”And it wasn’t a particularly strict rule.”You would not get in trouble for it—you’d just get a slap on the wrist saying ‘Please don’t fly in that area.
Christopher Lucas, author of Top Disney: 100 Top Ten Lists of the Best of Disney
Although the Animal Kingdom was the primary and official reason for the request, Disney had another reason for not wanting aircraft above their park.
Top reasons why Disney pushed to stop flights:
- Advertising overload. A lot of businesses took advantage of the high population of Disney visitors. They would fly small aircraft with banners in an attempt to get free advertising. Since Disney World banned guests from advertising within the parks, it only made sense to also clamp down on aerial advertisements.
- September 11, 2001. The events of 9/11 made it very clear that large gatherings of people could be targeted. This realization is what set the course for Disney’s no-fly zones to become permanent and official. So what’s the actual flight regulation? Well, no aircraft is allowed to fly within three miles of Disney Land or Disney World, and you cant fly lower than 3,000 feet above them. Since drones aren’t allowed to fly higher than 400 feet according to FAA regulations, it would be impossible to fly your drone even near Disney.
- Operation Liberty Shield. Disney World is the most visited tourist destination in the world and that makes it vulnerable. Disney parks were put under Operation Liberty Shield which establishes permanent no-fly zones around governments and military installations. Disney parks were included because of the fact that so many people visit them every day.
Even though some people might think that Disney World received “special treatment,” a lot of others still feel that it’s unfair that other theme parks in the area didn’t get the same protection.
Universal Studios which is right up the road from Disney does not have the same no-fly zone protection, which is unfair in my opinion.
So how effective are “no-fly zones” really?
There have been a lot of debates over their effectiveness. When it comes to the speed that an aircraft can travel, a three-mile radius is really not that big. When these no-fly zones were passed, a lot of people labeled them as a “useless gesture.”
They argued that if anyone was going to try anything, a meer flight restriction was not going to stop them. I mean let’s be honest with ourselves, how much time would Disney or the FAA have to react if a plane came within a 3-mile radius? Keeping in mind that most planes travel around 400 miles per hour.
Consequences Of Flying a Drone in Disney World
You could get arrested if you fly a drone into a no-fly zone. But what if you flew into it by mistake? Even though a mistake this severe is highly unlikely, you’ll probably just get off with a fine or a warning.
However, if you are a repeat offender or if it is a serious offense you are almost certainly going to receive some sort of fine or you could even receive a prison sentence. This can vary depending on the situation you have put yourself in, so in short, it all depends.
How much could a fine cost you? A fine could be anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
In the case of a drone being flown in the Disney World park, the pilot of the drone would be located and fined up to $5,000 and could spend up to a year in prison.
Is Disney Breaking Their Own No Drone Rule?
Disney World has been a no-fly zone for over a decade now and it is pretty much common knowledge amongst Floridian drone pilots that you should stay away from Disney World by any means necessary.
It came as a shock to many when in 2014 Disney started working on a new addition to their fireworks display, this time working on adding drones, all being flown automatically and flying in incredible formations to create two giant X-wings that hover around the park.
Disney asked the FAA for an exemption to the no-fly restriction placed on their park so that they themselves can launch their own fleet of drones above their Disney World and Disney Land parks.
This move from Disney has brought about a lot of frustration and debate amongst the aviation community. Nonetheless, Disney was successful and got its exemption in November 2016 and is now able to fly drones within their parks. However, it wasn’t long until Disney stopped their drone shows.
So why did they stop these drone shows? Well, there are a few reasons:
- Space. There really wasn’t any place to store the drones when they were not active. They were being stored in the parking lot used for cast members which ended up being an inconvenience for cast members.
- No-fly zone. Since Disney is a no-fly zone they have been having a lot of trouble trying to get permission to fly their drones on the property. They did get permission for a while but that waver ends in November of 2020.
- Not allowed to fly at night. This is the FAA’s rules on drones flying in the united states. These rules restrict the use of drones to devices under 55 pounds, limit the flying hours to daylight hours, and limits the operation of drones to a pilot per drone. This rule does not allow for the Disney fleet of automated drones. The drones in the X-wing event also weighed over 500 pounds each which is way more than the 55-pound limit. Disneys event is also held at night which also goes against the part 107 rules.
NOTE: If you’re new to Florida, we wrote a full article on Floridas drone laws. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the information before flying your drone in Florida.
Can You Get Special Permission to Fly a Drone in Disney World?
Disney does not allow ANY drones to be flown on park premisses and as I have explained there is a strict no-fly zone surrounding the park. So no, there is no possible way to get special permission since you’ll be going against both park rules and FAA drone laws.
Disney does not control the airspace around the parks and so they cannot issue permits for people to fly drones in the park. In fact, the FAA is so strict with the NFZ (no-fly zone) that Disney battled for years to get permission to fly drones in their own park.
Many aviation enthusiasts have asked for permission to fly their drones and other forms of aircraft over the Disney World and Disney Land parks but have been denied by the FAA which has caused many to very verbally express their disappointment with the FAA.
Fun Facts About Flying a Drone in Disney World:
- DJI. DJI is one of the leading producers of drones in the world. Most Drone pilots have a DJI drone, because of this DJI has a block on all their drones that prevents them from taking off in no-fly zones such as Disney World.
- Drones are the first thing mentioned on the Disney World website when stating what recreational items you may not bring into the park.