State parks are usually beautiful locations to obtain some great drone video footage. But are you legally allowed to fly in them?
Since park boundaries and rules apply to park airspace, you are permitted to fly your drone OVER a state park. However , if you want to take off or land inside a state park then it depends on the state that you’ re visiting. The easiest method to know in this case is to call a recreation area ranger.
Most state parks probably won’ to let you take off your drone or property, however , it’ s perfectly legal in order to fly over a state park.
Keep reading to see what the law says about all this.
Legal in order to fly OVER a state park?
As mentioned at the beginning of the article it’ s perfectly legal to fly your drone over a state park. As long as you don’ t take off or property within park edges. It’ s not just legal, but it’ t common practice. Most hobbyists will find a suitable spot right on the park border, then launch from there.
How can I be so sure about this? Nicely, because state parks have said it on their own park rules page. Here’ s a perfect example of Northern Carolinas state recreation area rules page; https://www.ncparks.gov/park-rules
Notice that under the drone rules section they state “ Park visitors are prohibited from ascending or even taking-off within or even upon any state park area. “
Some websites might word this differently. For example , some status park websites will just say that “ you can’ t fly a drone” without further explanation. But this doesn’ t change anything. The law stays the same.
The bottom line, you’ re allowed to fly your drone over state parks across the U. S.
How to stay out of trouble while flying OVER a state park
If you’ re planning to take off and land outside the park, and fly your drone on the park, you could still get into some serious trouble if you fly such as for instance a maniac. Here’ s a list of rules you need to be cautious with that might still allow you to get in trouble.
- Stay away from any animals. State parks are designed to protect threatened species and to create a safe haven for animals. Don’ t disrupt this by harassing any animals in their natural environment. Keep a safe distance away from them so that they don’ t feel disturbed.
- Keep to the distinct sight rule. This isn’ t just a park rule, this is a law enforced by the federal aviation authority. So make sure you don’ t lose line of sight.
- Don’ t fly in inclement weather. If it’ s raining, misty, windy or snowing, rather fly another day. There are two main reasons for this. First, it can make it harder to keep line of sight on your drone all through bad weather. And 2nd, it’ s harder to fly your drone in a safe manner. Specifically for beginner drone pilots. The last thing you want is for a gust of wind to blow your drone into a park ranger!
- Stay far away from other park visitors. And I mean Far. People like to complain about anything. Even though you don’ t fly close to people, they might still complain to a park ranger. This will get the attention you don’ t need.
- Don’ t fly too near to buildings. People get a bit nervous when you fly too close to buildings and towers. So again, to avoid having the wrong attention, stay away from them.
- Don’ t fly recklessly. So no racing your drone through small gaps and around buildings. Just keep it respectful.
- Don’ t fly over 400 feet. If you fly over 400 feet above ground level you’ ll fly into active airspace. Keep it low! Even if you don’ t see other aircraft around.
- Don’ t crash in the park! If you crash in the park you might have a problem. Does this constitute as landing in the park? Well to us not really, but an angry park ranger that has been buying a reason to get you to stop all day might see this as an opportunity.
- Don’ t fly during emergency situations. If a forest breaks out or someone injures themselves there will be a lot of activity on the ground and in the air. Make sure you stay out of their way.
A great summary of the above is simply to fly as carefully as possible, and stay respectful. So long as you do this you shouldn’ t get the wrong type of attention, which would equate to a great day with plenty of amazing drone footage!
What if a park ranger approaches you?
Some park rangers might not even be aware of this rule. So don’ t be surprised if a park ranger questions you. If they do, don’ t freak out and don’ t cause an argument. Remember, you’ re not doing anything wrong.
Respectfully let them know that the law states that what you’ re doing is perfectly legal.
However, don’ t give them a reason to wish to approach you. If you fly recklessly or break any FAA regulations, legally they can still report you to the relevant authorities.
How to check always if you can take off or land in circumstances park?
Some state parks welcome drones, other parks despise them. Everything depends on how they view drones and their experiences with drones in the past. By the end of the day, it’ s up to the park manager when they will allow it or not.
So the best way to know is to simply inquire further.
IMPORTANT: Don’ t count on signs and boards at state parks. A lot of them have not been updated with drone laws.
There are a few methods do this, the first method is obvious. Check always their website in order to find the park rules page.
Check the state park website step-by-step:
- Find the website. You can find the website by googling “ PARK NAME drone rules” *replace “ park name” with the park you’ re going to visit. The first result should really be a government website ending in. gov.
- Open the park rules page. Open the page and find the section where they talk about drones. Hit Ctr-f to search for the word “ drone. ” It’ s a lot quicker than scanning the page with your eye.
- They might word drones differently. Such as for example UAVs, remote control machines, unmanned aircraft, quadcopters Here’ s an example of North Carolinas state park rules https://www.ncparks.gov/park-rules
Notice how in the above example they state “ Park visitors are prohibited from ascending or taking-off within or upon any state park area… ” This is a perfect example where you’ll rather want to take off and land not in the park.
No website? Call the park administrative or PR offices:
Some state park websites might be a bit outdated and show nothing about drones. So what do you do in the case?
A very important thing to do is call the administrative or PR offices before your trip. If you’ re already at the park then you can also talk with a park ranger.
INSIDER TIP: This may seem small nonetheless it could make a HUGE difference. When you speak to a ranger, or any staff, rather let them know you want to fly your “ remote control airplane. ” The word “ drone” has got such a bad stigma mounted on it especially for park rangers.
What happens if you get caught breaking the guidelines in a state park?
Reason Why They Banned Drone Takeoff and Landing in State Parks
I’ ll be honest, there are some valid reasons why most state parks don’ t allow drones. Everything usually starts with a few rebellious drone pilots that have been reckless in the past. Unfortunately, it’ s one of those cases where a handful of people ruins it for the majority of us, but I won’ t go too much into that. Listed below are their listed reasons:
- To protect endangered species as well as other animals in the park
- They want to keep the park as noise-free and peaceful as possible for others to enjoy.
- To make sure that park visitors and staff don’ t get injured a drone.
- Park fires. Drones crash often. This may cause a LiPo fire. Especially in state parks that are in dry areas.
- Some people just don’ t like drones. So most parks will try to avoid the drama all-together by just banning them completely.
Just because you can’ t take off or land in a state park, doesn’ t mean you can’ t fly over them. Just make sure you fly safe, and remain respectful to the others around you.