Coddington, Hicks & Danforth

Thinking of taking your drone hiking this summer?

California is home to 110 state parks, 8 national parks, 5 state historic parks and 1 state nature preserve. As you explore the state’s natural beauty this summer, you may want your drone to take photos of the landscape and wildlife.

However, drone use is carefully regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and California’s individual park districts. Before you pack your drone, make sure you can answer a few questions: Can you legally operate your drone within the park? In what section of the park can you use your drone? Have you received confirmation that drone use is acceptable within park boundaries?

Know the rules specific to the park in question

Generally speaking, drones are allowed in California state parks. However, you should check with the local park district before you fly your drone. Individual District Attendants may decide to ban drone use within a park’s boundaries, or within a specific section of the park. Also, any area that is designated as a wilderness area, cultural preserve or natural preserve bans the use of drones.

Additionally, you must adhere to all standard FAA drone regulations within the park. Park-specific regulations are in addition to the FAA’s national regulations; they do not replace FAA regulations.

Understanding drone bans within parks

Drone use may be limited or banned within a state park for many reasons, including:

  • Protecting native wildlife
  • Preventing accidents, injuries to pedestrians, fires and damage to facilities
  • Negatively impacting other visitors’ enjoyment of the park
  • Endangering privacy
  • Threatening historically and culturally important areas

Drone use in public places is a highly controversial topic that is still under scrutiny. If you are unsure whether you can fly your drone in a specific area, check before you fly. Failing to do so can result in fines and even jail time. For example, if you were to accidentally fly your drone in one of California’s national parks, you could face over a $1,000 fine and even jail time. A simple phone call to the local park district before you go can prevent unnecessary problems

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