Whether you’re a newbie just starting out or a seasoned pilot who owns one of the best drones on the market, it’s worth having a good list of places you can fly your favorite gadget.
To help you out, we’ve listed six places that are great for drone pilots below, and three that you should avoid at all costs. Remember to check all drone regulations in your area before you take off, as they can vary from state to state. You will need to take the TRUST exam before you start flying and you will likely need to register your drone with the FAA if it is over a certain weight.
Fly: your backyard
One of the first places to try out your drone is your own backyard. Once you are comfortable with the piloting, you can fly it from 50 feet off the ground to less than 400 feet. This is what the FAA calls Class G airspace and if you stay within those limits you don’t need clearance on your own property.
You can film a backyard party, take a family photo, or even get a bird’s eye view of your home. Part of the fun of flying a drone with an HD camera – it allows you to take pictures from unusual perspectives. Remember, you are still subject to the same privacy laws as if you were standing on the ground. If it’s illegal in your state to take photos while looking inside your neighbor’s windows, then the rules don’t change just because your camera is now 250 feet in the air.
Do not fly: emergency response zones
An emergency response or disaster area will automatically be subject to Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR), sometimes without notice. This means that all drones are prohibited from entering this airspace. Getting a bird’s eye view of a wildfire might sound exciting, but violating that airspace could cause you to fail and put lives at risk.
Do Fly: Over a river
If you like to go on the water, take your drone with you. Whether you’re kayaking, waterskiing, or just want to snap photos of the coast at sunset, you’re good to go. Just be aware that parts of the river may pass through Class B restricted airspace due to proximity to an airport or seaport.
In these cases, you will need to apply for a Low Altitude Notification Capacity and Clearance (LAANC) clearance. LAANC is a real-time data exchange between the FAA and private industry that can grant or deny you permission to fly your drone through certain restricted airspace. You can issue the LAANC request from your B4UFLY application according to your needs.
Don’t fly: national parks
Drones are prohibited from operating in any territory administered by the National Park Service. This means that taking off, landing or crossing a national park is prohibited. The intention behind the ban is to minimize the impact on natural, cultural and historical resources. It is possible to get a special permit for commercial filming purposes under the right circumstances, but for the recreational drone pilot, national parks remain a drone-free zone.
Fly: the wild areas of the national forest
You might not be able to fly over a national park, but you can fly your drone through a national forest. Confusing? Slightly, but it boils down to the fact that these are different types of land managed by different parts of government. Fly through the forest with impunity, just beware of any branches or obstacles that could knock your drone down from the sky.
West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest, pictured above, is a great place to fly a drone and well worth the trip. There may be special exceptions at different National Forest sites, so be sure to check B4UFY and all local ordinances.
Do not fly: major sporting or entertainment events
It can be tempting to use your drone to get a good view of your favorite baseball game, stadium concert, or NASCAR race. Unfortunately, it is illegal to fly your drone in and around these locations from one hour before the event begins until one hour after it ends. That’s not to say that you can’t try to take a look at your favorite stadium when the match isn’t in progress, but doing so during an event is illegal.
Make it fly: walks on the promenade
While a few cities have restricted the use of drones in and around their boardwalks, most beach towns still allow recreational drones in and around their boardwalks as long as drone operators adhere to the 50-400 rule. These rides usually provide a great backdrop for taking photos, especially if you can fly your drone at night to capture the bright lights of the area.
And that’s a quick rundown of where you can take a ride with your new drone. Please keep in mind that in addition to federal regulations, there may also be state and local ordinances that govern the flight of your drone. Your best resource is always to contact a community organization (CBO) that tracks recreational drone restrictions in your area.
Fly: historic lighthouses
While we’re on the topic of water, consider taking your drone to a historic lighthouse. If you live inland it may not seem obvious, but headlights are a great way to test your piloting and photography skills. Two good examples are the Point Judith Lighthouse in Point Judith, Rhode Island and the abandoned Tillamook Rock Lighthouse in Oregon.