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Can I Fly My Drone in the Everglades?

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Everglades National Park in Florida is more than one million acres of wetlands.

This huge expanse of land also includes flatwoods, marshes, and mangroves and is known for the many animal species that call it home.

Can you fly a drone in the Florida Everglades?

You cannot fly a drone in the Everglades according to the National Park Service. If you do, you’ll receive a fine. Use a drone map to discern the full scope of the Everglades, as it’s a huge park!

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about flying a drone in this part of Florida, so make sure you don’t miss it!

Can you fly a drone in the Everglades? #

Everglades National Park is 1.5 million acres of wetlands located in the southern part of Florida. That’s 2,400 square miles in total.

The park is a wonderful place for camping, fishing, biking, kayaking, canoeing, and hiking, but what about operating a drone?

The National Park Service strictly prohibits drones from accessing the Everglades[1].

That’s hardly unique to the Everglades, as all national parks across the United States under the NPS follow the same policy.

Why can’t you fly a drone in the Everglades? #

The Everglades is a huge chunk of Florida to have to miss out on, but nevertheless, that’s what the NPS mandates.

Why can’t you use your drone in this national park? Let’s go over some pertinent reasons.

It’s protected #

Everglades National Park is listed in the Cartagena Treaty as a specially protected area, but that’s not all.

The park is also classified as a Wetland of International Importance, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a World Heritage Site.

These protections indicate the rarity and importance of the Everglades.

By allowing drone pilots into the park to fly, the park’s ecosystem could suffer for it, degrading in quality.

Many endangered species live here #

Due to the protections the park receives, the Everglades is home to many endangered and rare species.

They include the:

  • Florida panther
  • American crocodile
  • And the manatee, among others

Preserving these animals here is of the utmost importance, as without the Everglades, they may not have a place to call home and could become fully extinct. 

You risk disturbing the peace of visitors #

The NPS states that annually, at least a million people from all over the country and the world come to Florida to see Everglades National Park.

We love drones here on the blog, but not everyone does. When you enter the Everglades with your drone, you risk interfering with the experiences of others.

They might not like hearing your drone because it interrupts their planned activities.

Even if your drone is whisper-quiet, the sight of it alone could perturb park visitors, leading to complaints.

That’s part of NPS’s rationale for banning drones from national parks.

Gators #

As if all the reasons above weren’t valid enough, the Everglades also contain gators. That’s why you won’t see people swim in the park’s waters, as inviting as they look.

The best thing about drones is you can take them where people can’t go, including over the waters of the Everglades (you know, if it was legal to do so).

However, that would put you at risk of your drone meeting a gator.

In the great battle of drone versus gator, a drone does not win. Gators can quickly submerge your drone, breaking it, and crunch down on its various components with their scary strong jaws and pointed teeth.

Your drone would not come out in one piece if it came out at all!

Can you fly a drone just outside of the Everglades? #

It’s definitely disappointing to learn you can’t fly your drone within Everglades National Park. What about outside of it?

Once you venture beyond the parameters of Everglades National Park, the NPS no longer has jurisdiction.

However, like the rest of the United States (including within the Everglades), you must follow the FAA’s rules, as they’re the leading drone authority in the country.

So, can you fly outside of the Everglades or not? Let’s take a look at what’s around the park to answer that question.

To the north of Everglades National Park is the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area.

If you assumed you couldn’t use a drone there, you’d be correct.

Even if you kept venturing north near Fort Myers, you’d reach the Okaloacoochee Slough Wildlife Management Area, which also prohibits drone use.

South of the Everglades is all ocean. If you ventured southeast, you’d be in Key Largo, and further south, Key West.

As we’ve written about here, you can use a drone in Key West.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Key West?

However, you can’t fly within five nautical miles of Key West International Airport.

The entirety of Key West measures 3.997 miles or 7.209 square miles, so staying five nautical miles away from the airport when the entire island isn’t even five miles is very difficult, to say the least.

If you venture west from Everglades National Park, you’d be in the Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area, which doesn’t welcome drones.

Going east from the national park puts you in Miami.

As we’ve discussed in our article on Florida drone laws (which is part of a series of drone rules across the US), Miami has a municipal law that’s been in effect since 2016.

Under this ordinance, drones cannot venture within a half-mile of events at large venues and sporting events, including the:

  • Calle Ocho Festival
  • Marlins Ballpark
  • Miami Marine Stadium
  • Bayfront Park, and more

Further, you cannot carry weapons with your drone or detachable cargo.

What happens if you get caught using a drone in the Everglades? #

The NPS is not afraid to enforce its drone laws, so you don’t want to get caught using a UAV in the Everglades or any other national park.

Your crime is a misdemeanor punishable with a fine of at least $5,000.

You could also spend up to six months in jail for illegal drone use and possibly face both punishments.

5 places in South Florida where you can use a drone #

Although you must avoid large expanses of land by skipping Everglades National Park with your drone, you can still fly in plenty of other parts of South Florida.

Here are five of them.

1. South Pointe Park #

On Miami Beach’s southern tip is South Pointe Park. You can witness Fisher Island, the skyline of Downtown Miami, cruise ships in the port, and the shoreline of South Beach.

From the park, you can reach South Pointe Beach, one of the few beaches around Miami where pilots have luck flying drones.

Although you’re allowed to use your UAV, you should still keep a respectable distance from crowds.

Plan to venture to the park and the adjacent beach earlier in the day or on weekdays versus weekends.

2. Pier Park #

On Panama City Beach is Pier Park, an entertainment and shopping destination with more than 120 stores.

The park also features restaurants, a giant Ferris Wheel, an IMAX movie theater, laser tag, and a mirror maze.

You’ll have to fly your drone well overhead when piloting it around this part of Florida, keeping in mind the FAA’s limitation of 400 feet max in altitude.

3. Markham Park R/C Airfield #

In Sunrise, the Markham Park R/C Airfield is a top-notch place for operating a UAV. The airfield features a paved runway that’s 755 feet long!

You will require a membership with the Academy of Model Aeronautics to use the airfield, but you’ll have access to more than 50 acres of land for flying drones and remote-controlled helicopters and planes.

The grounds feature a soda machine and restrooms, and you can use the onsite windsock!

4. Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse #

On Hillsboro Beach is the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse, which was erected in 1907.

While you’re prohibited from getting too close to the lighthouse with your drone, many pilots have flown over the lighthouse, taking in its full magnificence.

5. Bayfront Park #

Once known as Royal Palm Park, today, Bayfront Park is still a beloved part of Miami. Constructed in 1896, the waterfront park offers amazing views of Miami’s skyline.

While you can use your drone at Bayfront Park, there are some attractions in the area you’ll have to avoid.

The nearby Maurice A. Ferre Park is only 21 acres but contains the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and the Perez Art Museum Miami, so don’t go to that park.  

Further, Bayfront Park has a lot of shows and attractions, and Miami’s local drone ordinance may prohibit you from being in the park during those times.

You should also avoid the Freedom Tower and Miami-Dade Arena with your drone.

Everglades National Park in Florida strictly prohibits drone activity. That’s true of all national parks managed by the NPS.

While you can’t fly within or around Everglades, you can find plenty of fantastic places around southern Florida to launch. Have fun!

References:1. Everglades National Park (link)


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