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Can You Fly a Drone in Red Rock Canyon?

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Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, better known as Red Rock Canyon, is a protected area overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

The canyon attracts more than three million visitors annually and offers views of the Vegas Strip.

Can you fly a drone in Red Rock Canyon?

You can operate a drone in Red Rock Canyon, but only recreationally. Further, you must avoid using your drone in any of the Wilderness Areas throughout the park, including the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area and La Madre Mountain Wilderness Area.

If you want to learn more about flying a drone in Red Rock Canyon, this article will tell you everything you need to know.

There’s lots of great information to come, so keep reading!

Can you fly a drone in Red Rock Canyon? #

Red Rock Canyon is in Clark County, Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management regulates the canyon under its National Landscape Conservation System.

It’s a National Conservation Area that includes sandstone walls and stunning red rock formations. So, can you operate a drone here?

According to the FAQs page on the Red Rock Canyon website[1], indeed, you can.

However, Red Rock Canyon only permits recreational pilots, so if you were planning a trip to Vegas for a commercial project, you’d have to work on it elsewhere.

You’re prohibited from disturbing visitors and wildlife when operating your drone. Further, you can’t use your drone in any Wilderness Area throughout Red Rock Canyon.

There are two of them:

  1. Rainbow Mountain Wilderness Area
  2. La Madre Mountain Wilderness Area

If you missed our post about it, Wilderness Areas are protected regions across the United States in local and state parks.

Wilderness Areas make up 111.7 million acres of the country, and drones are forbidden from flying across the entirety of them.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in a Wilderness Area?

It’s not only drones but all forms of industrialization. That was established in the Wilderness Act of 1964.

We’d be remiss not to mention this forum post[2] from December 2022. In the post on a DJI forum, a drone enthusiast describes flying their UAV at Red Rock Canyon, something they’ve done many times, it seems.

A park ranger mentions that drones are now forbidden from Red Rock Canyon. They kindly ask the drone pilot to stop using their UAV, which they do willingly.

Now, this drone user’s account flies in the face of what is posted on the Red Rock Canyon website.

Given the several months that have passed since the time of this incident (as of this writing) and the fact that Red Rock Canyon has not updated its drone policy on its website, we’re apt to say the website policy reigns.

There have also been no other reported incidents of drone enthusiasts being turned away at Red Rock Canyon, which supports the logic that drones are still legal here.

Now, we’re not saying the DJI forum poster wasn’t telling the truth.

Rather, that park ranger might have been mistaken, or perhaps there really is a change afoot at Red Rock Canyon that just hasn’t been fully implemented yet.

Given that the canyon is protected land and features several Wilderness Areas, it wouldn’t surprise us if Red Rock Canyon eventually does prohibit drones from operating.

If you plan on visiting after reading this post, please contact the park rangers ahead of your trip to confirm the rules.

Can you fly a drone on the Las Vegas Strip? #

Although it’s easy to forget when you’re exploring such sights as Calico Hills, Moenkopi Loop, Keystone Thrust, Turtlehead Peak, or the Grand Circle Loop, Red Rock Canyon is indeed a part of Las Vegas.

You’re only 15 miles from the heart of the city. On the Las Vegas Strip, you can clearly see Red Rock Canyon in the distance.

That has you curious – can you fly your drone from Red Rock Canyon to the Strip?

You cannot, as drones are strictly forbidden on the Las Vegas Strip. That’s for several reasons.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone on the Las Vegas Strip?

For one, the Strip is roughly one nautical mile from McCarran Airport, once known as the Harry Reid International Airport.

We’re sure you know this, but you’re only supposed to operate a drone within five nautical miles of an airport.

Additionally, the Vegas Strip is simply far too crowded to be operable for drones.

The area attracts millions of visitors per year and will always have people about, and the proximity of the buildings to one another doesn’t help matters either.

Other parts of Vegas that ban drone use include city parks, parking lots, and public streets.

To be clear on where you can and cannot fly, use a drone map. If you see any red areas on the map, you’ll have to steer clear of these no-fly zones.  

Nevada drone laws to know for safe use #

If you’re flying to Nevada, your travels will likely take you beyond Red Rock Canyon.

To stay on the right side of the law, here are some state and federal drone laws to keep in mind when operating your UAV.

Stay outside of prohibited places #

To reiterate, in Nevada, you’re forbidden from using your drone on the Las Vegas Strip, public roads, public parking lots, and state parks.

Any other area on your drone map that shows as restricted airspace also prohibits drone use.

That includes critical facilities like petroleum refineries, oil pipelines, waste treatment centers, prisons and jails, chemical manufacturing plants, water treatment centers, mines, and power lines.

Unless you have written permission from the building’s owner, you must stay 500 horizontal feet and 250 vertical feet from these critical facilities.

The punishment for violating the above law is six months imprisonment and/or a fine of $1,000.

Under 49 U.S. Code 46307, drones cannot fly within five nautical miles of a Nevada military base.

From the Nellis Air Force Base to the Creech Air Force Base, the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, and everything in between, you could find yourself spending a year in federal prison and/or paying a fine of up to $250,000 for your troubles.

Do not fly within five nautical miles of an airport #

AB 239 is a Nevada state law that makes it illegal to fly closer than five nautical miles of an airport without airport operator or authority permission.

If you have a waiver, you’re also exempt.

Keep in mind that violating this regulation does more than breaking a state law but a federal law. The FAA could issue you a very hefty fine.

The state of Nevada can also charge you with a misdemeanor.

You must have a current drone license and registration #

Before using your drone in Nevada, you must have the right operating license. That’s either the Remote Pilot Certificate or TRUST license, which are both issued by the FAA.

The Remote Pilot Certificate is for commercial drone operators. You can obtain this certificate by taking the FAA’s Part 107 exam, a 60-question, multiple-choice, offline test taken in an FAA testing center.

You need a score of 70 percent to pass.

Your Remote Pilot Certificate stays valid for two years after it’s issued to you. After that, you must take a free FAA exam to recertify.

The TRUST certificate is for recreational pilots. Hobbyists can earn their license by taking the FAA’s free online exam, The Recreational UAS Safety Test. Your license never expires.

Hobbyists may not have to register their drones only if their UAVs weigh 0.55 pounds or less. Commercial pilots must always register their drones.

Keep your drone in your visual line of sight #

Pilots must always be responsible for their UAVs, which means keeping eyes on it when flying.

If you cannot see your drone with your own two eyes (including when wearing contacts or glasses), you must have a spotter who can.

Do not operate your drone in inclement weather #

Nevada is known for its ruthless heat, but even when the temperatures aren’t sweltering, you must beware.

You cannot legally operate your drone in poor weather conditions such as fog, strong winds, or rain.

Moreso, you shouldn’t want to! You put your UAV at risk when you fly it in wet weather. It could get soaked and damaged, possibly irreparably.

Even in strong winds, it’s hard to control your drone, so just hold back until the weather clears up.

Don’t fly your drone higher than 400 feet #

The FAA requires you to limit your flight distance. You cannot use your drone any higher than 400 feet from the ground up.

Limit your distance from crowds #

You must also respect the privacy and wellbeing of crowds. Unless yours is a 0.55-pound drone or lighter, you cannot operate it over someone’s head.

You also can’t fly too close to other people.

Red Rock Canyon in Clark County is a protected zone with Wilderness Areas.

It appears the canyon permits drone flights as of current, but that policy could be changing.

For now, get out there and safely explore Red Rock Canyon with your drone!

References:1. Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas (link)2. Mavic Pilots (link)


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