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Can I fly a drone in a public park (or state parks)? Updated in 2023

Updated in 2023 by Paul Posea
drone in a public park

Before you unpack your drone and let it soar high in the skies, you need to make sure you’re standing on the right ground to begin with. Maltreating a drone by flying in the wrong location poses a threat not just to you but also others in the region. 

If I talk about national parks, flying a drone there is borderline out of the question. On the contrary, regarding public parks, we have both good and bad news. 

The bright side is that, as per the federal laws, flying a drone isn’t exactly prohibited the way it is in national parks. In fact, the Federal Aviation Authority fully supports flying a drone in a public park. 

What makes it a little confusing is that the states, counties, and cities have now come up with their own laws. And these laws wouldn’t always permit you to pilot your drones in public parks. Figuring out these local laws is a little homework that you would need to do before you let your drone fly away. 

Luckily, in this post, I will walk you through the ins and outs of operating a drone in public parks. While we’re at it, let’s also overview some of the popular state parks and their drone regulations.

Can you fly a drone in a public park?

As a careful drone pilot, it’s your responsibility to fly within safe flying zones at all times. This is why I’m about to cater to your curiosity about whether or not you should take your drone out in public parks. And to what extent.

As a general rule of thumb, you are allowed to fly a drone in a public park as per the FAA regulations. However, be certain that there aren’t any county or city-level laws that restrict you from this. In case there are any, the latter regulation would prevail over the default rule.

Did it just get a little complicated for you to determine which scenario applies to you?

Well, let me dive into a bit of detail. 

You see, the public parks are under the dominion of the local government. Smaller ones can even be controlled by the mandate of the city. This infers that each park district does have complete authority to add on to the pre-existing federal rule, if needed. These amendments might surpass the basic FAA permit to fly in a public park.

That’s why I would urge you to double-check the particular laws for the area you’re planning to fly in. 

You can either be prohibited altogether or be allowed to pilot your drone while complying with a few restrictions specific to that public park. This can include flying only during the designated hours, flying within a set perimeter, or requesting a permit before the flying session.

I’m guessing this would bring you to the next important question: how would you know if a certain public park permits a drone operation? Let me give you your two best options.

Double-checking for further regulations online

First and foremost, I would recommend you look out for any further rules online. For that check out the Airmap app or website. It’s basically designed to be partnered with the FAA to provide information regarding any flight restrictions in a particular area. 

It’s pretty simple, actually. 

All you have to do is search for the park you plan to visit. You will see a section regarding “advisories” come up that would show you a list of regulations specific to that address. The good news is that larger parks are very clear on this subject and you will most likely cover everything you’re looking for to operate a safe flight.

Talking to the authorities

In case you can’t find the information online, your next best option is to directly approach the authorities. Give them a call, or simply just walk over to the administration office and ask about the flying regulations in person. 

I believe that going the extra mile will not only confirm safety for other visitors but will also promise a hassle-free operation on your end!

Regardless of the rules set out by authorities, it goes without saying that you — at all times — must abide by the general FAA regulations for flying a recreational drone in a public space. 

Can drones be flown in state parks?

The rules in state parks are pretty much similar to those in a public park. Let’s see how.

Generally, the FAA permits drone pilots to fly their drones in state parks. However, at the same time, you must check the local laws set out by the park district authorities. As per their independent regulations, they have the right to prohibit or restrict a drone operation in that specific area.

Basically, a state park is also a public park — specifically under the control of the government in that state. It’s mostly larger in size than public parks so of which it might be catering to a higher number of people at a given time. 

They are typically established to preserve natural habitats, promote historical significance, or for recreational purposes. If your drone operation is interfering with any of the foundations of the state park you want to pilot in, it is more likely to be prohibited as per the laws. 

For instance, the Floridan authorities do not permit you to fly a drone in their state parks. It’s considered a threat to the native wildlife which is why a drone operation is basically a crime there. I’ll get into more detail regarding this in the upcoming sections. 

The point is, that while the FAA has permitted drone operations in state parks, the final decision still lies in the hands of the authorities controlling them.

And so I stress once again: always double-check with the local laws! 

Can you fly a drone in a public park in California?

Planning to fly a drone in a public park in California? Here’s everything you need to know.

Most public parks in California allow drone operations for hobbyists. At best, look out for any local laws, just in case. But if you are using your drone for commercial purposes, you need a permit priorly. Once you have that, stick to the basic FAA regulations and you’d be good to go!

Let me explain what it means to have a permit before your drone operation. 

Any activity done through a drone for commercial purposes requires approval from the authorities controlling the park. This means that if you are inspecting, surveying, or filming and selling graphics with the intent of doing business, you need to have a permit beforehand. 

For that, you need to submit your FAA authorization to the state part district. If needed, you are obligated to have further permits as well. 

For instance, if you plan to film commercially in a public park in California, you need to get a permit from California Film Commission. 

As I already stated, this just applies for commercial use. As a hobbyist, you do not need such permits.

Can you fly your drone in PA state parks?

If you are in Pennsylvania and want to know their regulations for flying a drone in a state park there, this section is for you.

You can fly a drone in PA state parks, but there’s a catch. The operations should always be restricted to the six designated flying bases of the following parks: Beltzville State Park, Benjamin Rush State Park, Hillman State Park, Lackawanna State Park, Prompton State Park, and Tuscarora State Park.

The state does have other parks as well but the drone operations there are strictly prohibited.

You are advised to take some time out to talk to the park office before showing up for the flying activity. As long as you are in one of these six parks and adhere to the basic FAA regulations, you can enjoy a trouble-free flying session in Pennsylvania. 

Can you fly a drone at a Florida State Park?

The simple advice I can offer here is: just stay clear of all Floridian state parks for now — if you’re not up for paying huge fines! 

The Floridian state does not permit drone operation in public parks, unless there's a strict emergency. The main reason behind this is the preservation of natural resources. The authorities are strict about keeping the life and behavior of wildlife and people undisturbed by the drones.

The only way you can be allowed to fly your drone is if you’re at a park that has its own designated flying base. As of now, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection confirms that there is no state park that currently offers that. And that is why the rule doesn’t really apply here yet. 

If you have ever seen a drone fly within the vicinity and think there might be a loophole, I’ll clear any second thoughts beforehand. 

The drone you saw was probably just the one used by the authorities. They are routinely used to assess natural disaster areas for safety purposes.

All in all, as a hobbyist or even a commercial drone pilot, flying in Florida isn’t going to happen for you anytime soon. Unless there’s a new development regarding designated flying bases! 

Can you fly a drone at Dead Horse Point State Park?

Each state in Utah has its own laws regarding drones. Let me just focus on the Dead Horse Point State Park in this section. 

While you are allowed to fly a drone at the Dead Horse Point State Park, note that you can only do so for a limited time span annually. To be precise, you can fly drones from the start of November till the end of February. Also be prepared to get a $10 recreational permit to fly in the vicinity!

In other words, you are absolutely prohibited from flying drones from March through October. 

Note that you are still not allowed to fly near the viewpoint of Dead Horse Point, regardless of the fact that you are flying during the permissible months.

Can you fly a drone in Sand Hollow State Park?

This is another state park in Utah state. Let's have a look at what the set regulations are for this one! 

You can fly your drone at the Sand Hollow State Park. But to do so, you need a mandatory recreational permit for drone operation. You can get this permit for $15 from the main gate. Once you have secured it, you can fly legally with the same permit for the next five days. 

Like any other state park, the FAA regulations need to be followed at all times. In case you fail to do so, the authorities have the right to ban you from flying in the zone despite the validity of your permit. 

Can you fly a drone at Turkey Run State Park?

This is one of the state parks in Indiana. Despite the fact that approximately 68,764 acres of Indiana consists of state parks, I wouldn’t exactly refer to this state as “drone-friendly”! 

Turkey Run State Park, just like all the other state parks situated in Indiana, doesn’t permit drones to fly around. You can occasionally get filming or launching rights from the authorities, but there’s no real guarantee that your request will make the cut. 

But if you genuinely don’t want to miss out on the cinematography this state has to offer, you can opt for a permit.

It’s easier to obtain one if you are a professional journalist, a legitimate production company, a tourism agency, or a scientific researcher! 

In other cases, it gets a bit trickier but there’s no harm in giving it a try.

Conclusion - Can you fly a drone in your local park?

By now, I am sure you have realized that there is no straight answer to this question. Allow me to conclude it once and for all. 

The federal laws generally permit you to fly a drone in your local park. However, the local authorities have the control to decide whether the location qualifies as a safe flying zone. This means that you need to double-check with district laws to confirm their regulations regarding the matter. 

Not all states have the same law. In fact, state parks in a similar state might have distinct drone laws. That’s why I strongly urge you to always be sure instead of assuming that the same law would apply to all state parks. 

Lastly, I think it’s pretty self-explanatory that there’s no need for a published order in case you possibly pose a threat to the safety and privacy of those around you. 

Without exception, the park has complete authority to tell you to cease drone operation, which you would need to abide by immediately. 

Hi, I'm Paul.
A big drone enthusiast, reviewing, comparing and writing about drones since 2015. I'm all about helping people enjoy and even monetize their hobby.

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paul posea
Paul Posea
Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.
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