Can You Fly a Drone in Sedona?

Situated near Flagstaff, Sedona is a desert region in Arizona with forests, canyons, and buttes. It’s beloved as much for its natural beauty as for its arts.

If you’ve always wanted to visit Sedona and you’re finally making it happen, naturally, you may wonder – can you bring your drone with you?

Can you fly a drone in Sedona?

You can fly a drone throughout much of Sedona but not in Wilderness Areas or Sedona Airport and Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. You’re also required to follow FAA guidelines when in the skies.

If you have a trip to Sedona in the cards, this is the article for you.

In it, we’ll discuss in-depth whether you can use a drone in this part of Arizona, highlight all the off-limits areas, and go over Arizona’s flight rules.

Don’t miss it!

Can you fly a drone in Sedona?

Under Public Law 112-95, Section 336 and the FAA, commercial and recreational pilots can operate a drone in Sedona.

However, the desert town has a lot of off-limits places, so let’s review.


Sedona is only 18.31 square miles, yet still contains several airports. One is the aptly-named Sedona Airport, and the other is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport.

As a drone pilot, you’re prohibited from flying within five nautical miles of an airport. Given the tiny size of Sedona, this will make planning flight routes difficult but not impossible.

Military bases

Across Sedona’s borders, you’ll find a couple of military bases. These too can complicate your flight plans, as you’re not allowed within five nautical miles of a military base either.

Wilderness Areas

Drones are strictly prohibited in Wilderness Areas throughout the United States. That’s been the case since 1964, when the Wilderness Act went into effect.

The goal of that act is to prohibit industrialization that prevents designated areas from existing that solely protect wildlife and nature.

Sedona has two Wilderness Areas, Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness and Munds Mountain Wilderness.

Neither area is small. The Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness is 47,195 acres, while Munds Mountain Wilderness is 18,150 acres.

Designated Primitive Areas

Further, Sedona law restricts drone access in designated Primitive Areas.

The United States Forest Service once used these lands, which have since mostly converted to Wilderness Areas.

Other restricted airspace

Always use a drone map when operating your UAV in Sedona. The above areas all constitute restricted airspace, but other restrictions could exist throughout the town.

Also, stay vigilant for temporary flight restrictions, which only affect your drone plans for a limited time but are still enforceable.

4 fantastic places to fly a drone in Sedona

Although Sedona restricts drone access to many places throughout the town, if you know where to look, you’ll find an exceptional selection of spots where you can take breathtaking footage.

Here are some of our favorites.

West Fork Oak Creek Trail

About 9.5 miles from Sedona is the West Fork Oak Creek Trail. As you stroll along the trailhead, you’ll spot canyons, a stream, and cliffs.

The buttes here are a trademark red, and when autumn arrives in Arizona, the fall foliage will take your breath away.

Charge up your drone battery, as you’ll surely want to stay here for a while!

Devil’s Bridge Trail

Venture out to Yavapai County to hike the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead.

Only moderately difficult, the entire hike (round trip) is 1.8 miles, so you won’t have to sweat it out too much if you’re trying to look professional for a drone project.

The route takes you across sandstone arches, so you’ll have lots to film or photograph here.

Schnebly Hill Vista

Along Schnebly Hill, you’ll find a vista with a clearance area to witness the beauty of Sedona.

While the Schnebly Hill Vista isn’t all that far from the Munds Mountain Wilderness, it’s well outside of the wilderness boundary line.

Many drone pilots have flown here before, so you shouldn’t have to stress about restrictions. If anything, keep in mind that the crowds here can be rather plentiful.

Since it’s often such a populated area, consider scheduling your drone flight either earlier or later in the day to avoid the crowds.

Courthouse Butte

We also recommend exploring Courthouse Butte while you’re staying in Sedona. The butte near Oak Creek in Yavapai County is just a bit southward of Sedona. The peak of the butte is 5,454 feet.

You don’t have to ascend that high up, of course. That’s what you have your drone for!

You can take some aerial shots of the tall, tree-lined butte that will make a fantastic addition to your portfolio.

Drone operation rules to know before visiting Sedona

With your plane tickets and hotels booked, it’s time to jet off to stunning, warm Sedona.

Before your plane touches down, make sure you’re privy to the following drone rules, which apply to Arizona as a whole.

Do not launch your drone closer than 328 feet to wildlife

Sedona drone law prohibits drone pilots from vertically approaching birds or animals with their UAVs.

Further, you cannot launch your drone any closer than 328 feet or 100 meters from local wildlife.

It’s no secret that drone exposure can cause unfortunate behavior in wildlife, including aggression and sometimes even abandoning their young.

Do your part to preserve Sedona’s great wildlife!

Have your drone license and registration ready

As a safe drone pilot, you must have a current drone license and an active registration (as required), both issued by the FAA or another body with authority.

Let’s start by discussing your registration. Commercial pilots must register their drones, but it’s optional for recreational pilots, depending on the weight of their UAVs.

If your drone weighs 0.55 pounds or under, you don’t have to register it. For all other drones that require registration, you can register for up to three years.

Next, let’s go over licenses. Hobbyists must carry a TRUST certificate issued by the FAA after passing The Recreational UAS Safety Test.

That license doesn’t expire but don’t lose it on your trip to Sedona, or you’ll have to take the exam again.

Commercial pilots need the Part 107 license, aka the Remote Pilot Certificate. You can only obtain this license by passing the Part 107 exam administered by the FAA.

Your certificate is good for only two years, but you can recertify online for free.

Avoid critical facilities

Arizona drone law mandates that pilots fly no closer to critical facilities than 250 vertical feet and 500 horizontal feet.

Examples of these facilities include hospitals, courthouses, power plants, and water treatment facilities.

Do not interfere with emergency response efforts

When firefighters, police departments, and other emergency responders arrive on the scene, do not get in their way with your drone.

You could prevent people from receiving the life-saving services they need!

Do not fly higher than 400 feet

You cannot operate your drone more than 400 feet from the ground throughout Arizona. It’s your responsibility to gauge the allowable height and fly your drone within that range.

Maintain a visual line of sight on your drone

You must also keep eyes on your drone the entire time you fly. If you operate your drone so far out of range that you can’t see it with the naked eye or when wearing contacts or glasses, you’re beyond VLOS range.

You must bring your drone back or operate it with a spotter who can watch it beyond your visual line of sight.

Do not fly your drone in inclement weather

Arizona is known for its hot and humid weather, but the sun can’t shine every day.

On those less-than-perfect days with strong winds and rain, refrain from operating your drone. The weather makes flying a UAV too dangerous.

You could also end up with a damaged, broken drone!

Sedona is a desert town in Arizona known for its towering buttes and appealing arts scene.

You can fly your drone here but must avoid designated Wilderness Areas, Primitive Areas, military bases, and airports.

Follow FAA drone rules when you take to the sky, and remember to avoid wildlife with your drone especially. Stay safe and have fun out there!

Can You Fly a Drone in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Northern Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park includes tundra, forests, mountains, and the Continental Divide.

You’ll also find the Keyhole Route, Old Fall River Road, and Trail Ridge Road inside the park.

Can you fly your drone in Rocky Mountain National Park?

The National Park Service prohibits the use of drones at Rocky Mountain National Park. Disobeying the rules and using your drone in the park can result in fines and possibly more severe punishments.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the rules at Rocky Mountain National Park, what happens if you violate those rules, and if you can fly in the vicinity of the park.

There’s lots of great information to come, so don’t miss it!

Can you fly a drone in Rocky Mountain National Park?

The National Park Service is a federal agency that establishes the rules about what’s allowed in national and state parks throughout the United States.

According to NPS website[1], since 2015, drones have been prohibited at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Here’s the NPS’s drone policy in full: “Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park is prohibited.

Unmanned Aircraft – means a device that is used or intended to be used for flights in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links.)

This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g., model airplanes, quad copters, drones) that are used for any purpose, including recreation or commerce.”

What if it’s an emergency? Could you land your drone then?

Nothing in the NPS’s policy says you can, but then again, there’s nothing in there that says you can’t.

That said, you’re not supposed to operate a drone around Rocky Mountain National Park in the first place, so there shouldn’t be a situation where you have to make an emergency landing within or around the park.

To be on the safe side, we’d say don’t do it!

Why can’t you fly a drone in Rocky Mountain National Park?

Why does the NPS prevent drone pilots from operating within Rocky Mountain National Park?

The NPS doesn’t need a reason, per se, but if you dig into the history and current uses of the park a little bit deeper, you’ll understand why the NPS prohibits drone usage.

In 1915, then-President Woodrow Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act into law to preserve the park.

Then, UNESCO designated the park as a World Biosphere Reserve in 1976, the first of its kind.

If you’re unfamiliar, a World Biosphere Reserve is part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, which includes sustainable nature reserves.

The park’s Beaver Meadows Visitor Center is a National Historic Landmark.

The Rocky Mountain National Park is surrounded by National Forest lands, such as the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the Arapaho National Forest, Routt National Forest, and Roosevelt National Forest.

Besides all its esteemed history and protected lands, Rocky Mountain National Park attracts millions of visitors.

The park brought in 4.7 million visitors in 2019, and in 2015, it was the third most-visited National Park System in the country.

People have differing opinions about drones. Some love them but don’t want them interrupting an experience at a park while others don’t like them, and certainly don’t want them in national parks.

That’s yet another reason the NPS has decided to crack down on drone usage laws since the mid-2010s. Drones have become ever more popular, an upward trend that continues to this day.

Without rules in place, drones could fly anywhere and everywhere, interrupting the park-going experience of others!

Can you fly a drone just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park?

You’ll refrain from using your drone in Rocky Mountain National Park but could you fly it outside of the park instead?

Technically, once you leave the national park, the NPS’s rules no longer apply. However, that doesn’t mean you’re entering lawless territory. Far from it!

Be aware that several state and national forests surround Rocky Mountain National Park, including State Forest State Park, Medicine Bow Routts National Forests, and Pawnee National Grassland.

You’re not too terribly far from Fort Collins, Boulder, or Denver, but two out of three of these areas have local drone laws.

Boulder enforces the Open Space and Mountain Parks Drone Policy. According to that policy, without an OSMP permit:

“Operating unmanned motorized vehicles including any drone, unmanned motorized boat, plane, helicopter, hovercraft is prohibited.”

Denver’s municipal drone law through the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation prohibits drone pilots from operating in any city parks without areas for flying objects.

In other words, you cannot fly your drone there if the park has no model airplane or helicopter flying area.

What happens if you get caught using a drone inside Rocky Mountain National Park?

Since the NPS has made it abundantly clear that operating a drone in Rocky Mountain National Park is illegal, there should exist no confusion about whether you can fly here.

However, we want to talk about the consequences of flying your drone in the park, whether that’s accidentally or intentionally.

At the very least, you might get off with a warning, but not necessarily. You could also receive a fine. The fine could be two figures but is likely to be three or more figures.

The fine you receive from the NPS might not be all you have to pay. If you have to appear before a judge for your crime, the judge could charge you with an additional fine.

Even if you pay the fines, these drone crimes go onto your record, so it’s not worth flying in places where you’re prohibited.

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Can you fly a drone in any Colorado park?

What about Colorado’s other parks? Can you operate your drone there?

That depends on what kind of park we’re talking about. If it’s a state park, the answer is no. In 2018, the state of Colorado passed the Colorado State Parks Regulation #100-c.24.

Under this law, it’s illegal to fly a drone in a state park unless the park has a model airfield. At current, only Cherry Creek State Park and Chatfield State Park permit drone usage due to their model airfields.

Okay, but what about public parks? That depends on local ordinances.

Pilots can often not use their drones in public parks, as ordinances and other drone laws prohibit it. If a park has a model airfield or a designated area for drones, you should be able to operate your UAV.

For instance, Estes Park permits drone usage. If you fly a drone in a Colorado park, you must follow FAA guidelines.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Estes Park, Colorado?

Let’s quickly go over those laws:

  • Recreational pilots must have the TRUST certificate on their person.
  • Commercial pilots must have a Remote Pilot Certificate. The license must be current, as it expires every two years.
  • If a drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, register it with the FAA. The exception is for commercial pilots, who must always register their drones. Keep your registration current when visiting Colorado.
  • Only fly your drone within your visual line of sight, which refers to the distance you can naturally see your drone. If you can’t keep your drone in your line of sight, the FAA requires you to have a spotter who can.
  • Do not use your drone in inclement weather, including rain, fog, snow, hail, mist, and strong winds.
  • Do not fly your drone over 400 feet or at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.
  • You cannot fly your drone over moving vehicles according to the FAA’s Operations over People law. If the vehicle is parked and you have the permission of those inside, you can fly over it.
  • Limit your distance from crowds per the FAA’s Operations over People law.
  • Do not fly your drone within five nautical miles of an airport or heliport in Colorado.

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is protected airspace. The NPS strictly prohibits drone pilots from flying to preserve the lands and the peace of the people.

We hope the information in this guide help you safely plan your Colorado flight route sans Rocky Mountain National Park!

1. U.S. National Park Service (link)

Can You Fly a Drone in El Yunque?

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico offers winding trails, dwarf forests, Taino-inscribed petroglyphs, and miles and miles of tropical rainforest. It’s a gorgeous slab of land and one’s that very popular for both photography and videography.

Can you bring your drone to El Yunque?

Drones are allowed in El Yunque National Forest, but if you’re taking photos or plan to capture video footage of the forest, you must have a commercial filming permit.

Ahead, we’ll talk further about the permit, including how to get it and what you might pay to use your drone in this beloved national forest.

We’ll also refresh you on Puerto Rico’s drone laws, so keep reading!

Can you fly a drone in El Yunque National Forest?

If you read our post about bringing drones into Puerto Rico, then you’ll recall that compared to many other parts of the world, this island is a little more relaxed on drone rules.

» MORE: Can You Bring a Drone to Puerto Rico?

That’s not to say there are no rules or that certain historic sites aren’t prohibited for pilots, but you do get plenty of flight freedoms.

Take, for instance, El Yunque National Forest. You can fly your drone here if you so wish.

YouTube is littered with footage of drone pilots and professionals showcasing the amazing sights and sounds of El Yunque as captured on their personal or commercial drones. You too will surely wish to emulate them.

If you have a permit, then you can.

Permitting information before flying in El Yunque

According to the official page for El Yunque [1], which is managed by the USDA, UAS, and Forest Service:

“You need a permit to take pictures/film in El Yunque if you are planning to use drones or unmanned aerial system to take pictures.”


The Commercial Filming/Photography Proposal is available to download and print out here, and you’ll need to do so if you want a permit. You can also fill out your information first by typing it in and then printing out the form.

What kind of information does the Commercial Filming/Photography Proposal ask for?

The Commercial Filming/Photography Proposal is a rather in-depth form, so let’s look at the information it requires:

  • Full name/company name
  • Project title
  • Production dates
  • Billing address
  • Authorized representative (“individual designated to sign a permit & accept responsibility”) name, title, and contact information
  • Type of project, be that a music video, corporate video, TV episode, documentary, feature film, TV movie, commercial, still photography, or a different kind of project entirely
  • A full description of your proposed drone activities and the parts of the forest you’ll use, including schematics and maps
  • A full overview of your production schedule, including how many people will be on set, location coordinates for filming on a map, production time, and breakdown time
  • A description of your activities such as a storyboard or narrative
  • Any required environmental uses such as weather elements, geologic features, animals, bodies of water, and use of vegetation that may be required (as well as whether it has to be removed)
  • A parking plan for any aircraft, equipment, and vehicles
  • A layout and stating plan that includes any portable restrooms, catering, and dressing rooms on the filming site
  • A description of the equipment you’ll use, including motorized or nonmotorized aircraft; if using motorized aircraft, you must include your pilot credentials, the quantity of aircraft, an equipment description, flight times, and a flight plan complete with coordinates
    • Other equipment can include portable toilets, generators, semi-trucks, pickup trucks, motorcycles, ATVs or four-wheelers, cars, and RVs
  • Any special effects or stunts planned, including pyrotechnics, wild or domestic animals, outdoor lighting, aerial stunts with aircraft, non-motorized aircraft (like hang gliders or balloons), weather machines (like fog makers, snow guns, or snow cannons), weapons, gambling, noise effects, or paramilitary or military exercises or training
  • Safety measures you’re taking

You’re also required to answer questions like whether you could use another location for filming besides El Yunque (and why you chose El Yunque specifically), who the copyright owner of the project is, when you plan to issue or air your project, and all the permits you need to bring the project to life.

Further, you need USDA Forest Service insurance with the certified holder box listed as United States of America, c/o USDA Forest Service, El Yunque National Forest.

You must have at least $30,000 in property damage insurance, $300,000 in case of an injury or death of a loved one, and $300,000 for the death or injury of more than one person.

Alternatively, you can set aside $600,000 for combined single-limit insurance.

How much will you pay to fly a drone at El Yunque with a permit?

As part of obtaining and maintaining your Commercial Filming/Photography Permit, you have to pay both land use and cost recovery fees.

Let’s look at the costs of the land use fees first:

  • 1 – 10 people on location per day – $73 per day for still photography and $150 per day for video
  • 11 – 30 people on location per day – $150 per day for still photography and $200 per day for video
  • 31 – 60 people on location per day – $250 per day for still photography and $500 per day for video
  • More than 60 people on location per day – $250 per day for still photography and $600 per day for video

You can pay the land use fee at here.

The USDA site does mention that “fees are subject to change and required to be paid in advance.”

Then there are the cost recovery fees, which are categorized according to your monitoring and/or processing hours. Here’s a breakdown of the costs:

  • Category 1 – $136 (more than one hour and up to or less than eight hours of monitoring or processing)
  • Category 2 – $480 (less than eight hours and up to or more than 24 hours of monitoring or processing)
  • Category 3 – $904 (less than 24 hours and up to or more than 36 hours of monitoring or processing)
  • Category 4 – $1,296 (less than 36 hours and up to or more than 50 hours of monitoring or processing)
  • Categories 5 and 6 – N/A (less than 50 hours of monitoring or processing)

Here’s what the USDA says regarding cost recovery fees:

“In addition to the above use fees, cost recovery fees are typically charged for processing an application as well as for monitoring authorized use for compliance with the terms and conditions of the permit.”


Puerto Rico drone flight rules to follow

Since Puerto Rico and El Yunque are in the United States, you’re still under FAA jurisdiction when operating your drone. Here are some laws and regulations to follow to ensure a safe flight.

You must have a valid drone license

Whether you’re flying in El Yunque commercially (and with a permit) or recreationally, you’re required to hold a current drone license.

For recreational pilots, the license you need is the TRUST certificate. This official FAA hobbyist license is only obtainable by taking The Recreational UAS Safety Test.

The test is free to take and can be done online, so you can get your certificate in little time.

You’ll have to answer a little over 20 multiple-choice questions on FAA guidelines. If you happen to answer a question wrong, you’ll see the correct answer displayed and can change your answer.

Commercial pilots need a Remote Pilot Certificate, another official FAA license. You won’t take the TRUST test but the Part 107 exam.

Sorry, but this one is not nearly as easy. The test consists of more than 50 multiple-choice questions, and none of your wrong answers are displayed at the time you’re taking the test. That’s because the Part 107 exam is not online.

If you earn a score of at least 70 percent, you’ll pass and will soon be mailed your Remote Pilot Certificate.

While the TRUST certificate never expires, a commercial drone license does after two years. Before your license is up, you can recertify by taking a short online exam through the FAA.

Your drone must be registered

Recreational pilots who will fly in El Yunque with a drone that weighs more than 0.55 pounds must register it with the FAA. That’s also the rule for commercial pilots.

It costs $5 to register your drone, and the registration lasts for three years.

Stay within Class G airspace

If you fly within the parameters of El Yunque National Forest, then your drone shouldn’t stray outside of Class G airspace.

Even still, we’d recommend an app like BF4UFLY or Aloft to track which kind of airspace you’re in.

You will be required to obtain authorization if you venture outside of Class G airspace.

You cannot fly over people or over moving vehicles

The FAA has rules prohibiting pilots from operating their drones over people’s heads as well as over moving vehicles.

You can fly over stationary vehicles if the occupants of the vehicle are aware of and willing to partake in your drone project. You can also fly closer to people who are willingly involved in your project.

You must give manned aircraft the right of way

Should you find yourself sharing the skies with any manned aircraft during your time in Puerto Rico, always yield to that aircraft, as they have the right of way. You do not.

You cannot fly higher than 400 feet

The FAA limits your drone altitude when flying, curtailing you at a max height of 400 feet. That goes for flying in El Yunque, elsewhere in Puerto Rico, and throughout the rest of the US as well.

Your drone cannot exceed speeds of 100 miles per hour

You’re also capped at a max speed of 100 MPH when operating your drone to prevent disturbing wildlife, hurting other visitors, or damaging the beauty of the rainforest throughout El Yunque.

Don’t fly later than civil twilight

Throughout Puerto Rico, you’re permitted to fly during civil twilight hours, which start in the morning and last until the evening. Do not fly your drone past dark.

Your drone must stay within your visual line of sight

At all times when your drone is in the sky, you have to keep it within your visual line of sight, which is how far out in front of you that you can naturally see, including when wearing glasses or contacts.

Your drone can’t exceed 55 pounds

Drones that are heavier than 55 pounds should not be flown according to the FAA.

The 55-pound limit applies to the weight of your drone without any payload as well as to a lighter drone with a payload that weighs more than the recommended threshold.


El Yunque National Park in Puerto Rico is a beloved destination for drone pilots, but before you plan your trip here, make sure you have a commercial permit to film and take photos.

You’ll also need some room in your budget, as the per-day fees can be quite costly if you have a large crew!

1. El Yunque National Forest – Passes & Permits (link)

Can You Fly a Drone in a National Forest?

The United States is home to 154 national forests, all of them green and beautiful. You’re interested in flying a drone in a national forest near you, or perhaps you’re traveling, and a national forest is on your must-see list.

In these scenarios and more, are drones allowed in national forests?

Recreational pilots can fly drones in a national forest but only in areas without Temporary Flight Restrictions. Wilderness Areas must also be avoided. If you ever do fly in these areas, you’d need U.S. Forest Service approval.

When operating your drone, follow FAA guidelines.

This article will help you differentiate between national forests and regular forests and explain the flight rules in national forests in more detail.

We’ll also provide flight tips so your drone can avoid disturbing wildlife and human passersby!

What is a national forest?

Let’s get underway with a definition. How do you know when you’re flying in a regular forest versus a national forest?

The United States designates national forests as federally-protected lands overseen by the United States Forest Service through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The 154 national forests, in addition to the 20 national protected grasslands, comprise 193 million acres of the country. That’s 8.5 percent of the US’s total land area.

To help you further put it into perspective, the amount of land that all the national forests and grasslands cover is roughly the same size as the state of Texas!

How do you tell a national forest or park apart from a regular forest or park? That’s simple – the name!

Like a state park is going to have those words in the title, the same is true of national forests.

For example, there’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Ocala National Forest, Sabine National Forest, and the list goes on and on.

Can I fly a drone in a national forest?

Here comes the big question – are drone pilots allowed in national forests with their UAVs?

The answer is yes but with some caveats.

This information is courtesy of the Forest Service Unmanned Aircraft Systems Use Policy, which is available on the USDA’s website.

The policy in full reads “Individuals and organizations that fly UAS for hobby or recreational purposes may not operate them in areas of National Forest System lands that have Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) in place, such as wildfires, without prior approval from the U.S. Forest Service.”

Let’s break that down a little bit.

Hobbyists can indeed fly their drones in a national forest per the USDA, but not in areas of a national forest that might be subject to Temporary Flight Restrictions.

Although the USDA lists wildfires as one example of a TDR, there can be all sorts of other instances in which a TDR can be placed in parts or even the entirety of a national forest.

In those situations, then you’re not allowed to fly until the restrictions are lifted for however long that may take.

Almost all rules have exceptions, and that’s the case for this as well. The Forest Service Unmanned Aircraft Systems Use Policy states that if a pilot has permission from the U.S. Forest Service that they can fly a drone even when a TFR is in place.

The USDA does not go into further detail on how to obtain this approval. You’d likely have to contact a representative at the U.S. Forest Service, explain your situation, and request access to fly.

Whether that access would be granted is at the sole discretion of the U.S. Forest Service and the representative you’re in contact with.

Wilderness Areas on National Forest System lands bar UAVs from taking off and landing.

What about commercial pilots? Can they fly in a national forest?

Well, they’re not mentioned specifically in the Forest Service Unmanned Aircraft Systems Use Policy, so it’s unclear if they’re granted the same permissions as recreational pilots.

Keep in mind that the USDA and the US Forest Service are both federal agencies, so these laws are federal laws that supersede state and local laws about national forest flights.

Rules and tips for flying a drone in a national forest

Both the USDA and the FAA have rules and restrictions in place for pilots operating a drone in a designated national forest. Let’s go over these rules and provide some tips as well so you can fly safely!

Follow FAA guidelines

Remember, the USDA is a federal entity much like the FAA. The two organizations paired together to put together the guidelines and flight rules for hobby pilots in national forests, so you’re always subject to FAA rules when flying.

That requires you to have your TRUST certificate on your person. If you don’t yet have a TRUST certificate, then you’ll have to sign up and take The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST exam.

The exam is free to take with under 50 questions, and all those questions are multiple-choice. The test is online as well.

Once you complete the test and your TRUST certificate is mailed to you, it never expires.

Fly under 400 feet

To avoid obstacles, you’re required to always pilot your drone at an altitude of no higher than 400 feet. Even at that level, you must still do your best to avoid obstacles.

Always keep your drone in your sight

At all times when operating your drone, it must be in your visual line of sight. If you need the refresher, your visual line of sight is how far you can naturally see.

While wearing glasses or contacts to discern your visual line of sight is acceptable per the FAA, using binoculars is not.

The rules notwithstanding, you shouldn’t want your drone to get too far away from you. If it does, you might not be able to return it to home.

Be respectful of others’ privacy

National park campers are entitled to their privacy, which you should not invade with your physical presence or your drone.

The USDA states that you have to steer clear of “populated and noise-sensitive areas,” including visitor centers, trailheads, and campgrounds.

Stay within five miles of an airstrip or airport

If the national park you’re soaring through has a backcountry airstrip and/or an airport, then you’re permitted to fly no closer than five miles from these areas.

Avoid designated Primitive and Wilderness Areas

Primitive and Wilderness Areas receive those designations by the US Congress and will be clearly marked.

These areas are not only places of solitude for humans but for animals as well. Keep your drone out.

Do not launch near wildlife

The USDA states that pilots launching a drone in a national forest should do so at least 328 feet from any nearby wildlife.

As your drone ascends, keep it away from both birds and animals.

Birds in national forests are safeguarded under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Bald eagles have a separate protection through the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

Both acts outlaw disturbing and harassing birds or causing them harm in any way.

Don’t fly too close to wildlife

When you see wildlife when flying your drone in a national forest, just keep on flying. Lingering around the wildlife or flying over the wildlife is prohibited.

As the USDA says, your drone “can create stress that may cause significant harm and even death.”

You’re also not allowed to intentionally bother animals when rearing their young, nesting, breeding, or during “other critical life history functions” without prior permission.

Watch your drone weight

Any drone weighing more than 55 pounds, with the fuel source and payload included, is not allowed to fly in a national forest.


The United States is full of lush national forests. There are enough of these forests and national grasslands that the equivalent land size is about as large as Texas.

Hobbyist drones are permitted flight access in national forests if Temporary Flight Restrictions are not in place and if they aren’t flying over designated Wilderness Areas.

This flight access comes with great responsibility. Not only do you have to follow the FAA’s guidelines, but the USDA’s as well. By limiting your drone contact with people and wildlife, you should be in the clear!

Drone Laws in New Jersey

An east coast gem, New Jersey offers beaches, forests, boardwalks, and rock formations, making it an attractive state for drone pilots. The proximity to New York and Philadelphia also can’t be beat.

You want to stay on the right side of the law, so what drone laws are in play in New Jersey?

New Jersey has federal, state, and local drone laws that all pilots must follow.

Federal laws ensure drone usage according to FAA Part 107 rules, state laws bar drones from infrastructure and state parks, and local laws prohibit drones from being flown in many cities and towns.

New Jersey has many, many drone laws, so there’s a lot more information we have for you in this article.

Whether you live here and you just got into drones or you’re merely visiting, you’re not going to want to miss the info ahead!

Federal Drone Laws in New Jersey

Let’s start by reviewing New Jersey’s federal drone laws.

Like all states throughout the United States, New Jersey has a series of federal laws for agency, commercial, and recreational drone pilots.

These laws are instated by the US government.

Agency Drone Pilots

Government employees, aka agency drone pilots, include law enforcement officers, fire departments, and the like that use drones in a professional capacity.

You should follow the Part 107 drone rules as established by the Federal Aviation Administration or obtain a federal authorization known as a Certificate of Authorization.

Commercial Drone Pilots

Commercial drone pilots, under New Jersey federal drone law, are also subject to FAA Part 107 rules when operating a drone in the state.

FAA rules mandate that commercial drone pilots hold a Remote Pilot Certificate when flying. You should always have this certificate, also known as the Part 107 license, on your person.

If you have yet to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate, then you must sign up to take the Part 107 exam before you fly your drone commercially.

» MORE: FAA Part 107 for Commercial Drone Pilots

The Part 107 exam is an official FAA test that includes 60 challenging multiple-choice questions in all areas of the Part 107 rules. Registering to take the exam costs a fee, as does any retake you need.

Fortunately, you can always enroll in an online drone school so you don’t have to contend with too many retakes.

» MORE: Best Drone Courses Taught by Experts

Many online drone schools offer money-back guarantees if you don’t pass the Part 107 exam the first time around.

How do you pass, anyway? You need to answer 70 percent of the questions correctly at least. Then you’ll receive your Remote Pilot Certificate in the mail.

Renewing your Remote Pilot Certificate is now easier than ever. You can take a free online exam that showcases any answers that you get wrong as you take the test.

» MORE: Renewal of Your Part 107 Certificate – 5 Steps to a Part 107 sUAS Recurrent Certificate

That’s a good thing, too, since you need a perfect score to recertify!

Oh, don’t forget to register your drone through the FAA for $5. The registration lasts for three years.

Recreational Drone Pilots

As a recreational drone pilot, New Jersey federal drone law requires you to follow Part 107 rules when flying your drone.

You also have to register your drone for $5 with the FAA, but only if the drone weighs 0.55 pounds or over. If it’s under 0.55 pounds, it’s probably a toy drone and needn’t be registered.

Your drone registration lasts for three years.

You also have to take an FAA test known as The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST test.

Like the test for renewing a commercial drone pilot’s Remote Pilot Certificate, the TRUST test is free to take and available online. You’re also shown wrong answers along the way so you can go back and change them if you wish.

A perfect score isn’t required for the TRUST test, but if you can get one, you might as well. Then you’ll receive your TRUST certificate, which you should always have handy when flying recreationally.

State Drone Laws in New Jersey

Next, let’s go over the two state drone laws in effect in New Jersey.

New Jersey State Park Service Policy // 2015

Passed in 2015, the New Jersey State Park Service Policy was created to promote consistent drone usage on lands managed by the Division of Parks and Forestry and the State Park Service.

Here’s the policy in full: “The operation of a UAV is hereby specifically prohibited within all lands and waters administered by the State Park Service unless specifically approved by the Assistant Director, State Park Service in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:2-1.4(b).”

There are some exceptions, as “search and rescue organizations, fire fighting and law enforcement agencies, other governmental and first-response agencies” can possibly fly a drone in New Jersey State Park Service lands if they have permission and a schedule to fly.

Accredited universities may also be granted drone usage permission, but commercial and recreational drone pilots are barred without a permit.

SB 3370 // 2017

The other New Jersey state drone law is SB 3370.

This drone law, which was passed in 2017, was introduced to regulate drone usage in the state.

According to SB 3370, you could be charged with a disorderly persons offense if you use your drone in the following manners:

“1) knowingly or intentionally in a manner that endangers the life or property of another;

2) to take or assist in the taking of wildlife;

3) while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, a narcotic, hallucinogenic, or habit-producing drug or with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more by the weight of alcohol.”

Should you be caught breaking the law, you could face a $1,000 fine or six months in jail and possibly even both.

Further, SB 3370 declares it a fourth-degree crime for you to do the following with your drone:

“1) create or maintain a condition that endangers the safety or security of a correctional facility or operating a drone on the premises of or in close proximity to the facility; and

2) operate a drone in a manner that interferes with a first responder who is actively engaged in response or air, water, vehicular, ground, or specialized transport.”

If you are guilty of a fourth-degree crime, you could be charged with a fine of $10,000, a prison sentence of 18 months, or both.

There’s yet more. SB 3370 bans drone pilots from “hindering or preventing the lawful taking of wildlife” with their UAVs and makes it illegal to violate “a restraining order or any other court order restraining contact with a person or location for a person who is subject to that order to operate a drone within a distance of a person or location that would violate the order.”

Local Drone Laws in New Jersey

New Jersey has a laundry list of local drone laws in various counties, cities, towns, and villages. Here’s all the info you need.

Essex County – Park Ordinance // 2020

In Essex County, a park ordinance passed in 2020 now makes it illegal to use a drone on any county-owned and managed property.

Palisades Interstate Park Commission – Park Ordinance // 2019

If you plan on visiting Palisades Interstate Park, you’ll have to do so without your drone.

The park ordinance says this on drone usage: “Flying of drones or radio-controlled aircraft is not allowed in the park.”

Long Beach Township – Township Code // 2015

Long Beach Township is a popular vacation destination in New Jersey. Unsurprisingly then, the township code limits the usage of drones.

The code states that drone pilots are not allowed to take off or land on township property or fly “in any airspace within 400 feet of the ground and structures in the Township.”

You also cannot fly your drone “in a reckless, dangerous, harassing, or threatening manner.”

Agency drone pilots like law enforcement are allowed to use drones not pursuant to the law.

Wayne Township – Township Code // 1989

Wayne Township’s township code outlaws drone pilots from flying in any area in a township park that isn’t marked as designated for drones.

Middlesex County – County Ordinance

Throughout Middlesex County, the county ordinance prohibits drone pilots from flying in areas outside of those that the Director of County Parks and Recreation has marked as designated UAV areas.

Passaic County – County Ordinance // 2019

Since 2019, the county ordinance in Passaic County has made it illegal for drones to fly over or on park property. The only exception is if you hold a Passaic County Parks Department permit.

Borough of Franklin Lakes – Municipal Ordinance // 2016

In the municipal ordinance for the Borough of Franklin Lakes, Chapter 137 Aircraft, Small Unmanned, §137-3 Regulations; restrictions., the ordinance reads as follows: “Small unmanned aircraft shall not operate in any airspace below 400 feet within the Borough:

  • Over private property, without the permission of the private property owner;
  • Over any street;
  • Over any Borough building, without the permission of the Mayor and Council;
  • Between dusk and dawn; and
  • Over any persons not directly participating in the operation of the aircraft, or where there are persons not directly participating in the operation of the aircraft located within 100 feet of the perimeter of the area over which the aircraft is being operated.”

This ordinance does not apply to municipal agencies on a countywide, statewide, or federal level such as emergency services and law enforcement.

East Bay Regional Parks – Municipal Ordinance // 2016

The East Bay Regional Park District’s municipal ordinance, in Section 409. – Miscellaneous Regulated Activities, 409.3, bars the operation of “self-propelled (motor driven) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS aka ‘drone’) model aircraft, boats, automobiles, or other model craft of any kind or description, or fly any UAS closer than 500 feet above District parklands, as defined by Federal Regulations.”

City of Ventnor – Municipal Ordinance // 2016

Ventnor’s municipal ordinance, according to §107-2. Regulations, bars unmanned aircraft and drones from launching or landing on public and government parks, property, or buildings in the city.

The only exception is if you were granted written permission by the Ventnor City Chief of Police to fly a drone “for a special event or City sponsored event.”

You also cannot fly a drone “under 400 feet over any government or public buildings, property, or parks within the City” without written permission.

The same goes for flying a drone around a beach between May 31st and September 1st in airspace under 400 feet.

Municipal, county, state, and federal agencies are exempt from the municipal ordinance.

Chatham Township – Municipal Ordinance // 2015

In Chatham Township, the municipal ordinance states that you cannot operate a drone in any public airspace below 400 feet.

Bernards Township – Municipal Law // 2015

Bernards Township’s municipal law prohibits drone pilots from flying over any recreational facility or park in the township.

Ramapo Indian Hills – Municipal Law // 2016

The municipal law in Ramapo Indian Hills makes it illegal to fly a drone over or on school grounds in the area.

New Jersey Drone Law FAQs

As we wrap up, we want to make clear the park policies on drone usage in New Jersey, so let’s discuss that in this FAQs section.

Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in New Jersey?

New Jersey is the home to some pretty extraordinary public parks, including Lincoln Park, Mill Hill Park, John A. Roebling Memorial Park, Van Vorst Park, and Crystal Lake Park.

Are you allowed to visit these and other New Jersey public parks with your drone?

That depends on where the park is located. If it’s in a city, town, county, or township with a municipal ordinance or policy that bars drone usage, then no. You would need a permit to be granted permission to fly.

Since New Jersey has so many local drone laws, we highly recommend calling a local parks and rec association to confirm the rules before you fly.

Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in New Jersey?

Scattered throughout New Jersey are state parks aplenty such as Washington Crossing State Park, Liberty State Park, Cheesequake State Park, Allaire State Park, Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, Hopatcong State Park, and Washington Rock State Park.

However, the New Jersey State Park Service bans drone usage on all waters and lands this organization manages. As you’ll recall, you’d need permission from the State Park Service Assistant Director.


New Jersey is a naturally breathtaking state with lots of lands to explore. Most of those lands are tightly protected by federal, state, and local drone laws.

With steep punishments of jail time and expensive fines, it’s worth it to stay on the right side of the law!

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New Jersey State Park Service Policy (link)
SB 3370 (link)
Essex County park ordinance (link)
Palisades Interstate Park ordinance (link)
Township of Long Beach, NJ (link)
Wayne Township code (link)
Middlesex County ordinance (link)
Passaic County ordinance (link)
Borough of Franklin Lakes (link)
East Bay Regional Park District (link)
Ventnor municipal ordinance (link)