Can You Fly a Drone in Las Vegas?
The Gambling Capital of the World needs no introduction. Las Vegas attracts about 30 to 40 million visitors a year with all its promises of glitz, glamor, and maybe some gambling money.
Perhaps you’ve been before, or this will be your first time, but you want to bring your drone with you on your adventures.
Can you fly a drone in Las Vegas?
You can fly a drone in Las Vegas, but you’re prohibited from using it on public streets and parking lots, in city parks, on the Las Vegas Strip, near any airports, and in any other areas marked as restricted airspace.
In today’s article, we’ll review what constitutes allowable airspace in Vegas vs. what doesn’t and the consequences of breaking the rules.
If you have a trip to Las Vegas on the itinerary, the information ahead will be hugely useful!
Can you fly a drone in Las Vegas? All the places you’re prohibited from using a UAV
The state of Nevada, under the FAA, permits drone use. Even in Las Vegas, you’re allowed to fly a drone, albeit with a lot of restrictions.
Let’s review where you can’t use your drone throughout Las Vegas.
The Vegas Strip
Everyone knows that all the action in Vegas goes down on the Las Vegas Strip.
This 4.225-mile stretch of the city, resplendent in all the neon lights you can shake a stick at, features casinos and gambling floors, restaurants, performance venues, and hotels.
It’s the heart of Vegas and among the city’s biggest draws. Unsurprisingly, the entire stretch of the Vegas Strip is restricted airspace.
» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone on the Las Vegas Strip?
If you stop and think about it, this makes a lot of sense. The Las Vegas Strip attracts record-breaking crowds, so using your drone would always pose a risk due to all the people milling about.
On top of that, you’re five miles from the Harry Reid International Airport, formerly the McCarran Airport.
Five miles is a drone’s peak distance from an airport, so if you ventured too deep into the Strip, you’d already violate an FAA rule.
Public Parking Lots
Our Nevada drone laws article discussed the 2010 Las Vegas City Parks municipal ordinance.
Under this ordinance, in Chapter 13.58 – Aircraft Launching and Landing, the city makes it illegal for drone pilots to launch or land a drone on any public parking lot.
» MORE: Drone Laws in Nevada
It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking a full parking lot or an empty one. You can’t do it unless you have to make an emergency landing that would “protect life and property.”
A few other exceptions exist too. If you have City Council permission to use your drone in a parking lot, then you can, and government aircraft need not follow this rule either.
The same municipal ordinance from 2010, right down to the same section, bars drones from operating on public rights-of-way, highways, and streets throughout Las Vegas.
Las Vegas might not be the City That Never Sleeps, but it does tend to attract its fair share of around-the-clock action. You’ll be hard-pressed to find the roads deserted enough to consider flying a drone.
Besides, even if you wanted to, the FAA’s Operations Over Moving Vehicles law forbids it in most circumstances.
Besides Harry Reid, Las Vegas also has North Las Vegas Airport, although that’s a good ways away from the Vegas Strip.
Of course, Nevada as a whole contains plenty of airports too, and the rule stands on every single one. You can’t fly any closer than five miles.
In State Parks
Although Las Vegas and state parks don’t sound like they’d gel, Vegas has the Ice Age Fossils State Park. The Nevada State Parks system contains 26 more state parks across the state.
We know that most people who visit Vegas do so to capture the glimmering cityscape, but if you hoped for a change of pace and wanted to film greenery instead, you can’t do it, at least not at state parks.
Nevada State Parks makes that much clear on its website, stating:
“Use of drones is prohibited in Nevada State Parks unless in an area designated for that use by a park supervisor or by issuance of a special use permit for use of an unmanned aircraft.”
If you’re curious, you can likely fly a drone in a public park throughout Vegas, but the policies differ by the park.
You should contact a parks and rec representative or visit their website before bringing your drone to the park.
In Restricted Airspace
The above areas should be classified as restricted airspace, but other restricted airspace could abound in Vegas that would also prohibit drone use.
Use a resource like FLYSAFE (link) or your favorite drone app to determine where you’re forbidden from flying, where you can fly with LAANC authorization, and where you can fly without authorization (such as Class G airspace).
What happens if you break a drone law in Las Vegas?
Nevada has a lot of state and local laws that we recommend you brush up on before your trip, as the punishments for violations can be quite steep. Let’s go over some of those consequences now.
Flying near a critical facility
State law NRS 493.109 prohibits drones from venturing too close to any state critical facility.
You can’t use your drone 250 vertical feet or 500 horizontal feet from power lines, jails and prisons, mines, waste or water treatment centers, oil pipelines, chemical manufacturing plants, and petroleum refineries unless the owner gives you written permission.
If you break this law, you could receive a fine of up to $1,000 or spend six months behind bars.
Flying near an airport
We’ve stressed how you can’t use your drone closer than five miles from an airport. If you do so, it’s a misdemeanor charge.
Once again, you’re looking at a fine of $1,000 or six months of imprisonment.
Those restricted areas on drone maps are red for a reason!
Flying in federally restricted airspace
Nevada has a variety of military sites, including the:
- Nevada National Security Site
- Tonopah Test Range
- Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center
- Stead Air Force Base
- Creech Air Force Base
- Hawthorne Army Depot
- Naval Air Station Fallon
- Nellis Air Force Base
You’d violate 49 U.S. Code 46307 by flying too close to a Nevada military base and incur much more severe punishments.
You could have to pay a $250,000 fine or spend a year in federal prison.
Flying in prohibited places
From flying in other restricted airspace to areas with temporary flight restrictions such as during a chemical spill or wildfire, Nevada law takes it all very seriously.
The penalties for this crime include a fine of $250,000 or a year in federal prison.
Depending on the extent of the crime, you could also receive charges for violating privacy, drone trespass, and even terrorism.
Nevada drone laws to follow
Before we wrap up, let’s recap Nevada drone laws so you don’t end your Las Vegas trip behind bars or having to pay a substantial fine.
Remember, like all states in the United States, Nevada follows FAA guidelines.
Have your drone license and registration handy
All pilots need a drone license, including hobbyists and commercial pilots. These licenses include the TRUST certificate and Remote Pilot Certificate, respectively.
The FAA issues official drone licenses, and you can’t just get one.
Either way, you’re required to take a test, although the commercial drone exam is far more challenging than the recreational pilot exam. It’s also a paid test.
Make sure you’re carrying a current license. The TRUST certificate never goes out of date, but the Remote Pilot Certificate is valid for two years from the date it’s issued.
If you don’t recertify within that timeframe, your license will expire, and you’ll have to retake the Part 107 test.
In most instances, you must also register your drone.
That’s required for any UAV that weighs 0.55 pounds and up. The FAA issues drone registrations for three years at a time.
You need a current registration to legally fly.
Don’t operate drones over the weight threshold
An unmanned aircraft ascending the skies cannot weigh more than 55 pounds.
That can include the weight of your drone out of the box (or case, if you’ve owned it for long enough) or with additional accessories.
You can always reduce a heavier drone’s payload, but if your drone weighs 55 pounds without payload, it’s not sky-worthy under the FAA. You’ll have to fly a lighter drone instead.
Don’t fly over people
The FAA’s Operations Over People law prohibits all but the lightest drones from flying over people.
You’re supposed to stay 25 feet from crowds.
The Operations Over People law does allow you to fly closer to people you know who voluntarily participate in your drone usage.
Don’t use your drone when under the influence
Las Vegas is a party city. If you let the good times roll, have the judgment to decide whether to use a drone.
You cannot legally operate a drone when under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, so don’t try it.
Avoid drone use in inclement weather
Las Vegas weather is predominantly hot, but the city can experience rain and wind with the best of ‘em. In inclement weather, plan to wait to fly your drone another day. It’s the law!
Give manned aircraft the right of way
If you’re abiding by other FAA rules, you shouldn’t find yourself too close to manned aircraft. In case it ever does happen, you’re legally required to give them the right of way.
Only fly 400 feet over the ground
The peak legal ascension rate for drones in Nevada and the rest of the US is 400 feet. Don’t fly your drone higher than that and don’t use it lower so it’s at risk of colliding into buildings or power lines.
You can legally fly a drone in Las Vegas, just not in as many places as you were probably expecting. Sin City prohibits drones around airports, national parks, parking lots, public roads, and the Las Vegas Strip.
You should also use a drone app to watch for any other restricted airspace and temporary flight restrictions.
You could face a steep punishment for violating a drone law in Nevada, so save those gambling earnings and fly on the right side of the law!
FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Test Prep
Peltier has quite the experience, making him qualified to teach about photography and drones in separate courses. He was a part of the U.S. Air Force as an F-15E flight instructor for a decade.