Before you go out and fly your drone in California, it’s best to be aware of the drone laws that apply to your area.
First and foremost, if you’re flying your drone in the United States, you’ll need to understand the do’s and don’ts of the Federal Drone Laws in the US.
On top of that, there are many legislatures that apply to the specific state or local area. Here are the state and local drone laws that you should be aware of if you’re flying your drone in California. While this isn’t the entire list, we summarized the major laws into an easily understandable format.
United States Federal Drone Laws
While you don’t need a license to fly a drone in America, every drone flown in the United States must follow the federal drone laws.
There are separate laws for recreational and commercial flights, but commercial flights require the part 107 license and can gain exceptions to some regulations.
Here’s a quick summary of the United States Federal Drone Laws for hobbyist drone flights:
- Register your drone if it weighs more than 0.55lb (250g)
- Can’t fly over 400ft (120m) (Class G airspace)
- Always maintain light of sight
- Can’t fly near airports
- Not allowed to fly near manned aircraft
- Not allowed to fly in restricted areas
California State Drone Laws
AB 2655 – Invasion of Privacy for First Responders (2020)
You cannot take a photo (including with a drone) of a scene of an accident without a legitimate reason.
SB 1355 – Flight over Correctional Facilities (2018)
Prohibits flying over correctional facilities. Violation results in a $500 fine.
AB 527 – Using Drones for Pest Control (2017)
You can’t use drones for pest control unless you have a proper pilot and pest control certificate as well as an approval.
AB1680 – Emergency Service Interference (2016)
Prohibits flying a drone at a scene of an emergency in a way that interferes with first responders and emergency service providers.
SE 807 – Limiting Liability for First Responders (2016)
First responders and emergency service providers are not responsible for damages on drones that interfere with the situation.
AB 856 – Airspace Invasion of Privacy (2015)
You are not allowed to enter your drone in the airspace of others to capture images or videos, without permission.
Use of Drones in California State Parks
Drones can usually be used in state parks unless there are any local laws or superintendent orders against them.
This ordinance does not allow drone flight inside any city park unless the operation is in a designated area.
Counties and City Parks
Here are the drone laws regarding county and city parks in California:
- District of Orange Coast – Drone flights in state parks are not allowed.
- Sacramento County – Use of drones is prohibited
- San Francisco – drone flights in city parks are restricted unless you have permission from the Recreation and Park Department.
- Santa Clara Valley – Drone flights without permission are restricted in areas run by the SCVOS authority.
- Orange County Parks – Drone flights are restricted in certain parks.
- City of La Mesa – Banned in city parks.
- District of Santa Cruz – Drone flights are not allowed in parks, but you may fly drones on the premises of Seacliff State Beach and Sunset State Beach
Local Drone Laws in California
Town of Los Alamitos
Municipal Ordinance 2018
The law under this ordinance does not allow drone flight within the town.
City of Yorba Linda
Municipal Ordinance 2017
The law under this ordinance restricts drone flights beyond the drone pilot’s visual line of sight. It also restricts you to fly the drone on private property without permission.
Town of Calabasas
Municipal Ordinance 2017
Local Authorities under this ordinance are allowed to enforce FAA drone regulations. It also set limits on how closely a drone may fly to a public event or teaching institution.
City of Hermosa Beach
Drone operators are required to obtain an identification number and operating permit from the City authorities if they want to fly a drone on the premises of Hermosa Beach. You are also not allowed to breach the privacy of any individual.
County Code 9.36.068, 2018
You are not allowed to fly drones in Sacramento County parks under this code. You have to take the permission of the Director to do that.
Park Code Sec. 3.09, 1981
You are not allowed to fly drones on the premises of city parks unless you have the permission of the Recreation and Park Department.
Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority
Regulations Sec. 11.01.01, 2018
You are not allowed to fly your drone over the property which is under the control of the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. You can’t fly a drone here without permission. Search, rescue, fire protection, and law enforcement operations are exempted from this regulation.
Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District Lands
Regulations Sec. 409.4, 2014
You are not allowed to fly the drone over the property which is managed by the Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District. However, by taking permission, you can fly your drone in specific areas. You must note that permits are only given to commercials at present.
City of La Mesa
Municipal Ordinance 2005
This law provides that you are not allowed to fly your drones with or without a remote controller in city parks.
It provides community-based guidelines for hobbyists. Hobbyists may only fly drones during daylight hours. It is also prohibited to fly a drone higher than 400 feet.
A filming permit is necessary to fly the drone for commercial purposes inside the city.
Where Can I Fly My Drone in California?
With so many federal, state, and local drone laws, it’s hard to tell where you can actually fly your drone.
You can download an app that gives you a map of where you can fly your drone and where it’s restricted. There are many different apps, but here are some of the ones we recommend using:
- UAV Forecast
Keep in mind that even if it’s clear to fly your drone on the app, there may be local laws or signs saying that drones are prohibited, so always fly with caution.
These were the state and local drone laws for California. Make sure that you’re also familiar with federal drone laws before you fly your drone in California.
This list isn’t an exhaustive list of drone laws in California, so feel free to let us know if we forgot anything.