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Can You Fly a Drone in Ouray, Colorado?

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In southwestern Colorado lies Ouray, a municipality on the San Juan Mountains. Nicknamed “the Switzerland of America,” it’s a popular place to visit for sights unlike any other.

You’d love to take some shots of the mountainous region of Ouray for posterity using your drone.

Can you fly a drone in Ouray, Colorado?

You can fly a drone in Ouray, Colorado, but you’re subject to all federal and state drone laws. Ouray doesn’t have any local laws as of this writing, but if that changes, you’d have to abide by those too.

This guide will help you plan your trip to Ouray, Colorado, whether for business or pleasure. Keep reading for pertinent drone laws!

Can you fly a drone in Ouray, Colorado? #

Ouray may only have about 1,000 residents according to 2010 census data, but the municipality attracts far larger crowds for its alpine surroundings and outdoor activities like ice climbing or soaking in hot springs.

You can experience the idyllic atmosphere for yourself with your drone in tow. Colorado, which follows FAA guidelines, allows drones throughout the state, including Ouray.

Unlike parts of the state like Telluride, Boulder, or Denver, Ouray does not have any local regulations forbidding drone pilots from certain activities.

That doesn’t mean drones can fly completely freely, of course, just that this municipality doesn’t have any official drone laws in the books.

You’re still expected to follow federal and state drone laws, which we’ll talk further about in the next section. Use a drone app before flying anywhere in Ouray to ensure you’re not entering restricted airspace with your UAV.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Garden of the Gods?

If you see any signs prohibiting drone access around the municipality, even if the signs don’t correspond with what you see on the map, you should defer to the signs and avoid flying there.

For the rest of this article, we’ll review Colorado’s federal and state drone laws so you can enjoy safe travels in Ouray.

Federal drone laws #

Let’s begin with the federal drone laws as instituted by the FAA. These are blanket laws that all states in the United States enforce.

If you’ve flown a drone elsewhere in the country, you should find these laws quite familiar. 

1. A valid drone license is required #

All pilots hoping to fly in Ouray, elsewhere in Colorado, or throughout the US must have a valid drone license.

Hobbyists must sign up for the FAA’s recreational pilot exam, The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST exam. You can take this free exam online.

If you answer a question incorrectly, the test informs you the answer is wrong and gives you the opportunity to change your answer.

A TRUST certificate never expires, but you can’t lose your copy. Then you’d have to test again!

Commercial pilots need not take the TRUST exam but the Part 107 test instead. Passing this rigorous offline FAA-issued drone exam will grant you the Remote Pilot Certificate, the official commercial license.

Your Remote Pilot Certificate expires within two years, so make sure yours is current before you book your tickets to Ouray.

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

2. You likely have to register your drone #

While you’re at it, double-check that you’ve registered your drone if required. The FAA mandates that all drones weighing more than 0.55 must have a valid registration.

Commercial pilots must register their drones regardless.

The FAA’s drone registration lasts for three years, so if your drone is coming up on expiry, register it again ahead of your flight to Ouray.

3. Don’t fly your drone higher than 400 feet #

Ouray’s mountaintop vistas can inspire you to take your drone to new heights, but legally, you have to refrain. If your drone ascends beyond 400 feet from ground level, you’re flying it illegally.

Monitor your altitude wherever you go!

4. Keep a reasonable distance from people #

The crowds in Ouray want to enjoy their vacation experience without the interference of drones.

If you see a crowded area – be that for a festival, sporting event, or any other attraction – you must maintain a reasonable distance.

The FAA’s Operations over People law applies in Ouray and throughout Colorado. If you own a lightweight drone under 0.55 pounds, you have more flight liberties near crowds.

You can also fly closer to people you know according to the law.

If you’re using your drone around a crowd of strangers, don’t get too close. Visiting attractions during off-peak hours is one way to minimize your interactions with others.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Breckenridge, Colorado?

5. Do not fly within five miles of airports #

Ouray, being such a small municipality, doesn’t have any airports very close to within its mountainous perimeter. The nearest one is Montrose Airport about 45 minutes away. Any airports beyond that are two hours away.

Even still, you cannot fly within five miles of any city airport or military base.

6. Don’t operate your drone over moving vehicles #

The FAA’s Operations over Moving Vehicles law prohibits drones from flying over a moving vehicle at any point. You can fly near a stationary vehicle if you’re working with its inhabitants on a drone project.

7. Do not use your drone in inclement weather #

Ouray experiences hot summers and cold winters. Watch the forecast during your trip here, as inclement weather can throw a wrench into your drone flight plans.

The FAA prohibits pilots from using drones in rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog, and other conditions of poor visibility.

8. Watch your drone #

You have to keep an eye on your drone when you use it. Don’t let your drone stray beyond your natural line of sight.

Colorado State drone laws #

In addition to the laws above, Colorado has several state drone laws you must abide by when using your UAV in Ouray.

Let’s take a closer look.

Do not use your drone in a state park #

The 2018 state law Colorado State Parks Regulation #100-c.24 makes it illegal to use a drone in Colorado State Parks except for designated areas.

Chatfield State Park in Littleton and Cherry Creek State Park in Arapahoe County both have designated drone areas, but no other state park does.

Littleton is five and a half hours from Ouray and Arapahoe County is over six hours, so we doubt you’ll be in the vicinity of either park if you’re concentrating your travels around Ouray.

Ouray also doesn’t have any of its own state parks, but you should still stay abreast of this state law.

What about Ouray’s public parks? Can you fly there? More than likely, yes, but Colorado often cracks down hard on drones in public parks due to all its local ordinances.

Considering that Ouray doesn’t have local drone laws, this rule may not apply.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Colorado

What happens if you fly a drone illegally in Ouray? #

Just because Ouray lacks local drone laws doesn’t mean you couldn’t get slapped on the wrist for violating a state or federal law.

What kind of punishment suits the crime depends on the severity of the infraction. In many instances, the worst you’ll face is a fine of several hundred to several thousand dollars.

That’s not to say a fine is no big deal, because of course, it isn’t!

In more serious instances, such as flying illegally near an airport, your drone could be confiscated or shot down.

Regardless of the severity of the crime, you’ll have to set aside some time to appear before a judge. While in court, your fine could be increased or you might have to pay an additional fine.

Ouray is a mountainous part of Colorado that’s affectionately referred to as the Switzerland of the South.

The area welcomes drones, as does Colorado as a whole, but you must follow federal and state laws. If you don’t, you could receive a fine, possible drone confiscation, or even jailtime!


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