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Can I Fly My Drone in a Public Park? (Read This First)

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When it comes to drone flying, there are many different things that you first need to know before you unpack your drone and take it up in the air. Primary among these is knowing where you are allowed to fly. That’s because, even if a place may be public (or even in some cases on private property!), that doesn’t mean that you can automatically fly your drone there. This includes public parks, which might seem to be a free-for-all place in terms of the things that you can do. So, can you fly your drone in a public park?

In general, you can fly your drone in a public park or even in a state park. However, you need to be aware that there might be local laws prohibiting you from flying your drone in your local public park. But, in the absence of such laws, you can assume it’s okay to fly your drone in your local park.

The good news for you is that the general rule is that public parks allow you to fly your drone. You may even have noticed fellow drone enthusiasts flying their drones in the local public park near you. But, then again, if you do find yourself in a different city or locality, it is best to first look up the laws in place, because not all public parks will allow you to fly your drone there depending on the laws of the state or city.

Can I fly my drone in a public park? #

If you’re trying to go out to fly your drone somewhere other than your own backyard, or you don’t have a place to fly at home, there are some things you need to know about the places where you are allowed to fly it. 

» MORE: Can I Fly a Drone in My Backyard?

You can’t fly your drone just anywhere you want, but one place you might try is your local public park. After all, you probably have a public park somewhere near your neighborhood. Of course, a lot of different things are allowable in public parks because of their nature as places open to the general public.

In that regard, can you legally fly your drone in a public park? Or is it a different case when it comes to drones and public parks?

The general rule, fortunately for you, is that you are very much allowed to fly a drone in public parks without a lot of restrictions. As long as you abide by the general rules of flying a recreational drone, there should be no problem when you go to your nearby public park to fly your drone.

Then again, that statement is only a general rule and will not apply to all public parks in all localities – there are some public parks in some places where you are not permitted to fly a drone. This still all depends on the state and the county or city where any given public park is located. Depending on the local laws of that area, you might not be able to fly your drone in the public park even though it might be open to the public for many other activities.

As such, the first thing you need to do when you want to fly your drone in a public park is to look at your local laws and ordinances regarding drone flying. If there are no rules in place, then the general rules set by the FAA will govern drone flying. However, if there are local city or state rules that prohibit drones in public parks, you’ll have to find another place to fly.

In the same way, when you are traveling to a different city or state, it is a good idea to check the local laws of that area, because there may be some local regulations that will prevent you from flying a drone there. 

After all, there are some states in the country that are quite strict when it comes to drone flying, and that is why it’s smart to do your research when you want to fly your drone in that state or locality’s public parks so you don’t end up with a hefty fine.

Public park vs. National park #

While we did say that you can fly your drone in a public park, the one thing you need to know is that public parks fall under a different category than National Parks. That means that, when you want to go to a nearby national park to fly your drone there, you need to understand that the national park rules regarding drone flying are different from the general rules of flying a drone in a public park.

Before we get there, let’s talk more about what public parks and national parks are. Public parks are common spaces that are maintained by the local government. These parks can vary in size depending on the overall size of the locality but, in general, they are much smaller than national parks and are usually restricted to a fairly small area. 

Public parks are also open to anyone in that locality to do any activity there so long as such activities are within the limits provided by the law. Public parks tend to have children’s playgrounds, sports fields, and paved areas where people can walk or jog on.

On the other hand, national parks are entirely different, as these parks are managed by the US National Park Service, which operates under the Federal government. These parks are usually in natural areas such as mountains or lakes or other similar places, and in places that have cultural significance to the entire nation. 

As such, national parks are maintained by the national government and are large enough to be home to different types of wildlife, which you should respect when you are camping or visiting in that park.

There’s also the question of state parks, which are sort of somewhere in between a public park and a national park. State parks tend to be larger areas of land set aside as preserves, much the way national parks are, but they are maintained by state governments. 

Drone rules in public parks vs National parks #

The reason we are differentiating public parks from national parks is that there are specific drone rules regarding any national park. Some people might think that they can’t fly a drone in their public parks because of the rules that exist to regulate drone flying in national parks. But the fact of the matter is that the two parks are different from one another. Of course, unlike public parks, there are specific rules regarding drone flying in national parks that are true nationwide.

It is specifically stated under 36 CFR 1.5 of the rules of the National Park Service that you cannot fly any unmanned aircraft in national parks. These unmanned aircraft include drones. The reason why this is a rule that has been mandated across all national parks in the country is that national parks are home to wild animals and different plants and living creatures, whose lives you need to respect.

The NPS deemed that drones and other unmanned aircraft are a threat to the safety and security of the wildlife living in the national parks particularly because of how noisy and how potentially dangerous drones can be.

Violating the rule regarding drone flying in national parks can give you up to six months of time in jail plus a hefty fine of up to $5,000. However, there are some people who may be granted permission to fly their drones in national parks but this is only reserved for those who want to use the drones for scientific studies or research. 

For example, if you want to study the terrain of the park or the behavior of the wildlife in the national park from a safe distance, a drone should be able to allow you to do so as long as you go through the proper channels and are granted permission.

On the other hand, what are the rules regarding public parks? Well, the truth is that there isn’t a specific rule that will tell you what you can or cannot do in a public park. This is something that is different compared to national parks. And the reason why there are no specific rules regarding drone flying in public parks is that it really still depends on the local laws because public parks are under the jurisdiction of the local government and are not national or state-level like national parks are.

State parks will vary from state to state in terms of whether drones are permitted. Some states are more lax and will generally allow the use of drones in all or most of their state parks. Other states have more strict regulations and prohibit the use of drones in their state parks. 

But the general rule is that you are allowed to fly your drone in public areas such as public parks as long as you are not doing so beyond the limitations and the restrictions set by the FAA regarding drone flight. Of course, the limitations will prevail. For example, if your public park is close to an airport, then the restriction regarding drone flight will prevail over your right to fly your drone in a public park.

Don’t just assume that you can fly in a local public park, however. It still is important for you to do your research first because there are some states and local governments that may be a bit stricter regarding drones compared to other places. That’s why it is prudent of you to look at the laws regarding drones flying in a certain locality before you attempt to fly your drone there.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone at the Beach?


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