Can You Fly a Drone in Virginia Beach?
Virginia Beach in southeastern Virginia is arguably the most popular attraction in the state.
Situated on the Chesapeake Bay, the area features rolling seas and a three-mile boardwalk. For the history buffs, the First Landing State Park is also there.
Can you capture these magnificent sights and more with your drone? Can you fly a drone in Virginia Beach?
You can fly a drone in Virginia Beach, as Virginia has no local drone laws. However, you must always follow FAA guidelines. Drone enthusiasts love Little Island Park, the Virginia Beach fishing pier, and the nearby Stumpy Lake Natural Area for flying.
If this is the year you finally decide to vacation in Virginia Beach and you’ll have your drone in tow, make sure you keep reading.
We have lots of helpful information to share ahead!
Can you fly a drone in Virginia Beach?
The famous saying is that Virginia is for lovers, but that’s not wholly true.
Virginia is also for families, sunbathers, swimmers, vacationers, and anyone who wants to get away from life’s troubles for a little while. That’s why Virginia Beach is so wildly popular!
So what’s the drone policy in a place like this?
Although you might assume Virginia Beach prohibits drones, that’s not the case. Virginia has no local ordinances or laws, including in Virginia Beach.
This is excellent news for pilots, as you can pack up your drone, stroll through the sand, and capture aerial photos and videos of Virginia Beach’s stunning ocean.
Of course, you still must obey drone rules, which we’ll talk about later. Don’t expect to get on the boardwalk during peak season, as this area gets very crowded.
You can wake up with the sun and do your shooting then, as you’ll see a few lone individuals on the boardwalk, but no crowds.
Alternatively, you can wait until the offseason when cold weather forces all but the most dedicated people away from the beach.
The 8 best places to use a drone in and around Virginia Beach
It’s always exciting to learn you can fly your drone in a destination on your travel shortlist. Yet where exactly in Virginia Beach can you fly? That’s what we’re here for!
The following locations in and around Virginia Beach are all safe for drone pilots to visit and fly around in.
1. Little Island Park
We’ll start with Little Island State Park, a 122-acre beach park in Virginia Beach. The park features sports courts, picnic shelters, crabbing, fishing, and swimming.
The fishing pier is a massive 400 feet, and the beach is 775 feet.
If you find that Virginia Beach a little too crowded, make a beeline for Little Island Park. It offers many of the same sights but without the jam-packed boardwalk.
That’s not to say the park doesn’t get busy, especially since it contains a beach and a playground on the same grounds.
Try to get there during the week or other odd times so you have more space to yourself.
2. Great Bridge Lock Park
In nearby Chesapeake, Great Bridge Lock Park is yet another island park for drone enthusiasts to explore.
The park has a picnic shelter, observation beam, boat ramp, fishing area, and playground. It’s also a popular spot for fishing and crabbing.
Measuring 19 cozy acres, Great Bridge Lock Park affords views of a river and canal, depending on which side of the park you’re on.
Its observation beam would make an excellent spot for using your drone. Just make sure it doesn’t fall into the water!
3. West Neck Creek Natural Area
How about a change of pace? The West Neck Creek Natural Area is a wooded part of Virginia Beach that’s 217 acres.
The park maintains its natural state except for some paths, including a 2.5-mile soft path.
Plan for a leisurely stroll in the wooded area, but don’t fly your drone too high, as you don’t want it getting caught in tree branches or brush.
4. Oak Grove Lake Park
Chesapeake’s Oak Grove Lake Park is a cozy 65-acre park with a playground, benches to sit and reflect, a lake, and a 1.5-mile trail that circles the lake.
It’s a tranquil, peaceful environment for wandering around in with your drone in tow.
Although perhaps not as popular as a beach park during the summer, these wooded parks can attract sizable crowds, so plan your drone flights for less busy times.
5. Munden Point Park
Virginia Beach’s Munden Point Park is another place to add to your list as you finalize your drone flight plans.
The 100-acre park may be small, but it’s on the riverfront, so it affords you some truly stunning views.
Keep in mind this park has an 18-hole disc golf course, so you will have to stay a clear distance away since that part of the park is quite popular, i.e., crowded.
6. Stumpy Lake Natural Area
On Indian River Road, the Stumpy Lake Natural Area is 1,422 acres. It includes almost two miles of soft trails, over 970 acres of undeveloped forest, a golf course that’s 175 acres, and a lake that’s 278 acres.
If you want to get away from people, Stumpy Lake Natural Area is large enough that you can easily do it. That will make flying your drone a lot easier!
7. Mount Trashmore Park
The name might not make it sound worth seeing, but Mount Trashmore Park deserves a visit during your time in Virginia Beach.
The park has been a city landmark since 1974. It earned its name because it was once a landfill but is now appealing greenspace.
Mount Trashmore has both a Kids’ Cove and a skate park, so there are some parts of the park you’ll want to stay away from when using your drone to avoid crowds.
8. Virginia Beach Fishing Pier
If you want to capture drone footage on Virginia Beach itself, its fishing pier is the best place to do it.
You’ll get a great vantage point of the rolling ocean below, you can see crowds without getting too close, and your drone will stay a good distance from the water.
That said, make sure you don’t use your drone near the other anglers, as you don’t want it getting entangled in the fishing line.
State and federal laws to remember when using your drone in Virginia
Virginia Beach may not have any local drone laws, but the state of Virginia has plenty of state laws.
Additionally, you must follow federal drone laws from the FAA. Let’s go over what you need to know.
No spying or peeping
According to Virginia state law HB 2350, if you intentionally use an electronic device such as a drone to spy into an occupied building or dwelling or to peep on someone, you’ll receive a Class 1 misdemeanor charge.
You could be jailed for a year, and you might have to pay a $2,500 fine on top of it. Use your drone respectfully!
No drones in state parks
According to the Code of Virginia 4VAC5-30-400:
“No person shall voluntarily land or unlawfully operate within or upon any park, any airplane, remote control model aircraft, helicopter, unmanned aerial system, drone, balloon, parachute, or other apparatus for aviation.”
Have a drone license
To legally fly your drone in the United States, including in Virginia Beach, the FAA requires you to hold the appropriate license.
Recreational pilots can apply for the TRUST certificate by passing the free TRUST exam, an all-online drone test.
Commercial pilots must pay to take the Part 107 exam for a chance to earn their Remote Pilot Certificates.
A Remote Pilot Certificate expires two years after you receive it. You can take the FAA’s free online exam to keep your license current before expiry.
Register your drone
If your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, you must register it with the FAA.
It costs only $5 to get your drone registered. More importantly, it’ll be ready for flying. The registration lasts for three years.
Don’t fly your drone higher than 400 feet
In Virginia and the rest of the United States, the FAA restricts drone pilots from flying higher than 400 feet from the ground.
This is to prevent interruptions to manned aircraft.
Do not fly within five miles of an airport
Virginia Beach has its own airport, appropriately named the Virginia Beach Airport. Nearby is also the Chesapeake Regional Airport.
You’re prohibited from using your drone within five nautical miles of any airport in the state, as these are no-fly zones. You need authorization to launch.
Operate your drone during daylight hours
Unless you have special permission, you can only use your drone from sunrise to sunset. Make sure you vacate the beach as the sun begins going down, as it’s also dangerous to fly during this time.
Don’t use your drone in inclement weather
Speaking of dangerous flight conditions, using your drone in rain, wind, fog, hail, snow, and any other strong weather condition reduces your control and makes your drone a risk to yourself and others.
That’s why the FAA bans drone flights in inclement weather.
All drone pilots must keep their UAVs within their visual line of sight, which is how far you can naturally see in front of you.
If you can’t maintain VLOS, you must have a spotter with you who can.
Virginia Beach has no local ordinances prohibiting drone flights.
While you can’t get too close to crowds on the boardwalk, fly within five miles of an airport, or visit some parks, Virginia allows drone pilots many liberties.
It’s a great place to go and fly a drone!