Where Can (And Can’t) You Fly a Drone?

Now that you have a drone and you’re ready to put it to work, it’s important to know where you can and can’t fly legally. In order to keep the public safe, the FAA has implemented some rules and guidelines for safe drone flight.

Remote Pilot Certification (Part 107)

First thing to note, before you take to the skies with your drone, it’s imperative that you, or someone on your team, acquires a Remote Pilot Certificate in order to be in compliance with FAA's Small UAS Rule (more commonly known as Part 107). Obtaining certification is relatively simple.

Okay, now that you’re certified to fly, the next important thing to take into consideration is where you’re going to operate your UAV. The FAA has implemented strict rules on where drones can and can’t be flown.

Restricted Airspace - Where you can’t fly a UAV or Drone

Airports - This is the biggest limiting factor in regard to where drones can be flown. Current FAA rules state that drones must not be operated within a five-mile radius of an airport. It’s important to note that if you do have your Remote Pilot Certificate and are following Part 107 rules, you can contact air traffic control to get permission to fly in controlled air space. Using the Botlink flight app for operations will ensure that you’re not operating in restricted airspace. To learn more about the Botlink Capture flight app click here.

Stadiums and Sporting Events – Operating drones or UAVs at or near (within three nautical miles) stadiums and sporting events is restricted (one hour before and ending one hour after the event). The list of events are below:

  • Major League Baseball

  • National Football League

  • NCAA Division 1 Football

  • NASCAR, Indy Car, and Champ Series Racing

  • Olympics

National Parks – Currently, launching, landing, or operating any unmanned aircraft is prohibited in any national park unless approved in writing by the superintendent of the specific park. Getting approval to fly in a national park is nearly impossible unless the Special Use Permit is being used for search and rescue, research, or fire safety.

It’s important to note, National Forests don’t have the same rules and National Parts. National Forests are managed by the USDA, while National Parks fall under control of the Department of Interior. Rules for flying in National Forests are much more practical – there’s no permit needed if flying for non-commercial purposes. For more specific guidelines for flying in National Forests, check out the US Forest Service page here.

National Security Sensitive Facilities - Drone or UAV operation is prohibited over specific areas as identified as security sensitive facilities. This is one of the broader restrictions laid out by the FAA, so it’s important to check their interactive map to identify potential no fly zones near you. Examples of these locations would be national landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, Hoover Dam, critical infrastructure, and military bases designated by the Department of Defense.

Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) – TFRs define specific areas of airspace where operating drones are UAVs is limited. Reasons for TFR’s can be hazardous conditions such as hurricanes or wildfires, special security events, or other situations such as VIP travel.

TFRs are constantly being updated, so it’s best to check the FAA’s listing of TFR’s in advance of any flight. The updated list of TFR’s can be found here. While the list on the FAA’s site is a good place to start, to be even more throrough, the FAA recommends calling your local Flight Service Station at 1-800-WX-BRIEF.

Washington, D.C. – Washington, D.C. is the most restricted flight area in the country. Washington is governed by the Special Flight Rules Area, which is a 30-mile radius from Reagan National Airport. The area is divided into an inner-ring (15-mile radius) and an outer-ring (30-mile radius). Flying a drone is prohibited within the inner-ring without specific authorization from the FAA. Flying between 15 and 30 miles from Reagan is allowed under specific operating conditions:

  • Drone or UAV must be under 55lbs

  • Aircraft must be registered and marked

  • Fly below 400 feet

  • Keep aircraft within visual line-of-sight

  • Fly in clear weather conditions

  • Not flown near other aircraft

NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries - Flight over National Marine Sanctuaries is regulated as NOAA has deemed low-level UAV and drone flight to be detrimental to marine mammals and seabirds. Speficic areas where flight below 2,000 ft. is prohibited are:

  • Olympic Coast

  • Greater Farallones

  • Monterey Bay

  • Channel Islands

Where Can you Fly a Drone?

Unfortunately there’s not a blanket rules for where you can and can’t fly drones. Best practice is to check and make sure there’s no local restrictions before flying. Once you’re in compliance with Federal, State, and Local regulations, it’s important to remember some of the bigger guidelines - no flying over people and roads.

In general, when we fly here at Botlink, we fly over private property or in low-traffic public areas.