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Can You Fly a Drone in Downtown Nashville?

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Ah, Music City. Nashville is one of your favorite places to visit, especially Downtown Nashville. You would love to capture footage of the bustling cityscape with your drone, but you’ve never tried before. Is it even legal?

Downtown Nashville is technically uncontrolled Class G airspace that allows pilots to fly, but it’s by an airport that is Class C airspace, which prohibits drones. So too do metro parks throughout the city, so you have to be choosy about where you fly.

That’s right, the keys to the city­–to an extent, at least–are yours, but you have to be responsible. Ahead, we’ll talk about where in Downtown Nashville you can fly a drone and provide tips for a safe experience in the skies!

Are you allowed to fly a drone in Downtown Nashville? Where you can and can’t fly? #

According to Nashville’s website, the city attracted approximately 12,643,243 visitors in 2021. Usually, when it comes to cities so popular and crowded, drones are expressly prohibited.

Not so in Downtown Nashville! While you are granted more flying freedoms than in other major metro hubs, you still cannot fly completely unencumbered.

Without further ado, let’s jump into where you can and cannot fly a drone in Downtown Nashville.

This is where you CAN fly a drone in Downtown Nashville #

The bulk of the city is Class G airspace.

Class G airspace, for those new drone pilots out there, is uncontrolled airspace. This means there’s no need to check in with Air Traffic Control and request permission.

Nashville as a whole (not solely its downtown), is 497 square miles. Now, we want to make clear that a lot of that is Class G airspace, but not all.

This is where you CAN’T fly a drone in Downtown Nashville #

Don’t get too carried away with your flying freedoms! Nashville does have strict laws in place about where you cannot fly that pilots must abide by.

Once you get closer to Nashville International Airport, you’re no longer in Class G airspace but rather, Class C airspace.

In Class C airspace, you do need to contact Air Traffic Control and request permission to fly. That’s true of all aircraft, not only drones.

Your drone might be granted permission to take to the skies by Air Traffic Control, but that’s no guarantee.

Even if you were allowed to fly, you’d still have to grant the right of way to planes and other aircraft, doing your best to stay out of their way.

It’s not only Class C airspace that prohibits pilots in Downtown Nashville, by the way.

If you read our post on the drone laws in Tennessee (and if you missed it, the link is right here), pilots are prohibited from flying a drone in a Nashville park.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Tennessee

That law was established by the Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County Ordinance 13.24.400.

Here’s the law in full for your perusal: “No person shall voluntarily bring, land or cause to descend or alight within or upon any park, any airplane, flying machine, balloon, parachute, or other apparatus for aviation.”

While structural and mechanical landings are acceptable, voluntarily launching or landing your drone is not.

You can freely fly your drone in most parks outside of Nashville and Davidson County, but since you’re in Downtown Nashville, be sure to keep the UAV out of any public parks.

What about state parks? After all, in Downtown Nashville, you’re not all that far from Radnor Lake State Park or Long Hunter State Park.

Tennessee State Parks’ website says that “The use of drones in state parks, and state natural areas, is prohibited except in rare circumstances,” so that’s a no as well.

If those rare circumstances were ever permitted, you’d still need a permit and the Park Manager’s blessing.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Gatlinburg?

What happens if you get caught flying your drone in a part of Downtown Nashville you’re not allowed to operate in? #

To reiterate our point from before, it’s rare that cities welcome drones to fly, so there’s really no need to venture from Class G to Class C airspace with your UAV.

Sure, it’s a bummer that you can’t use your drone in a city park in Downtown Nashville, but the footage of the city’s beautiful architecture and famous sites that you’ll be able to capture with your drone more than make up for that.

All this is to say that staying within your boundaries shouldn’t prove too challenging, but perhaps you don’t know the rules. What happens then?

While we couldn’t find any specific mentions of consequences, if you’ve read other posts on the blog lately about flying in areas where drones aren’t allowed, then these punishments should seem familiar to you.

For starters, you will more than likely be fined. In some cases, the fines are somewhat reasonable at $500 or so, but for more serious crimes, the fines can be up to $5,000.

You might also have to spend time in a jail cell, sometimes up to six months. Your drone will also likely be confiscated.

These are some life-altering punishments that are not worth flying a drone where you’re not permitted. Know the rules and stay out of Nashville parks and Class C airspace.

Tips for flying a drone in a crowded city #

This might be your first time operating a drone in a busy city such as Downtown Nashville. You’re very excited, of course, but you’re also nervous.

That’s fair, as cities have all sorts of hazards that you might not yet be accustomed to. The following tips and pointers will help you safely navigate!

Have your drone license handy #

United States federal drone laws require pilots to have an appropriate license when operating a UAV. Since these are federal laws, they supersede any Tennessee state laws.

For commercial pilots, you need a current Remote Pilot Certificate. You can obtain the license by passing the FAA’s Part 107 exam, an arduous 60-question multiple-choice test.

Keep in mind that your Remote Pilot Certificate is only good for two years from the date it’s issued. Now you can take a free online recertification exam through the FAA, but it wasn’t always that easy.

Since you don’t have to spend any money and not that much time to recertify your Remote Pilot Certificate, there’s no excuse to not keep it current!

If you’re a hobbyist, then you need the TRUST certificate on your person. The acronym stands for The Recreational UAS Safety Test.

That’s the very test you’ll have to pass to earn your certificate. The FAA issues the TRUST exam, which is less than 30 multiple-choice questions. This exam is free and available online.

Your TRUST certificate is good for life, so don’t leave it in your suitcase or at home when flying in Downtown Nashville!

Follow FAA rules #

Uncontrolled airspace merely refers to airspace where you don’t need Air Traffic Control permission. It does not mean that the airspace is lawless.

That means that when operating your drone anywhere in which you’re allowed throughout Downtown Nashville, you must always obey the FAA’s guidelines.

Practice, practice, practice #

Before you take off in Downtown Nashville, we highly recommend learning how your drone works inside and out.

You need to know what every button on the remote does, what every drone feature is, and how to activate it.

You don’t want to find out when you’re flying down a tight city street that that button does something totally different than what you had originally assumed.

That’s a good way to crash your drone and be out hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

If there are any smaller cityscapes in your neck of the woods or where you’re traveling that allow drone pilots and are also somewhat less crowded than Downtown Nashville, then we’d suggest doing some practice flights there.

The more used to city flying you are, the easier you’ll find it to navigate Downtown Nashville.

If you can’t fly in any other cities than this one, then at least master your drone. That will go a long way toward inspiring your confidence as you fly. 

Take it slow #

If you’re trying to take photos or videos on your drone camera, then there’s no need to rush through Downtown Nashville.

Speeding along can cause you to lose control and risk crashing your drone, so it simply isn’t worth it.

Always keep your drone in sight #

Urban landscapes are a foreign sight for you to fly your drone, and the sheer size of the city can make it easier for you to lose your drone.

Watch your drone on your phone screen or remote monitor. Always keep the drone close so you can commandeer it with your remote.

If your drone begins to stray further than you’d like it to, then use automatic features to call it back to you.

Just don’t allow the drone to stray too far. Once it does, it can leave GPS range and you won’t be able to send it back to you. Your drone will be stranded in Music City!

Watch your altitude #

Even if you’re allowed to fly 400 feet up or thereabouts with a drone, that doesn’t mean you want to, especially when flying in Downtown Nashville.

Here’s the thing about this area: birds are really common. The higher up into the skies you get, the better the chances of you colliding with a feathered friend.

Birds don’t particularly like drone sounds, so it’s best to stay away from them as much as possible. The presence of your UAV could make a bird aggressive and likelier to attack.

Beyond birds, you also have to beware of smaller-statured buildings, light poles, and power lines.

You should never try to launch or land your drone around these obstacles, as getting the height you need or reducing your height is that much harder.

Stay away from people #

By far, one of the most important considerations when flying a drone in a busy area such as Downtown Nashville is to keep a good distance from crowds.

We recognize that if the city is crowded enough, this isn’t always possible, but you should do your best.

If you must fly your drone around people, then don’t be near people’s heads or faces. You don’t want to accidentally cause an injury or be a nuisance with your UAV!

Conclusion #

Downtown Nashville is a rare gem. Its city limits mostly consist of Glass G airspace, which is uncontrolled.

You’re not allowed to fly in any of Nashville’s parks, and you’ll have to stay away from the airport, which is Class C airspace. Otherwise, you get a lot of leeway!

Flying a drone in Downtown Nashville is truly special, as you’re granted a rare opportunity. Be sure to always abide by FAA rules, avoid people and infrastructure, and stay away from power lines and other obstacles when flying.

Following the rules allows more people to enjoy Downtown Nashville with their drones, so it’s worth doing!


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