Posted by: Sandy Steinman | January 15, 2020

Drone Policies for Public Lands

East Bay Regional Parks
The East Bay Regional Park District reminds park visitors that drones – motorized, remote-controlled aircraft – are illegal in all parks and open space areas in the District.

San Francisco Drone Policy

Under the SFRPD Drone Policy, the Department may use drones for the following purposes only: (1) construction management; (2) environmental monitoring and documentation; (3) inspections; (4) emergency response; (5) search and rescue; (6) disaster response and recovery; (7) marketing; and (8) mapping and surveying.

Marin County Parks
AVIATION DEVICES: No model airplanes, drones, or any self-propelled crafts are allowed on District lands.

Unmanned Aircraft in California State Parks
Drones are currently allowed in State Parks, State Beaches, State Historic Parks, State Recreational Areas, and State Vehicular Recreation Areas except where prohibited by a District Superintendent’s posted order. Posted orders may prohibit drones for numerous reasons, including: protection of threatened species; threats to cultural and natural resources; high fire danger; public safety; recreational conflicts; impacts upon visitor experience privacy; and park unit classification. Therefore, drone users should always check with their local State Park District for any specific posted orders.

Drones in California State Wilderness Areas, Natural Preserves, and Cultural Preserves: State Park regulations prohibit the use of motorized equipment (including UASs) within wilderness areas, cultural preserves, and natural preserves (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 4351.) Therefore, drone users should always check the designation of the park unit before operating a drone.

Recreational Drones: California State Parks recommends that recreational drone users check with their local State Park District before operating a UAS within a State Park. Each park unit may have its own posted orders. Even absent a posted order on drones, it is within the discretion of park staff to contact drone operators when drones threaten visitors, property, wildlife, or privacy. If a drone operator continues to fly in a dangerous or reckless manner, they may be asked to stop flying and remove the drone from park boundaries.

National Park Policy on Drones
However, due to serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft can have for safety of visitors, staff, and wildlife, they have been restricted in all but a few parks.
Unless an unmanned aircraft pilot obtains special permission through the FAA, use of unmanned aircraft must remain line of sight. In addition, although they do not directly address unmanned aircraft, the following existing 36 CFR sections may apply under certain circumstances.

  • If the unmanned aircraft pursuits or harasses wildlife or creates an intentional disturbance of wildlife nesting, breeding, or other activities, the user could be cited for a violation of 36 C.F.R. § 2.2.


Nevada State Parks
Nevada does have a rule saying that drones are prohibited in all Nevada State Parks.  A Part 107 operator may obtain a commercial use permit (FAQ).

Can you Fly a Drone in Parks, National Forests, and Wilderness Areas
Where You Can & Can’t Fly a Drone

  • National Parks Service – PROHIBITED
  • State Parks – IT DEPENDS
  • National Forests – YES, MOST OF THE TIME
  • Wilderness Areas – PROHIBITED
  • Recreation Areas – DEPENDS

If you are aware of any drones violating these policies or threatening wildlife I encourage you to report the behavior to the appropriate rangers.

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