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Can You Fly a Drone in Ocean City, Maryland?

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Few towns on the east coast attract the kinds of crowds as what you’ll find in Ocean City, Maryland, especially in the summertime.

This resort town has a three-mile boardwalk, theme park rides, hotels, shops, restaurants–and of course, the beaches.

Can you fly a drone in Ocean City, Maryland?

You can fly a drone in Ocean City, Maryland. However, the tight confines of the resort city and the existing FAA drone laws might make it more difficult to explore the boardwalk than you were hoping for.

In this article, we’ll talk further about the logistics of using your drone in this coastal part of Maryland, so make sure you don’t miss it!

Can you fly a drone in Ocean City, Maryland? #

Ocean City rakes in $28 million a year from tourism, says Zippia[1]. Of all the huge tourism numbers it attracts, drone pilots are among those ranks, as pilots can use their drones in this part of Maryland.

If you check any drone laws, the stretch of beach and shoreline that comprises Ocean City has no limitations. That doesn’t mean that more specific rules don’t apply, of course, so let’s take a closer look.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Maryland

On the beaches? #

Few drone sights are more majestic than flying over a pristine beach miles high as the sun rises or when it’s setting.

Fortunately, you can take that kind of footage yourself with your drone on the beaches of Ocean City.

Ocean City even has drone shows as entertainment on the beaches, so a drone is not an alien sight here at all whatsoever.

That said, you have to keep in mind the FAA’s Operations over People law. Unless you’re flying a lightweight toy drone, you’re required to keep a reasonable distance from crowds.

Ocean City will attract a ginormous crowd between Memorial Day and Labor Day and possibly even a little bit later (or earlier, depending on the weather) into the year.

Unless you know a group of people and have their permission, Operations over People prohibits you from getting close.

If you want more detailed footage of Ocean City’s beaches, you’ll have to either plan to fly very early in the morning or wait until the summer crowds leave.

We can’t even recommend waiting until later in the day, as you never know if the beach has evening-time entertainment planned.

If so, while the beach will thin out, people won’t vacate entirely, and the beach may still be too crowded.

On the boardwalk? #

The two mile stretch of boardwalk across Ocean City is jam-packed with entertainment. Here, you’ll find shops, restaurants, amusement rides, arcades, and all nature of fun in between.

We once again remind you of the Operations over People law, as it’s going to encroach upon what you can do with a drone on the boardwalk.

During the summer, you’ll rarely get a chance to use your drone on the Ocean City boardwalk, as the throngs of people will make it illegal for you to get too close.

Again, planning a drone flight earlier in the day can help, but even then, you might see some early-morning joggers. That said, there shouldn’t be nearly enough people on the boardwalk where you cannot fly.

You can also wait until the off-season, as the boardwalk never closes entirely. That said, you won’t get the same kind of summertime ambiance.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Baltimore?

Around restaurants and resorts? #

The densely-packed Ocean City features buildings galore, from luxurious hotels to restaurants, shops, and everything in between.

Since everything is packed so closely together, we’d recommend you not try to fly your drone around buildings. You don’t want to interrupt someone’s peaceful vacation experience, as they may call the police.

You also don’t want to risk property damage, either exterior or interior damage.

We have to mention interior damage because you might feel inclined to fly your drone inside your hotel room.

We would not recommend it. After all, a hotel room is not like your home. It doesn’t belong to you, and you’re liable for any damages you cause.

As for flying your drone outside on the balcony? Not much better. You could still cause property damage.

Focus on using your drone in more open-air parts of Ocean City instead.

You can’t use your drone in these parts of Ocean City, Maryland #

The aforementioned areas–while they have rules enforcing drone use–generally allow drones. The following parts of Ocean City do not.

Ocean City Municipal Airport #

Worchester County’s Ocean City Municipal Airport is a small area airport for transportation into and out of the Ocean City area.

Regardless of its size, you’re still not permitted to fly within five miles of the airport with your UAV.

In some very small resort cities, the proximity to the airport makes planning your flight route difficult.

That can apply in parts of Ocean City, since the resort city and the airport are separated by approximately 4.2 miles or nine minutes by car.

Our best advice? Check your drone map before you launch. If you see any areas marked red, that’s restricted airspace due to the airport, so don’t fly there.

Assateague Island National Seashore #

The next area of Ocean City forbidden to drone pilots is Assateague Island National Seashore, which includes parts of Virginia and Maryland.

This barrier island protected zone includes some beaches and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge with migratory seabirds, bald eagles, and Chincoteague ponies.

Since we’re talking protected lands, you’ll have to plan to use your drone elsewhere. Considering all the beaches throughout Ocean City where you can fly, this shouldn’t be much of an issue.

Drone laws to remember when visiting Ocean City #

Besides all the aforementioned drone laws we’ve gone over throughout this article, remember these laws as well as you plan your getaway to Ocean City with your drone in tow.

You need a license #

The FAA requires all pilots to have the appropriate drone license no matter what type of flying you plan to do.

If you’ll just fly for fun (meaning you don’t use your drone for work or to earn any income), you need a TRUST certificate.

You can obtain this hobbyist license by taking a free FAA exam. The test is offered online, and you can answer every question correctly, since you’ll see any wrong answers as you go along and can change them at any time.

Your TRUST certificate never expires, so once you have it, you can enjoy recreational drone flight for as long as you wish.

For commercial pilots, you must have the Remote Pilot Certificate. You have to take the Part 107 exam through the FAA to earn your license.

That test isn’t anywhere as easy, as it’s not online, it isn’t free, and you can’t see wrong answers as you go. We’d suggest studying up!

Keep in mind that your Remote Pilot Certificate expires within two years after it’s issued to you. An out-of-date drone license isn’t better than having no license at all, so keep your certificate current!

» MORE: What Is the TRUST Test? (Everything You Need to Know)

You’ll likely have to register your drone #

Commercial pilots must always register their drones. As for hobbyists, it depends on the weight of the drone.

If your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, you have to register it. If it weighs less, you don’t have to.

You can register your drone through the FAA for three-year periods for only $5.

Don’t fly higher than 400 feet #

When flying your drone over the beautiful Ocean City coastline, don’t get carried away. Legally, you cannot operate higher than 400 feet. You can fly at a lower altitude as is safe.

Keep your eyes on your drone #

You’re also required to always maintain a visual line of sight on your drone. The FAA created this law to discourage stray drones. You can have an observer with you if you feel like you can’t keep eyes on your UAV.

No drones heavier than 55 pounds #

The FAA limits the weight of drones in the sky for everyone’s safety. Whether your drone weighs 55 pounds on its own or that’s its weight with payload added, you have to downsize the drone weight or don’t fly it at all.

Don’t fly over moving vehicles #

According to the Operations over Moving Vehicles law, you’re allowed to use your drone around a vehicle in a restricted or closed-access site permitted that everyone in the vehicle knows of your drone and consents to being involved in its usage.

However, you can’t fly your drone over a moving vehicle even if you know the people in it, which limits when you can fly over the main roads of Ocean City!

Ocean City, Maryland is a major east coast tourist attraction with a long stretch of boardwalk, beaches, and entertainment. While you can use your drone here, you have to do so within reason.

You can’t fly over crowds, moving vehicles, or too close to city property. You’re also prohibited from flying within five miles of an airport or entering protected zones with your UAV.

We hope this information helps you plan a fun trip to Ocean City!

References:1. Zippia (link)


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