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Can You Fly a Drone in Indiana State Parks?

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Indiana is home to 24 state parks managed by the Indiana State Parks system. The parks span the entire state and are a great opportunity to witness the wonder and beauty of Indiana.

Are you allowed to fly your drone in any of the Indiana state parks?

According to the IAC 312 8-2-8(i) state law, drones are typically prohibited from Indiana State Parks. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources may opt to grant film permits and/or launching permits, but this varies by division and is by no means guaranteed.

You’ve got questions about flying your drone in Indiana State Parks, and we’ve got answers.

Ahead, we’ll delve deeper into the rules, including when you may be permitted to fly, and talk about what punishments can await those who violate the rules.

Can you fly a drone in Indiana State Parks? #

Like many states, Indiana has a series of state and local laws (not to mention federal laws, which is true of all states in the United States) limiting drone usage.

One of those state laws is IAC 312 8-2-8 (i), which we discussed in our post on Indiana drone laws.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Indiana

Under IAC 312-8-2-8(i), the Indiana Department of Natural Resources[1] states that “Motor-driven airborne devices (including drones) and other airborne human transportation devices may not be operated at DNR properties except at sites designated for that purpose. Licenses to launch and film may occasionally be granted by DNR or by specific DNR divisions.”

So which parks are off-limits to drone pilots?

Here’s the full list:

  • Whitewater Memorial State Park in Liberty (1,710 acres)
  • White River State Park in Indianapolis (250 acres)
  • Versailles State Park in Versailles (5,988 acres)
  • Turkey Run State Park in Marshall (2,382 acres)
  • Tippecanoe River State Park in Winamac (2,761 acres)
  • Summit Lake State Park in New Castle (2,680 acres)
  • Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell (1,358 acres)
  • Shakamak State Park in Jasonville (1,766 acres)
  • Shades State Park in Waveland (3,082 acres)
  • Prophetstown State Park in West Lafayette (2,000 acres)
  • Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty (3,840 acres)
  • Pokagon State Park in Angola (1,260 acres)
  • Ouabache State Park in Bluffton (1,104 acres)
  • O’Bannon Woods State Park in Corydon (2,000 acres)
  • Mounds State Park in Anderson (290 acres)
  • McCormick’s Creek State Park in Spencer (1,924 acres)
  • Lincoln State Park in Lincoln City (1,847 acres)
  • Indiana Dunes State Park in Porter (2,182 acres)
  • Harmonie State Park in New Harmony (3,465 acres)
  • Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis (1,700 acres)
  • Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville (165 acres)
  • Clifty Falls State Park in Madison (1,416 acres)
  • Charlestown State Park in Charlestown (5,100 acres)
  • Chain O’ Lakes State Park in Albion (2,718 acres)
  • Brown County State Park in Nashville (15,776 acres)

How do you get a license to fly in an Indiana State Park? #

If you add all that up, Indiana State Parks comprise approximately 68,764 acres of land. That’s a whole lot of Indiana to miss out on!

For that reason, if possible, you’d like to obtain a permit to fly your drone in one of the state parks on the list above. Can you?

With a permit, yes. Let’s explore permitting requirements for the rest of this section.

Who’s eligible for a Commercial Film and Photography Permit? #

The Indiana DNR elaborates further on commercial drone use in its DNR Commercial Film and Photography Application and Agreement Instructions[2].

Here’s what the DNR says about the use of drones:

“Drones are generally prohibited on DNR properties to protect the privacy and safety of our guests and to protect the facilities and natural and cultural resources we conserve.

These following exceptions may apply, however permit application review and approval is still required, including providing a copy of the drone operator’s FAA license and proof of insurance:

  • Drones may be used on DNR properties by professional journalists working on pieces designed to inform the public regarding natural or cultural resources or agency activities and initiatives as noted in the ‘Who May Not Need to Apply for a Permit’ section of our guidelines for filming and commercial photography.News agencies should contact the property manager at the site prior to the use of a drone so that the usage may be evaluated.A copy of the drone operator’s FAA license must be provided in advance, but no commercial filming application is likely to be required. (Depends on location and future uses.)

  • Drones requested for scientific purposes by a researcher from a university who has obtained a research permit and/or license as required from the appropriate divisions, and the research legitimately warrants drone use as an element of the project’s design.A copy of the drone operator’s FAA license and proof of insurance must be provided in advance. Approval can be incorporated into the research permit as a special condition.

  • Drones requested for use in the filming of a relevant documentary whose sole purpose is to convey information regarding the natural resources, cultural resources, staff or facilities managed by DNR, not as a for-profit venture.Filming must be by a legitimate production company in association with a news agency or non-profit organization.A copy of the drone operator’s FAA license and proof of insurance must be provided in advance. A commercial filming application is also required.

  • Drones requested by a state, regional or county tourism agency or their partner for use in the production of film, video or still photography that promotes the facilities and natural and cultural features of a property or region.A copy of the drone operator’s FAA license and proof of insurance must be provided in advance, and a commercial filming application is required.

In evaluation of exceptions, the review will include an assessment of the site requested in terms of human and wildlife use and will consider any other drone usage permit requests for the same site or time frame to prevent conflicts with guests or drone operators.

Additional review and approvals will be required on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers properties through the Project Manager’s office or at the District level as well.

In any situation where drone usage is approved, DNR reserves the right to require the presence of a DNR staff member during filming.” 

Applying for a Commercial Film and Photography Permit #

The Indiana DNR suggests you select a state park and then find its property manager. You’d reach out to the property manager and request that you fly a drone for commercial filming purposes.

You should do this well before you need to, planning to contact the property manager no later than 90 days ahead of your planned projections schedule.

You can reach the property manager by email at, but if you have an email address (or phone number) for a specific property manager, then use that contact information instead.

You will more than likely be asked to share an overview of the filming project with plenty of details like what your end use is for the project, what content you want in the scenes, what kind of equipment is needed for the production, and how many people are on your crew.

You’ll then be asked to fill out State Form 56490 (link). The form asks for your full name, company name, business address, local address, business telephone, and local telephone.

If you’ll fly in an Indiana State Park for commercial photography purposes, you can select that on the application form. Corporate productions, audio recordings, music videos, commercials, television series, videos, and feature-length films all count as motion picture or audio.

You’ll also have to agree to a non-collusion statement and a state buildings and land use agreement addendum.

Keep in mind that the specific DNR or DNR division you reach out to always has the right to refuse your request. The Indiana DNR even states that licenses for filming and launching are only granted “occasionally,” so it’s by no means something you should expect.

If you are approved, then you’ll soon receive your pass. The photography passes are good for a whole calendar year, which is awesome.

When you arrive at the state park where you’re permitted to use your drone, you’d show your permit when passing through the property entrance gates.

You’re still expected to follow FAA guidelines and Indiana state and local laws when flying your drone in Indiana State Parks.

How much does it cost to obtain a Commercial Film and Photography Permit? #

The photography permit costs $100 for the year. You can get the permit at half price if you already have an annual pass for the current calendar year and a receipt proving as much.

You won’t be charged for a filming permit, but the Indiana DNR does note that “costs may be recouped for any DNR staff involvement that is required.”

What happens if you get caught flying in an Indiana State Park without a permit? #

Let’s rewind a bit and say that, for example, you didn’t apply for a permit to use your drone commercially in an Indiana State Park. Or perhaps you did apply for a permit, but you were declined.

If you fly illegally in an Indiana State Park–meaning you don’t have a permit–then you’re subject to all the punishments the Indiana DNR deems appropriate.

The Indiana DNR, being a federal agency, will apply punishments on a federal level, which could be severe!

At the very least, you’ll be told to leave the state park immediately and not return with your drone.

That’s the luckiest consequence. You could also have your drone confiscated, in which case, getting it back into your possession would be a pain.

You could also face a fine, possibly several hundred to a few thousand dollars, or even imprisonment.

Simply put, it isn’t worth it!

Indiana State Parks include more than 20 parks managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. You’re prohibited from flying your drone in any state park unless you receive a permit from the Indiana DNR.

The permits are issued for commercial photography and videography. If you get the chance to ever use your drone in one of these state parks, enjoy the experience for all its worth.

For those pilots who aren’t permitted, there are plenty of great places throughout Indiana to fly instead!

Resources:1. Indiana Department of Natural Resources (link)2. DNR Commercial Film and Photography Application and Agreement Instructions (link)


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