Can You Fly a Drone in a National Forest? [Updated 2024]

Determining the laws and rules that regulate drone use is necessary for everyone who enjoys flying them, especially when doing so in a national forest. To ensure the safety of Wild animals tourists and nature in National forests FAA and NPS have specific rules and regulations for drones.

We’ll go over the various regulations for national forests in this article, along with the primary answer to the query, “Can you fly a drone in a national forest?

Overview of Drone Laws in National Forests:

Before flying a drone, it’s crucial to understand the different regulations surrounding their usage. The FAA has set guidelines that every drone operator must follow to ensure public safety. In addition to FAA regulations, National Park Services, and National Forests have their own guidelines that drone operators must follow. Major penalties and even criminal charges could result in breaking these rules.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Regulations:

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the pilot has to operate by the laws when operating a drone in a national forest.

These rules include drones must be operated below an altitude of 400 feet, drones should be in a Visual Line of Sight to the pilot, drones should be flown over people’s crowds,s and have to respect their privacy. Moreover, drones should not be operated in controlled airspace or 5 miles away from an airport.

To check the drone restricted area and temporary flight restrictions you can use FAA’s B4UFLY App.

National Park Service Regulations:

The NPS has implemented its own guidelines for drone usage in national parks. With very few limitations, drones are not permitted to fly in national parks. The restrictions include specific areas where drones may be permitted for research or educational purposes. It’s essential to check the park’s regulations before flying a drone in a national park.

National Forest Regulations:

National forests are adventure spots for many recreational activities, such as hiking trails, camping, and fishing. All National forests are under and managed by the US  Forest Services.  

However, drone usage in national forests is restricted, and drone operators must follow specific guidelines to operate drones and ensure public safety. The Forest Service has set regulations to protect the environment, wildlife, and visitors from potential drone-related accidents.

Can You Fly a Drone in a National Forest?

yes drones are allowed

Can You Fly a Drone in a National Forest? The answer to this question is yes but with some rules and restrictions. The FAA has set guidelines for flying drones in national forests, and the Forest Service has implemented its own regulations for drone usage.

The National forests allow the use of drones unless fly in wilderness or designated wilderness areas, such as national parks. In addition, drones are not allowed to interfere with firefighting efforts or any other emergency operations.

Read also: Are Drones Allowed in National Parks?

Possibilities For Dangers When Using a Drone in a National Forest:

If you are operating a drone in any National forest you must take care of the following things:

Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs):

Aviation authorities can place temporary flight restrictions during specific conditions or circumstances, such as wildfires, search, and rescue missions, or special occasions. Before you start flying your drone, make sure there are no active TFRs in the area and respect all set-up airspace restrictions.

Near Forest Fires:

Flying a drone near forest fires can pose significant risks to firefighting efforts. Drones can interfere with aerial firefighting operations, such as helicopters and planes dropping water or fire retardants. It is crucial to stay clear of active fire zones and follow any instructions or guidelines provided by the relevant authorities.

Near Rescue Operations:

When search and rescue operations are underway in a national forest, it is important to avoid flying drones in the vicinity. Drones can hamper the efforts of rescue teams, impede visibility, and even collide with rescue aircraft. It is best to stay away from the area until the rescue operation has concluded.

Wilderness Areas:

wildlife disturbance

Many national forests contain designated wilderness areas that have specific rules and restrictions. These areas are often meant to preserve the natural environment and limit human disturbance. Check the regulations for the particular forest you are in to determine if drone flights are permitted in wilderness areas. In most cases, flying drones in these protected zones is prohibited.

Federally Protected Animals:

National forests are home to diverse wildlife, some of which are federally protected species. It is crucial to avoid disturbing or harassing wildlife with your drone. Maintain a safe distance from animals and their habitats, as well as nesting or breeding areas, to prevent causing unnecessary stress or harm.

Hurting People:

The importance of putting people’s safety first. Avoid flying your drone in crowded areas or near individuals who may be unaware of or uncomfortable with drone operations. Make a safe distance from the people, tourists, and surroundings, and ensure that you have proper control over your drone.

Unpredictable Weather Conditions:

Weather conditions in the National forests can be very unpredictable and difficult to operate drones because there could be strong winds, heavy rains, fog, and also low visibility. These weather conditions could be very difficult to fly a drone properly in a National forest.

Penalties for Violating National Forest Drone Regulations:

Violating national forest drone regulations can result in hefty fines and even criminal charges. Depending on the degree of seriousness of the violations fines for breaking FAA regulations can start from $5000 to $25,000. The Forest Service can also issue fines, which range from $5,000.

In addition to fines, drone operators may also face criminal charges for reckless drone use.

Tips for Responsible Drone Use in National Forests:

To guarantee accountable drone use in national forests, the suggestions below must be followed:

  • Make sure you are familiar with the guidelines provided by the FAA, NPS, and Forest Service before flying a drone in a national forest.
  • Do not fly a drone in designated wilderness areas or areas where drones are prohibited.
  • Always yield to manned aircraft and avoid flying over people or wildlife.
  • Do not disturb wildlife or their habitats or interfere with other visitors’ recreational activities.
  • Always fly within your line of sight and below 400 feet.
  • Do not fly a drone during emergency operations or firefighting efforts.
  • Respect the environment and do not damage any natural or cultural resources.

FAQ: (Can You Fly a Drone in a National Forest?)

Are Drones Completely Banned in all National Forests?

No, drone regulations vary between national forests. While some forests may prohibit drone flights entirely, others may have specific guidelines and permit systems in place.

Can I Fly a Drone for Professional Purposes in a National Forest?

Professional drone flights in national forests often require permits and adherence to specific guidelines. It is crucial to research and obtain the necessary permissions from the relevant authorities.

Can you Fly a Drone on BLM Land?

Yes, you are allowed to fly a drone on BLM lands in the US, before flying you have to follow some guidelines and laws. The FAA requires recreational drone operators to fly below 400 feet above ground level, keep the drone within visual line of sight, and avoid flying near airports or manned aircraft. It’s important to check the BLM laws of any area before flying a drone.

Can you Fly a Frone in Pisgah National Forest?

Yes, you can fly a drone in Pisgah National Forest, if you follow Federal law, and National Forest, and National Park services rules. These rules include ensuring to fly a drone is in a Visual line of sight, below 400 feet, away from wilderness areas, respecting people and tourists, and 5 miles away from an airport.

Can you Fly a Drone in a Wilderness Area?

In general, drone flights are not permitted in wilderness areas. Wilderness areas prioritize preserving their natural and unspoiled conditions. Restrictions are in place to minimize human impact and maintain the wilderness experience. To determine specific regulations, it’s best to consult the managing agency for the particular wilderness area.


fortunately using a drone in a national forest can be beneficial and enjoyable, but it’s important to be familiar with the rules that apply. The FAA and National Park Service have released specific guidelines in order to protect wildlife including animals and birds, maintain the natural forest environment, and ensure public safety. Any of these rules that are broken may result in severe penalties and punishment. 

It’s essential to follow these guidelines to ensure responsible drone use in national forests. Visit the FAA website or get in touch with the nearby Forest Service office for more details on drone laws. Before using a drone in a national forest, always check the rules.