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Can You Fly a Drone in Long Beach?

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Long Beach in Southern California is known primarily for the RMS Queen Mary, but this coastal city affords much more to do.

You’ve always wanted to use your drone in lovely Long Beach, but you’re not sure what the rules are.

Can you fly a drone in Long Beach?

You can fly a drone in Long Beach, but since 2017, the city government has required pilots to have a permit when landing or taking off in the Port of Long Beach. You also must register your drone and follow FAA guidelines.

Before you pack your bags and leave for California, make sure you don’t miss this post. We’ll discuss the ins and outs of using a drone in Long Beach.

Let’s get started!

Can you fly a drone in Long Beach? #

Long Beach is approximately 80.35 square miles and includes both a city and a port. Depending on where you want to fly within the parameters of Long Beach, you may require special permissions.

Let’s review some off-limits places so you can plan your drone flight accordingly.

Over the Port #

The Port of Long Beach is technically in Long Beach. This container port near Los Angeles spans 3,200 acres and 25 miles.

As a trade gateway between Asia and the United States, it shouldn’t surprise you that California laws crack down on using your drone around, in, and over the port.

A 2017 article in the local news publication Press-Telegram[1] discusses how, as of that year, drone pilots must now request that the Port of Long Beach approve a permit if they plan to launch or land a drone in the port.

As part of your application, you’ll need to provide detailed landing and takeoff plans, a copy of your drone registration, and proof of drone insurance.

Further, you must contact the port facilities that are part of your flight path and request their permission one by one.

Oh, and you have to pay to apply for the permit. You’ll spend $100, and part of your cost goes into application processing. That said, even if you do pay the fee, that doesn’t automatically mean you’ll receive the permit.

If you get an administered permit, the Press-Telegram mentions that the Port of Long Beach will post a notice of drone flight on its website, including your flight plan details, so tenants know what’s coming.

On the day of the flight, a Harbor Patrol Officer will arrive to oversee the drone takeoff. They’ll stay there throughout your flight and watch the landing.

These rules came into play because city officials had to respond to the growing popularity of drones. 

Over airports #

You know the five-mile rule, right? The FAA mandates that drone pilots cannot fly within five miles of an airport.

Well, Long Beach has its own airport, appropriately named Long Beach Airport. It’s three miles from the downtown area in Los Angeles County.

The proximity between downtown Long Beach and the airport will prove especially tricky for drone pilots to navigate.

We’re not saying it’s impossible, but in certain parts of the city, you’ll technically be too close to the airport to legally use your drone.

In restricted airspace #

Use a drone app to stay abreast of where you cannot legally fly in Long Beach and then abide by those rules.

The narrow constrictions of Long Beach as a whole, especially when you consider that you can’t use the port without a permit, mean that the line between legal and illegal flying is especially thin.

Other permits you may need to use a drone in Long Beach #

Commercial pilots who will use their drones for filming or special events will also have to obtain a permit through the Long Beach Fire Department Bureau of Fire Prevention.

The drone permit, NO. 2.069 (available here to download and fill out) authorizes your drone to legally fly in Long Beach.

Here’s an overview of the information you need to include on the application form:

  • The name of your production company and the type of production (including the title)
  • The contact information for someone at the production company, including a phone number and email address
  • Your proposed filming dates
  • The address(es) of the location(s) you wish to fly
  • The number of hours you’ll use your drone for the project
  • The contact information for the drone company, including a primary contact name, address, phone number, and email address
  • The make and model of your drone
  • Your drone registration number
  • Your drone’s total payload weight with additional equipment like a camera
  • Whether you’ll fly in Class D or Class G airspace
  • If your drone operation will require access to Temporary Flight Restrictions or Restricted Areas
  • The name, phone number, and certificate number of your remote pilot in command

As part of your application, you must also include FAA and LAANC authorization, a copy of your flight plan (with maps, charts, and diagrams), a certificate of insurance and endorsement worth at least $5,000, a copy of your drone registration, and a copy of your drone license.

If you need waivers, you’ll have to request those when completing the application.

The available waivers are flight altitude restrictions, night flights, operating more than one small drone, operating your drone from a moving vehicle, or flying your drone over non-participating people.

California drone laws to know before visiting Long Beach #

Besides the aforementioned laws about drone pilots requiring a valid license and registration and that you can’t fly within five miles of an airport, let’s review some pertinent California drone laws ahead of your trip to Long Beach.

No drones in state parks #

If part of your Cali drone flight plans entailed visiting a state park near Long Beach or elsewhere in the state, you’ll have to change those plans.

As we wrote about here, pilots cannot use a drone in a California state park because it risks disturbing wildlife, interrupting peace and quiet, upsetting visitors, and destroying plants and property. It’s also illegal.

» MORE: Drone Laws in California

Further, PO 925-19-32, a 2019 state law, prohibits pilots from accessing parks within the Orange Coast District with their drones.

Add to your list of off-limits places:

  • San Onofre State Beach
  • Doheny State Beach
  • Corona del Mar State Beach
  • Bolsa Chica State Beach
  • San Clemente State Beach
  • Crystal Cove State Park
  • Huntington State Beach

No drones in many public parks too #

Once you venture beyond Long Beach, you’ll discover that many cities, towns, and municipalities across California have strict drone laws.

Those laws vary on a case-by-case basis but often include public park prohibitions, usually for the same reasons as above.

No drones in nature preserves, cultural preserves, etc. #

The 2015 California Department of Parks & Regulations law safeguards California’s nature preserves, cultural preserves, and Wilderness Areas, whether they’re part of a state park or not.

You cannot fly in these areas.

Do not interrupt emergency responder work #

According to Cali drone law SB 807, a first responder isn’t liable if your drone becomes collateral for interrupting them trying to do their jobs.

That said, you should stay away from all first responders, including fire departments and law enforcement, and refrain from interrupting their important work with your drone.

That’s illegal under 2016’s AB 1680 state law.

No using your drone on private property #

Although you can usually operate a UAV on private property such as in neighborhoods, California is an exception. You cannot collect or launch your drone from a property owner’s private property without permission.

You cannot use your drone to photograph the deceased #

Under 2020’s AB 2655 state law, pilots cannot photograph any portion of a deceased person’s body while the body is in possession of a coroner as well as during a post-mortem examination or autopsy.”

Scenarios like these are indeed long shots, but the law exists, so we had to warn you of it anyway!

You must follow FAA guidelines #

Of course, all FAA drone rules apply when in Long Beach or elsewhere in California.

Do not fly higher than 400 feet, keep your drone in your visual line of sight, do not fly over people or moving vehicles, only use your drone when not under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, limit your drone weight to 55 pounds, and do not use your drone in inclement weather. 

Conclusion #

Long Beach is a tranquil part of California for exploring via drone, but the city has a lot of restrictions to stay cognizant of.

The nearby airport and port limit your flight options, and you often need a permit before you take to the skies.

Now that you know all the rules and requirements, you can plan a safe, enjoyable trip to Long Beach with your drone!

References:1. Press Telegram (link)


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