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Can You Fly a Drone in Garden of the Gods?

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Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center is a Colorado Springs natural landmark with jutting red rocks. The wildlife and trails here attract visitors from all over the globe. You’d love to capture the magic of Garden of the Gods with your drone.

Can you fly your drone in Garden of the Gods?

Garden of the Gods is a designated no-fly zone. The only exception is if a commercial pilot has a permit and written permission to fly from Colorado Parks and Recreation.

Ahead, we’ll more deeply explore the drone policies and rules in place for flying at Garden of the Gods, so make sure you check it out!

Can you fly a drone in Garden of the Gods? #

The City of Colorado Springs has a drone policy that applies to Garden of the Gods.

Here’s the policy in full:

“According to City Code §9.9.412, it is unlawful for any unauthorized person to operate any rockets, drones, model airplanes, or radio controlled aircraft in any park except in areas set apart for these forms of recreation. Drone use on Department property is ONLY permitted with expressed written consent and a Commercial Film Permit.

Commercial use refers to operating an unmanned aircraft for money-making purposes, in furtherance of a business, or incidental to a person’s business. This includes video or photos that produce revenue, real estate photography, news media, telecommunications or other commercial uses.”
Colorado Springs

A Facebook post from 2015 posted to the official Garden of the Gods page calls the park a no-fly zone, so hobbyists are strictly prohibited.

That also applies to commercial pilots who don’t have a permit or who applied for and were turned down for a permit.

Permitting information when flying at Garden of the Gods – all you need to know #

Other forms of photography around and within Garden of the Gods might not require a permit, but a permit is always necessary if taking photos or videos with your drone according to the Garden of the Gods website.

The Colorado Springs drone policy, in Section V., Provisions for Garden of the Gods Park, goes in-depth on permitting information, so let’s talk about that first.

“Additional regulations for filming in Garden of the Gods park exist to protect the natural attributes of the park, as well as the experience of its visitors.

  1. Drone Film Permits will not be issued during peak visitor season or breeding season for nesting raptors. Permits will only be issued from November 1 through April 30. No more than 50 permits will be issued each season.
  2. Drone photography is only permitted Monday-Friday during the hours of 6:00-10:00 am and 3:00-5:00 pm.
  3. Scouting, set-up, tear-down and filming may only be conducted during park hours, 5:00 am – 9:00 pm from November 1 through April 30.
  4. Drones may not disturb birds and wildlife or their natural habitat within the park.
  5. Drones may not come in to any physical contact with red rock formations.”

Obtaining a permit is not cheap, especially if you want to fly at Garden of the Gods specifically. The permits and fees cost $500 a day, whereas for other open spaces, trails, and parks in Colorado, it’s only $250 a day.

That does not include the application fee, which is a one-time charge of $25.

You could be charged violation and penalty fees as well “for a violation of any park rule and/or when any of the following incidents occur: Driving unauthorized vehicles on unapproved space (i.e. grass, athletic fields; trails, greenways or service roads); Dumping or failure to remove trash; Damage to any City property; Misrepresentation of event; Failure to sufficiently clean the venue; Any use of paint or chalk to mark a paved surface or permanent structure; Stalking in any park; Smoking in non-designated areas; and/or Unapproved use of alcoholic beverages,” according to the permitting policies and procedures.

Your application should be sent at least two weeks ahead of when you want to film or take photos to ensure it’s approved in enough time.

For a Commercial Film Permit for drones or to get written permission to fly your drone, email

Your application needs the following information:

  • Your full name
  • Any licenses and permits required
  • A signed copy of the park regulations and rules
  • A shot list, narrative, or timeline
  • A site plan
  • A certificate of insurance

The required insurance is commercial general liability insurance that includes The City of Colorado Springs, its elected officials, employees and volunteers on the insurance.

Your insurance should be valued at a million dollars at least, and you need another million as an aggregate amount.

Your permit can be revoked if you break any of the city rules when using your drone. Before the revocation occurs, you’re usually given a verbal warning by a Park or City official.

If you continue to violate the rules, then your permit will be taken away. You’ll have to stop filming or shooting immediately and apply for a permit all over again, paying the application fee again.

What happens if you fly at Garden of the Gods without a permit? #

The drone rules at Garden of the Gods were established for the enjoyment of the park as well as to protect its natural features.

If you don’t have a permit, you’re entering a no-fly zone. Many drone models, such as those by DJI, won’t even let you take off in restricted airspace.

For those drones that do let you fly, we’ve written about the consequences before.

» MORE: What Happens if You Fly a Drone in Restricted Airspace?

Here’s a reminder for you. The FAA can fine you over $32,000. You could incur fines from the City of Colorado Springs or Garden of the Gods as well. You could also be barred from flying in the park again.

It simply isn’t worth the risk. If you don’t have a commercial permit, then you’re better off not flying around this Colorado landmark.

Drone flight rules to know before you visit Garden of the Gods #

You’ve been granted permission to commercially operate your drone at Garden of the Gods. Great! The natural landmark institutes all the FAA guidelines, so make sure you’re privy to the following rules.

You must have a valid drone license #

Commercial pilots require a valid drone certificate at the time of flying a drone at Garden of the Gods.

If you don’t already have a Remote Pilot Certificate, then you’ll have to apply for one by registering with the FAA for the Part 107 exam. This paid exam is in-person only, with a series of testing centers across the nation available.

You’re given two and a half hours to answer more than 50 challenging multiple-choice questions. You’re required to get 70 percent of them correct.

Your Remote Pilot Certificate is only current for two years at a time. At that point, the FAA requires you to recertify by passing an online exam to keep your knowledge of FAA guidelines current.

You need to register your drone #

All commercial drones must be registered with the FAA before launching. You’ll pay $5 for registration for each drone, and the registration is valid for the next three years. Then you’ll have to register your drone again.

Your drone cannot exceed 55 pounds #

The FAA requires that commercial drones in the sky not weigh more than 55 pounds. Buy a lighter drone so you meet these requirements and don’t add too much payload to your drone either.

You must do a pre-flight check to ensure safe conditions #

Before you take to the skies, do a quick pre-flight check to confirm that the conditions for flight are safe. If you’re in a crowded area, for instance, then you should not launch your drone.

Another situation in which it’s unsafe to fly is during inclement weather such as fog, rain, or snow.

You cannot fly your drone recklessly #

Reckless, dangerous, and careless operation of your drone is prohibited by both Colorado Springs and the FAA. You should never fly under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

If for any other reason you don’t feel physically and/or mentally adept enough to use your drone, then err on the side of caution and don’t fly.

Stay away from moving vehicles and people #

You are not allowed to fly your drone over a moving vehicle under any circumstances, although that’s not always the case for a still vehicle with knowledge of your drone project.

You also cannot fly over other people’s heads unless these people are aware of and involved in your drone project.

Otherwise, you’re interrupting the peace and enjoyment that people expect when they come to the Garden of the Gods.

Watch altitude and speed limits #

Garden of the Gods has a strict altitude limit of 400 feet for drones, the FAA standard, and a top speed limit of 100 miles per hour.

Your drone must be in your visual line of sight #

If your drone leaves your visual line of sight, then you’re disobeying FAA guidelines if you continue to fly.

Your visual line of sight includes the distance that you can see your drone with the naked eye. If you wear contacts or glasses, then it’s how far you can see your drone with these visual aids.

Only fly your drone during the day #

The FAA permits pilots to only be in the sky after sunrise and before sunset. You’ll recall that you can’t fly your drone in Garden of the Gods past 5 p.m. anyway even if you have a permit, so there’s no need for you to be in the park later than that.

Conclusion  #

Garden of the Gods is a beloved natural landmark in Colorado Springs. It’s traditionally a no-fly zone, but commercial pilots with permission and a permit can fly their drones in limited circumstances.

Remember to always follow local, state, and federal guidelines when operating your drone in Garden of the Gods so everyone can continue to enjoy it for a long time to come!

References:Colorado Springs Drone Policy (link)Commercial Photography Guidelines at Garden of the Gods (link)Facebook post 2015 (link)Permitting Policies and Procedures (link)


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