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Downtown Dallas is a popular destination for tourists and residents alike, as the area is home to landmarks such as the Reunion Tower observation deck, the Majestic Theatre, department stores, and plenty of pubs and restaurants.
If you’re passing through, are you allowed to fly your drone here?
Since the area is in proximity to Love Field Airport, downtown Dallas is Class B airspace and thus illegal to fly in for drone pilots. The areas where you are permitted to fly only allow you to do so within a 400-foot limit.
Before you think about embarking on a leisurely drone flight around downtown Dallas, we highly advise you to read this article. It’ll be packed with the information you need to know to avoid a legal snafu!
Is it legal to fly a drone in downtown Dallas? #
According to a 2014 article published in The Dallas Morning News, flying a drone commercially or recreationally in downtown Dallas is illegal because the area is Class B airspace.
For those who are new to flying drones, allow us to explain what Class B airspace is.
Class B airspace is in proximity to airports that get a lot of aircraft traffic. In the case of Dallas, that’s Love Field Airport.
Now, downtown Dallas is a large area. It’s considered the part of Dallas that’s surrounded northward by the Woodall Rodgers Freeway, southward by I-30, westward by I-35E, and eastward by I-345.
Since it’s so large, you might be designated to fly in specific areas. Should you find such a spot to use your drone, you’re still restricted to a max height of 400 feet.
Okay, but you’ve read articles like this one about a drone pilot who posted a video to YouTube showing all the amazing footage of downtown Dallas captured on his drone. Why was he permitted to do it?
That pilot wasn’t! What he was doing was patently illegal and uploading evidence of his crimes to YouTube wasn’t too smart.
Since the pilot went unidentified in the article, it’s hard to say if he ever got prosecuted, but possibly. Then again, possibly not.
You have to consider the age of that article, which is 2014. That’s right around the time when downtown Dallas began to crack down on drone pilots in the area, so that pilot had good timing. Well, if you can call it that.
By the end of 2014, the FAA began instituting guidelines for flying a drone in downtown Dallas that are still enforced to this day.
Why can’t you fly a drone in downtown Dallas? #
As many enticing sights as downtown Dallas offers for drone pilots, there are some very convincing reasons why this area is off-limits. Let’s explore them now.
High risk of injury to people #
Dallas alone attracts 27 million visitors per year, says Visit Dallas, and that includes the downtown area.
The city is also home to another 1.288 million more per 2021 numbers from the United States Census Bureau.
The city is going to be crowded on your average day. People want to see the famed architecture and attractions here, and the wealth of events that happen in the area (nearly every single day), only attracts further crowds.
Even if you’re an expert drone pilot, it’s hard to avoid crowds when they become massive enough. You’ll come across city street after city street that’s full of people.
During events, downtown Dallas gets even more crowded.
Flying your drone around people can cause trouble as people won’t be sure why a drone is in their orbit. They might try to flee, and in their rush, can cause a panic that can lead to other needless injuries.
All along, there’s also the risk of you accidentally hurt someone with your drone by flying it too low.
Even with propeller guards on, a drone can do some serious damage to human skin if it’s flying fast enough and makes impact.
Dangers of property damage #
Dallas is known for its tall buildings.
The Bank of America Plaza stands at 921 feet, Renaissance Tower is 886 feet, Comerica Bank Tower is 787 feet, and JPMorgan Chase Tower stands at a proud 738 feet tall.
There are plenty of others, of course, but that’s just to give you an idea of how tall some of Dallas’ most imposing buildings are.
With so much architecture as far as the eye can see, there’s a greater likelihood of your drone coming into contact with a building sooner rather than later.
You might take a turn too fast or fly on a foggy day and think you’re in the clear when some of these buildings go hundreds of feet up.
Damaging property is injurious to your drone at the very least, wrecking or possibly even breaking it.
If you’re caught colliding your drone into a building around the downtown Dallas area, you could also have to pay a fine or reparations.
Proximity to the airport #
Class B airspace is designated as such for your protection. Planes are constantly taking off from and landing at Love Field Airport.
These aircraft always have the right of way, so to speak, which means you must yield to them. Failing to do so could result in a collision.
Said collision probably wouldn’t hurt the aircraft much (although it could depending on the size and bulk of your UAV), but as for your drone? That’s a different story entirely.
Of course, even if you were somehow flying a drone in Class B airspace, there are protocols you have to go through. You have to get in touch with air traffic control and ask for permission to fly.
Don’t be expected to be granted that permission since you’re not supposed to be up there with your drone in the first place.
You could lose your drone #
The same drone pilot who talked about flying and filming in downtown Dallas in 2014 also mentioned losing a drone on the top of AT&T Stadium.
We want to reiterate that the buildings around Dallas are tall. Not all of them, of course, but enough of them.
Your drone likely cannot fly over the entire building and still stay in range. Once your drone loses range, you can’t use your remote to command the drone, and it’s likely going to get stranded.
If you want your drone to decorate the buildings of downtown Dallas, that’s fine, but know that you’re not going to get it back.
Other areas in Dallas where you can legally fly a drone #
Fortunately, downtown is but one area in Dallas. Throughout the rest of this beloved city, you can fly your drone much more freely. Here are some places we recommend.
Richland-Chambers Reservoir #
If measuring by water volume, the Richland-Chambers Reservoir is the eighth biggest in Texas, and by surface area, it’s the third biggest inland reservoir.
Between Freestone and Navarro counties, the reservoir is formed where Chambers Creek and Richland Creek are impounded, which is about southeast of Corsicana.
While it’s beloved for its fishing, it’s also an excellent place for flying your drone. Here, you can see nature preserves, farmland, and even some train tracks.
Lewisville Lake #
Another Dallas reservoir to explore is Lewisville Lake, which was once called Garza-Little Elm Reservoir.
This North Texas reservoir by Lewisville is on the Elm Fork portion of the Trinity River. It’s a serene, picturesque spot surrounded by water with wooded areas. Flying your drone here is quite lovely!
Greater Southwest Aero Modelers AMA Field #
The Greater Southwest Aero Modelers AMA Field also isn’t that far from Trinity River, so if you’re looking for an alternative or an additional place to fly near Lewisville Lake, this is it!
The club’s field is quite spacious, as it measures 75 feet by 500 feet. You’ll find a concessions area and covered tables for relaxing, planning your flight route, or reviewing your footage.
You will see more drones at the Greater Southwest Aero Modelers AMA Field compared to some of the other locations, so always be courteous of these pilots!
White Rock Lake Park #
The generously-sized White Rock Lake Park is 1,015 acres and only five miles from downtown Dallas, so you’re not that far away.
This is another very popular park in the area, so expect to see a lot of people. These people won’t all necessarily be drone pilots, but residents, tourists, and other passersby.
You probably can’t fly during any runs or special events, but otherwise, it should be fine to explore the park with your UAV.
Lake Cliff Park #
A smaller city park known for its strolling paths and rose garden, Lake Cliff Park is only 45 acres, so make sure to get here early if you want to fly your drone.
You’ll be able to see Dallas’ skyline from the park, which can make for some exceptional drone footage even if you can’t fly downtown.
The FAA classifies downtown Dallas as Class B airspace, so drone pilots are prohibited. Even though some risk-takers have flown in the area, we don’t recommend following in their footsteps since it’s illegal behavior.
Instead, you should explore some parks and lakes outside of the downtown area. You can legally fly here and capture some unique footage!