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Can You Fly a Drone in Philadelphia?

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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the City of Brotherly Love.

Known for such historic sites as the Liberty Bell, the Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Independence National Historical Park, Philly has an array of attractions to offer visitors.

Can you fly a drone in Philadelphia?

Drones are permitted in Philadelphia, as the city has no local drone laws or ordinances. However, you’re prohibited from using your drone in certain parts of the city, including sports stadiums, wildlife refuges, and the Philadelphia Naval Yard.

This article will go a lot deeper into where you can and cannot use your drone in Philly, so pack your bags, book your flight, and read the great information we have for you!

Can you fly a drone in Philadelphia? #

Pennsylvania has an assortment of state drone laws but no local laws. Counties, villages, towns, and cities create local drone laws to restrict or outlaw UAV usage.

You can thus use your drone in Philadelphia.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Pennsylvania

Just because Philadelphia doesn’t enforce any local drone laws doesn’t mean it’s a lawless city. You’re still expected to follow Pennsylvania’s state laws.

Let’s quickly go over those.

One state law is 2018’s Title 18 Sec. 3505, which prohibits drone pilots from surveilling someone in private, risking bodily injury to another person with your UAV, and transporting contraband by drone.

The punishments for violating these rules could be anything from a $300 fine to a felony charge, depending on what you do.

Title 53 Sec. 305 makes clear that any provisions in the amendment supersede municipality enactments, rules, resolutions, or ordinances.

6 off-limits places in Philadelphia where you can’t use a drone #

Next, let’s go over the parts of Philadelphia where you’re prohibited from using your drone.

1. Most state parks #

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and the Bureau of State Parks bans UAVs in most state parks.

The only exceptions are Beltzville State Park, Benjamin Rush State Park, Hillman State Park, Lackawanna State Park, Prompton State Park, and Tuscarora State Park.

2. John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum #

The 1,000-acre John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum is another place where you cannot take your drone.

Part of the reason has to do with the refuge’s proximity to Philadelphia International Airport, no doubt. 

The other part is that wildlife refuges and other nature preserves are almost always off-limits to pilots to safeguard the area and the wildlife that live within it.

For instance, the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is the biggest freshwater tidal marsh in the state. Allowing drones into this area could risk the tidal marsh’s status, so plan to fly your drone elsewhere.

3. Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field #

Sports are a big deal in Philly, so it’s no surprise drones cannot fly around its most famed sports stadiums.

The Philadelphia Phillies, a baseball team in the MLB, play at Citizens Bank Park, while the Temple Owls in the NCAA and the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL play at Lincoln Financial Field.

The sports stadiums are in Class B airspace, which is controlled airspace that requires LAANC authorization to enter with your UAV.

It doesn’t matter whether the stadium is in active use; you still can’t be there.

That goes double for stadium events, as temporary flight restrictions will go into place. You’d need NOTAM authorization to enter the area at that time.

4. Philadelphia International Airport #

This one shouldn’t come as a surprise in the slightest.

FAA regulations ban drone pilots from operating within five nautical miles of an airport, so Philadelphia International Airport is certainly off-limits unless you have LAANC authorization.

5. Independence National Historical Park #

Independence National Historical Park is part of Philly’s historic district.

The federal protections in place here safeguard monuments dedicated to our nation’s history, including sites that date back as far as the American Revolution.

Before 2017, drones could fly here, but that rule was later reversed, as the FAA had concerns about national safety.

This caused the FAA to outlaw drone operations across the country in other such historical locations as New York’s Statue of Liberty National Monument and the Boston National Historical Park.

6. Philadelphia Naval Yard #

While you can witness the Philadelphia Naval Yard with your own two eyes, the FAA prefers you not to use your drone here.

The Special Use airspace classification is due to airport proximity and military usage of nearby space.

You’d need to earn approval from the Department of Defense and the FAA to use the Philly Naval Yard.

The top 5 places in Philadelphia for flying a drone  #

Although it’s disappointing to have to eliminate the above locations from your Philadelphia drone flight plans, it’s not all bad.

The following locations are some of the best Philly offers, so check them all out!

1. Wissahickon Valley Park #

Leave the urban environment of Philadelphia behind and step into Wissahickon Valley Park, a northwestern Philly park with more than 2,000 acres of woodland.

Stroll along Forbidden Drive, capturing footage with your drone on foot.

You might see horseback riders, cyclists, runners, walkers, and other drone enthusiasts on the path. Wissahickon Valley Park has 50 miles of trails in total, not only Forbidden Drive.

The Wissahickon Memorial Bridge is another great spot for drone pilots to take aerial footage. Plan your visit in the autumn if you can, as the trees light up in various bright colors.

2. Delair Bridge #

You can also explore Delair Bridge with your drone. This railroad bridge offers views of the Delaware River and connects New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

It’s a two-track bridge with a vertical lifting section that, to this day, has freight trains pass through frequently. The Delair Bridge was originally built in 1895 and lovingly touched up in 2011.

If you enter the bridge from the New Jersey side, keep in mind you’ll have to follow that state’s drone laws.

3. Rittenhouse Square #

Fall in love with the beauty of Philly at Rittenhouse Square, a city neighborhood with restaurants, shops, hotels, and parks.

Rittenhouse Square Park is a popular stop for drone pilots. The park features sculptures, meticulously kept lawns, and miles of trees.

On a nice day, you’ll see lots of people at the park, so make sure you watch where you’re flying or plan to fly earlier or later in the day.

4. SS United States #

If you’re bummed about missing shooting with your drone at the Philadelphia Naval Yard, the SS United States ought to make up for it.

Located on Pier 82, the SS United States is an ocean liner constructed in 1950 that is the biggest ocean liner built in the US. At the time, it also traveled across the Atlantic faster than any other boat.

Fast-forward, and the SS United States is retired, but it sits docked to this day for your viewing pleasure.

5. Benjamin Franklin Bridge #

See Philadelphia in a brand new way by using your drone from a summit on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

This suspension bridge also connects New Jersey and Pennsylvania, this time Camden and Philly, respectively.

The Ben Franklin Bridge opened to the public in 1926 and today is one of the area’s major bridges for vehicular traffic.

Keep in mind the FAA’s Operations over People law when flying your drone across or near the Ben Franklin Bridge!

Philadelphia is one of the most beloved cities in the US. It supports so much important American history and continues to be a cultural hub to this day.

While you’re welcome to bring your drone into Philly, you must stay away from certain places. Airports are off-limits, as always, as are state parks and nature reserves.

You also can’t fly near the Philadelphia Naval Yard or Independence National Historical Park.

Fortunately, for as many places as you can’t use your drone, you can find dozens more where you can. Whether you like the urban streets of Philly or greenspace, there’s something for you here!


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