Being unaware of drone laws within your locality can lead to serious problems especially if you are caught flying your drone in a no-fly zone. Even if you’re aware of the laws, it’s best to keep updated with changes and updates that may take place in these regulations by the government and the state over time. Even though drone laws usually share similarities, there can be slight variation from state to state. If you are a drone owner in Los Angeles, California, there are certain rules and regulations you need to make yourself aware to be on the safe side and avoid surprises later on.
Do your research! We cannot stress this enough. Drone laws in California are quite straightforward and would barely take a few minutes to read through. Familiarize yourself with these rules before you set out to test and fly your drone in the open. The first thing you need to do is make sure you register your drone. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made it mandatory for all drone owners to register their drones officially. To do so, you would need to provide your relevant details including name, address, email, and phone number. The FAA would then issue you an official certificate that would serve as a proof of your drone ownership, complete with a unique identification number that you must display on your drone at all times. This certificate is valid for three years and requires that the owner be at least 13 years of age to qualify.
Trespassing of private property is strictly prohibited within Los Angeles. This one is pretty self-explanatory and falls under basic civilian laws. You cannot fly your drone over other people’s property in any situation. Sometimes, despite being aware of the laws and penalties, one can get carried away when flying a drone and unconsciously trespass private property thereby violating civilian privacy.
Therefore, it is always important to be aware of your neighborhood as well as the location that you are flying your drone at. In case of any violation of these laws, you can face serious penalties that may include heavy fines as well as jail time if the offense is repeated twice. If you are new to all of this, be sure to ask around and research on your own regarding the laws pertaining to your locality. As mentioned earlier, start from the very basics like getting your drone registered with the FAA. Although the urge to instantly start flying your drone may be hard to suppress and ignore, following a few simple steps to avoid any future problems can ensure that you remain on the safe side of things.
Where to Fly
Fair warning. Los Angeles is probably one of the most frustrating places to be in if you are a drone-owner. Los Angeles has a large number of airports, which renders a majority of the places as complete no-fly zones because it is reserved for manned aircraft. There are additional city restrictions like those that prohibit drone flying in public spaces like parks and beaches. Los Angeles also has laws relating to drone filming which requires your drone to be monitored when in flight to ensure that you are flying safely and not violating any rules when filming. Therefore, drone laws in Los Angeles include more than just basic trespassing and harassment.
However, despite these excessive restrictions, there are certain locations within Los Angeles where you can fly your drone legally.
1. San Fernando Valley Woodley Park Apollo 11 Aircraft Field:
The Apollo 11 model aircraft field in Lake Balboa is probably the safest place to fly drones in Los Angeles legally. The field has a separate area dedicated for drones/ quadcopters at the south side where you can easily practice your drone flying. Since the field is an open and public space, you do not have to invest any money in memberships to be able to use it. Overall, the Apollo 11 field is a great option for beginners and drone enthusiasts to freely practice their drone flying skills. The helicopter pad area is designated for this purpose so as long as you stay on the south side to practice, you should have no trouble. Just stay clear of the airfield side when you go there to practice since there is a great deal of model aircraft flying there which you do not wanna get in the way of.
2. Rose Bowl Stadium:
Lot H of the Rose Bowl Stadium is another safe place to practice your drone flying in Los Angeles. The space is accessible when no events are going on in the area. You can practice your drone flying skills there but be sure to steer clear of the stadium itself and restrict your practice sessions to Lot H alone.
3. Other Areas:
Several other options are also available including Venice Beach, Torrance Beach, Hollywood Hills, Lancaster and intersections of the 405 and 101 freeways of Sepulveda Dam. Other great areas include the Simi Valley and the lake along McArthur park. However, there are certain restrictions in these areas such as not flying drones when there are a lot of people around and complying with the FAA rules for these localities.
Los Angeles has a ton of no-fly zones that strictly prohibit drone flying of any kind. Airports, public places like parks and beaches usually form the majority of these no-fly zones. For example, drones are not allowed to fly within 5 miles radius of an airport primarily to ensure the safety of manned aircraft. Flying your drone near an airport would mean risking the possibility of your drone interfering with manned aircraft and regulating authorities are very strict on not allowing any drones to fly anywhere near such areas. Furthermore, drones are not permitted to be flown at night and or near other people in public spaces. Homes and other people’s private property is strictly out of range, and trespassing can result in severe penalties. There is also a limit on how high you can fly your drone. It is recommended that you always have your drone in your sights and therefore flying over an altitude of 400 feet is strictly prohibited and can lead to jail time if this rule is violated.
Interestingly, a lot of people tend to ask the question whether they can fly their drone in Griffith Park. The local rules and regulation guidelines specifically prohibit drone flying in city parks, and Griffith Park is no exception. http://www.griffithobservatory.org/visiting/helpfulguidelines.html
So, essentially you cannot take off or land your drone in Griffith Park. Multiple violations can lead to serious fines and penalties which we’ve discussed below.
Fines and Penalties
While previously violations were punished mildly by taking away the drone or the permission to fly one, the laws and penalties have become more strict over the years. Any kind of violation (international or otherwise) of the FAA drone laws can get you in a great deal of trouble. Any misconduct and snooping around can make you liable to a very big fine, with the punishment being more severe if you already have previous convictions. Starting from the very basic, if you fail to register your drone properly before flying, penalties can result in a fine of up to $250,000. As mentioned earlier, this is the first step that all drone owners have to go through – getting their drone registered with the regulating authority and getting a unique identification number for display on the drone.
In case of invasion of privacy or any damages caused as a result of private property trespassing, the drone owner will be liable to a fine of $5,000 to $50,000. Additionally, the penalty may include paying for the damages of the victim.
Furthermore, local drone flying laws such as those of not flying drones within 5 miles of an airport and do not fly within 25 feet of another person include penalties of up to 6 months of jail and a fine of around $1,000. The amount of fine, as well as the duration of the jail time, can increase if the offense is repeated or if similar convictions have already been made against the accused before. Given the severity of the punishment and the penalties involved in case of a violation, it is always best to be on the safe side by making sure (in fact, double-checking) that you are flying in a zone that is legally approved by the authorities.
Beginners who have no prior experience of handling drones or flying drones should steer clear of places that are crowded. Furthermore, practicing in a legally allotted area is the best place to start as a beginner as that ensures that you do not accidentally violate any of the drone laws that the FAA has laid down.
All in all, despite Los Angeles being very restrictive in terms of its drone flying space, there are some places beginners as well as professionals can test/ practice or simply fly their drone. Our advice, again, would be to make sure that you keep yourself updated with the ever-changing drone laws and double-check your location before letting your drone soar in the air.