Los Angles might be the entertainment capital of the world if you count it as part of Hollywood. But Southern California is also well known for its marvelous climate and soaring natural beauty.
All of these things make it ideal for flying drones, especially camera drones.
But of course, there are laws, regulations, and best practices to be concerned about.
To that end, we will discuss the rules you need to follow and the best spots in Los Angeles to fly drones. But first, let’s cover the legalities briefly.
LA County drone flight laws
Drone flight is legal for both commercial and recreational purposes.
No drone or model aircraft may be flown within 5 miles of an airport without permission.
Drones may not be flown beyond the sight line of the pilot.
Flight above 400 feet is prohibited.
Flight closer than 25 feet to a person is prohibited except during takeoff and landing.
Take note that these rules may change without warning. Always check local laws before flying your drone.
The top 10 spots to fly drones in LA
There are loads of great places to fly drone aircraft in LA. So much that we only have time and energy to cover the best of them.
1. Lake Hollywood
GPS Coordinates: 26 0′ 57.2724 , 80 7′ 14.2608
With its rolling hills, visually pleasing dam, placid blue-green water, and a sweeping view of the city below, Lake Hollywood checks a lot of boxes. It was built in 1924 and holds 2.5 billion gallons of water. A paved road travels all around and through the reservoir, making getting around easy.
There’s ample opportunity to film the Los Angeles skyline with palm trees and infrastructure. Whether you’re flying for fun or looking for establishing shots for a film, Lake Hollywood is perfect.
2. Hermosa Beach Pier
GPS Coordinates: 33 51′ 41.40 , -118 24′ 13.68
This wooden structure, built in 1904, is long and narrow and stands alone in its location. That makes it great for visual purposes since the view is not obstructed by other objects in the background. It extends 1000 feet into the sea and has a somewhat stoic seafaring appeal to it, making it good for filmmaking purposes.
There are certain ordinances in place, so drone pilots are required to get a permit before flying their devices. There may be a waiting period, so the sooner you apply, the better.
3. Wilders Addition Park
GPS Coordinates: 33.70598 , -118.29199
Excellent for fun drone activities and especially useful for local establishing shot filmmaking, Wilders Addition Park is an excellent location. It is a piece of land encompassing a park, some residential, and some commercial zoning.
But it’s the striking ocean rock bluffs that make it stand out the most. There are dramatic sea cliffs, crashing waves, and plenty of them. There is also an interesting spot where bright patches of graffiti are visible from the air. Also, the sunsets are second to none.
4. Sepulveda Dam
GPS Coordinates: 34 09′ 59.55 , -118 28′ 21.32
This piece of infrastructure is an especially iconic spot in the Hollywood landscape. The bridge and mega-structure of the dam are visually striking and unique. The canals are a lot like the ones you see in Terminator 2, if they are not the very same ones.
Admittedly, there is very little of visual interest other than the dam and canals themselves. But there are plenty of interesting visuals nonetheless.
You might also enjoy doing maneuvers around the interesting structures that the bridge and dam compose.
5. Hollywood Hills
GPS Coordinates: 34 7′ 3.578 , 118 21′ 7.34
Needless to say, there is no piece of aerial photography done in Southern California that can be considered complete without an establishing shot of the Hollywood sign.
In addition to the world-famous letters on the hillside, there are rolling hills, cityscapes, lavish homes, and much more. Drone laws might be especially stiff here since there are plenty of rich people who want to protect their privacy. But you can probably get the permissions you need after jumping through a few hoops.
6. Simi Valley
GPS Coordinates: 34.269447 , -118.781479
One of the cool things about this spot is that the FAA has given blanket permission for drone pilots with commercial permits to fly over this area for the purpose of surveying roads, pipelines, and other equipment. So it might be easy to get permission if you promise to survey equipment.
The Simi Valley, interestingly, has been used to create more science fiction scenes set on other planets than any other location on Earth. This is because it is rocky, barren, and has lots of compelling mountain lines that run cross-ways to each other in interesting ways.
It’s also the closest area of its kind to Hollywood itself, and there are labor laws that make its proximity attractive to film studios.
7. MacArthur Park
GPS Coordinates: 34 03′ 18.60 , -118 16 23.40
There’s a small lake in the center of this location, and it makes a visually interesting juxtaposition to the parks, residential, and city areas all around it. There are plenty of LA skyline and other background shots to be had.
Like Venice Beach, it is also a great spot to film people at play. You’ll see skaters around the lake, joggers, picnickers, and more. Sometimes, there are interesting events at the lake. One such example is the exposition of large colored beach balls that nearly covered the entire surface of the lake. Strange, yes, but worth filming.
8. Apollo XI Field Airstrip
GPS Coordinates: 34.1739 , -118.4821
If you love to fly model aircraft, this is the best location in Los Angeles county for you. It’s just a small strip of runway in the middle of an otherwise uninteresting field. But it is frequented by all kinds of model aircraft enthusiasts. And it must be said that some of the model aircraft they fly are works of art in their own right.
So, if you want to get interesting shots of those devices, you might talk to their pilots and see if you can work together to create some images. If you are willing to share those images with them, they will probably be more than happy to agree.
9. Rose Bowl Stadium
GPS Coordinates: 34.1568 , -118.1672
Sports stadiums are always nice for filming people, interesting structures, sports, and more. The Rose Bowl Stadium is an outstanding example of a stadium that earns high marks on all of those points. Also, it is absolutely massive.
There are interesting parks and city locations all around it, for plenty of variety.
If you do choose to fly there, you will have to base your drone operations out of Lot H. Drone pilots are specifically permitted to fly their devices in and out of this location. Part of the reason is that it’s easy for law enforcement to check everyone for licenses and permits since they are all in one place. So if you choose to fly out of Lot H during a big event, you can expect to talk to police or FAA officials.
10. Venice Beach
GPS Coordinates: 37.28′ 47.79 , 22.26′ 59.399
Venice Beach is one of the most frequently filmed places in the world. Of course, there are many reasons for this. But the fact remains that it is a beautiful stretch of beach that is almost always covered in people having a wonderful time in revealing clothing.
If you get there early and establish a base of operations, you can enjoy a full day of flight and filming. If you get there late, be prepared to fight the crowds.
Orlando Florida, aka City Beautiful. Land of tourists, entertainment, and attractions galore.
Orlando is known for having quite a few popular Theme Parks, Water Parks and local attractions such as the likes of:
…and the list goes on and on.
Orlando area attractions, however, aren’t just in the physical City of Orlando. There are many surrounding cities and towns that also make up the Orlando Area, such as Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake (think Disney World), Winter Haven (Legoland) Apopka, and others.
Although there are many Orlando Attractions that do not fall within manned airspace (no LAANC needed), it is advisable not to fly from within the grounds of any attraction, or over them, without special permission, whether in Orlando or elsewhere.
If you decide to fly near an Orlando attraction, caution and considerations must be exercised as we’ll discuss.
When deciding to choose where and when to fly, the old adage applies to me: Although I can do something, should I?
In the drone community (whether hobbyists or commercial operators), many are keenly aware of their rights as drone operators, with a serious grasp of the laws put forth by the FAA.
Although this may be the case, there aremany local governments and municipalities that put in place their own rules and regulations pertaining to drones, some of which blatantly clash with what the FAA has mandated and our rightful understanding of said laws and mandates.
This being the case, many might feel that certain places of businesses, in this particular case, area attractions and Amusement Parks, have no rightful say, in many instances, where a drone can and should be flown.
Again, the old adage applies: although I can do something, should I?
When it comes to the question of flying at Orlando Area Attractions (or other cities’ attractions), there are quite a few considerations that must be taken first in an effort to keep the public safe.
We’ll consider these areas, as well as look at some information I have acquired, pertaining to drones, that has been gathered in certain popular areas and attractions in the Orlando area.
This information might make it easier for drone operators when deciding what Orlando area attractions can or should be photographed.
Before flying anywhere in Orlando, regardless of whether near an attraction or not, attention to manned airspace needs to be a top priority.
Many are not aware of this, however, Disney World has had a standing NFZ (no-fly zone) surrounding it for the past 19 years, meaning that drones and even helicopters and planes are not allowed to fly within 3 miles of Disney. Doing so can incur stiff fines and/or jail time.
Due to its worldwide popularity and appeal, Orlando has many airports and helipads.
If you’ve ever visited or lived in Orlando, seeing airplanes (whether passenger jets, seaplanes, or smaller single-engine planes) and helicopters (especially tourist helicopters) is a normal and frequent occurrence.
You will be sharing the sky with them.
If you are planning to fly near an Orlando Area attraction when visiting on vacation, or even if you are a resident, be sure to always check if the airspace is safe to do so and apply for LAANC authorization (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability) where necessary.
This is a very important aspect to consider when deciding where you want to fly, if near an attraction.
While we all know the FAA has complete authority over the airspace above us in the United States, businesses and homeowners have a say as to who can actually be on their property and if someone can launch a drone from there.
To put this in perspective, let’s say there is a lake you’d like to take pictures or video of.
However, all of the access roads to and from the lake are on private property with everyone having a “no trespassing” sign up. The air above the lake is under the authority of the FAA. Can you get images of the lake?
Yes, you can. What you are not legally able to do is access the lake from anyone’s private property, without the land owners permission, as this is illegal.
You can, though, launch from a public area and take photos or videos of the lake from above.
If you are wanting to get some good shots of a local attraction from a distance, while launching from public property, you can surely do so as long as you are flying in a safe manner and not over people.
The image of Volcano Bay at the outset of this article was taken during the pandemic from across the street from an empty public parking lot.
The picture was then zoomed in and cropped in post, giving it the appearance of being taken from within the park.
Crowds and Gatherings
Another consideration would be if you are going to be flying around crowds of people or large gatherings.
This is also very important, especially any time you are planning on shooting anywhere there is a possibility of people gathered together. As we are aware, flying over people is a no-no.
Because Orlando is such a tourist hot spot, in addition to the laws in place by the FAA about flying over people, there are local laws that specify that if there are gatherings of more than 1000 people, drones are to stay 50 feet away from the said gathering, as well as have a permit from the City of Orlando to fly near these large gatherings.
This information is even useful for those planning on snapping a few photos or shooting videos of local festivals that may attract thousands of people.
The number of people gathered together in a certain area puts yet another consideration in the mix when deciding how close to an Orlando area attraction you would like to shoot.
As can be seen here, there are a few very important things to initially consider when deciding what attraction you would like to shoot near:
Of course, these are just a fraction of the things that should be seriously considered.
Next, we’ll be looking at a few examples of local attractions along with information personally gathered that might help when deciding what attractions to fly near or if flying over or through them is permitted.
These examples in no way cover all of the situations one might fly in but give a small idea of what to expect around Orlando Area attractions and the steps that a drone operator can take.
Universal’s Volcano Bay
When taking pictures of Universal’s Volcano Bay, as mentioned prior, all of the shots were taken while launched from outside of the Resort during Covid when no visitors or guests were either in Volcano Bay or at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which houses Volcano Bay.
The shot above was taken while above the hotel on the property. To get the above shot, the drone was flown over the area where the resort is located and not over the waterpark itself.
After this flight, upon speaking with various managers and having an actual sit-down with the head of security, I learned the following information, which should prove helpful for those looking to get footage of Water/Theme Parks in general:
Although there are no NFZs (no-fly zones) over the park or anti-drone warning zones anywhere near the park, flying over Volcano Bay could easily fall under the “could vs. should” argument. Can you fly over the park? SHOULD you fly over the park?
The Head of Security told me that Universal has a staff-enforced “air envelope” or bubble of sorts over their rides and if a drone flies within that envelope, the employees are instructed to shut down the rides until either the drone is gone from the vicinity OR the drone operator has been located and asked not to fly over the park AND complies.
If the pilot refuses, even though flying off-property, Orlando City Police are called in and the officers ask the operator to desist.
Does the attraction owner have the legal right to initiate these steps, if the drone operator is not on their property? While this could be argued in court, is it worth it?
Much of Volcano Bay’s reasoning is from a safety aspect. Since drones can drop payloads, amusement parks generally fear that something could be dropped from a drone onto or into the ride or ride path and cause an accident, injury, or death.
Likewise, they fear drones malfunctioning and falling onto the rides or park guests.
Another part of Universal’s concern is of pictures being taken of new or under-construction areas of the park and then those images or videos being leaked to the public via social media.
They are also concerned that pictures and videos of areas of the park under construction, that are an eye-sore, once put online, might deter potential visitors from going to the park.
All of this information makes sense and I appreciated the opportunity to get a bit more insight into why water and amusement parks (not just Volcano Bay) take such a strong stance when it comes to drones in the vicinity.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando
Here we have a resort-style hotel located in Universal’s massive property area.
This picture, like the Volcano Bay images, was taken during Covid, while there were no guests on the property. This image was captured while launching from the sidewalk on Universal Blvd, a public area (see below).
In this instance there isn’t much to be said of the shot, other than this was an Orlando area attraction that crossed no property boundaries, was not over people, and was taken from a safe distance away on public property.
To further add to their being no problem with this shot, management at Lowes Portofino actually liked the photo so much they worked out usage rights with me and the image was promptly used in their online initiatives which included, in part, Facebook and Instagram.
This is an instance where there were no issues whatsoever about taking pictures of an Orlando area attraction. Had the picture been taken from directly above the property, there might have been discussions in the works about doing so.
The Wheel at Icon Park
Icon Park is located on International Blvd and is home to restaurants, museums, some amusement rides, and The Wheel – a 400-foot-high Ferris wheel.
The area is a social media mecca, with many many visitors taking pictures posing in front of various waterways and structures (especially The Wheel).
What is the policy for taking pictures or videos of The Wheel? The Wheel can and has been photographed extensively from the air.
Below is information I personally gathered from Icon Park’s Security Staff:
While taking pictures of The Wheel is not illegal, taking pictures of The Wheel from the Icon Park-owned parking structure (seen on the left in the above picture) is indeed prohibited. There are anti-drone signs all along the roof of the parking structure, attesting to this fact.
Interestingly to note, the parking garage roof is not only prohibited for drone photographers but anyone looking to take photos from the roof on a professional basis. Apparently, there are a lot of photographers that use the roof to take headshots and beauty shots for their clients.
The roof houses a plethora of security cameras and when a drone operator is spotted, per the security personnel I spoke with, a few security officers are deployed to make contact with the operator and escort them from the parking garage.
Again, while the air above the area is governed by the FAA, the owners at Icon Park are within their rights as to what can occur while on their property.
How would one go about getting photos of The Wheel?
This can be done by launching from any of the public areas on International Blvd, surrounding Icon Park. One popular spot is located behind Icon Park at a very large public-use field. This is where many drone operators launch from. This area, however, only provides a view of the back of The Wheel.
For safety reasons, it is not suggested to fly over Icon Park and take pictures of The Wheel from the front, while being positioned in that large field behind the Park.
Other drone operators I have talked to in the past launch from parking lots across the street from Icon Park, being sure to observe the laws prohibiting flight over people and cars.
This location is a case of there being no real regulations stating whether you can or cannot take drone pictures of The Wheel at Icon Park, but what is the safest way to do so if one chooses.
Lake Eola Park – Downtown Orlando
While not an Orlando area amusement park or water park, Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando, with its 3 million visitors a year, is definitely a popular Orlando area attraction.
The physical lake is 23 acres in size and sits in Lake Eola Park, surrounded by the Walt Disney Amphitheater on one side, a Chinese Pagoda and children’s park on the other, a popular fountain that changes colors at night in its center, and a few restaurants are located on the grounds as well.
Because Lake Eola Park is a public park, drone flights are permitted. However, the property is located squarely near a very active executive airport. Because of this, in order to legally fly at the park LAANC approval is necessary. Once instant approval has been granted, the maximum height one can fly would be 100 feet.
Here’s something else to consider. Lake Eola Park houses various festivals and open markets throughout the year. Because of this, the park can be swarmed by thousands of visitors at any given time.
Earlier, we talked about some of the local laws that are in effect in Orlando when it pertains to large gatherings. These will come into play at times of festivals and open markets.
In this situation, a public park that is also a major attraction, LAANC authorization, and the impact of flying near large crowds come into play in one’s decision to film the area.
Exploria Stadium (Orlando City Soccer)
Some may have questions about taking pictures or videos of the various stadiums found around the Orlando area.
Per the FAA, on game day, no-fly zones are placed around stadiums that house Major League Baseball Games, National Football League Games, NCAA Division One Football Games, NASCAR Sprint Cup, Indy Car, and Champ Series Races, just to name a few.
Flying drones in and around any stadium that seats 30,000 people or more is illegal beginning one hour before and ending one hour after the scheduled time of the event or game.
As seen above, I have had the opportunity to take a quick snap of Orlando City Soccer’s home stadium, Exploria Stadium.
This was done:
From thousands of feet away, launching from the roof of a public parking structure.
Not during any game or event.
Exploria Stadium seats 25,500 people. But to err on the side of caution, I took pictures of the stadium when there was no chance of being in violation of any laws, outside of LAANC which was required and approved.
There is another stadium about 2 miles away from Exploria that seats 65,000 people so that one surely should stay off of anyone’s filming list when games are being played.
As can be seen from these few examples, if one is looking to take pictures of Orlando area attractions, it may be possible if the airspace is clear, landowner permission is granted, photos are not taken over the attraction, local and city laws and mandates are followed, as well as following standard FAA rules.
When in doubt, it might be better to refrain from taking pictures of certain areas, especially if they can not be done safely and legally.
Drone light shows are more than just entertainment – they’re a stunning achievement in drone fleet management, flight over people, precise positioning, and more. Experts SkyMagic deployed 500 aircraft to provide the biggest drone light show London has ever seen to ring in 2022.
SkyMagic’s drone light show was performed from the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich and over the River Thames as part of the Mayor of London New Year’s Eve spectacular.
Delivering a “message of hope and positivity,” says a SkyMagic press release, “London welcomed the new year with a dynamic broadcast show that took place across the city, celebrating its diverse cultural heritage… ”
SKYMAGIC worked with Jack Morton, a global brand experience agency who created and produced the live show.
SKYMAGIC flew a fleet of 500 drones to deliver the UK’s largest ever drone light show, telling an even bigger story above the London skyline with the iconic cityscape as the canvas. Our drones performed using cutting edge RTK technology that delivers improved GPS accuracy and high-definition images, as well as faster transitions between moves, to depict some of the most exciting moments to come in 2022.
Patrick O’Mahony, Creative Director of SKYMAGIC commented, “We were delighted to collaborate again with Jack Morton to design and deliver the drone light show for London New Year’s Eve for the second year running. Building on last year’s show, we have returned to the capital with a larger fleet and having developed our drone division both technologically and creatively. The 2022 show tells a celebratory story with an emphasis on three-dimensional formations, conceptual shapes and complex trajectories.”
Jim Donald, Production Director, Jack Morton added, “We are honoured to have brought the UK’s largest drone show to London in 2022, and I am delighted to have collaborated with the SKYMAGIC team again to deliver this above the skies of London. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with the UK’s leading drone light show company.”
Sending a much needed optimistic message anticipating our return to live entertainment, the show touched on themes of sports, live music, and Carnival.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies. For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.