The process of flying a drone in California (and much of the United States if we’re being honest), is riddled with hazy rules and misinformation. Sometimes a drone operator is in the wrong, and sometimes they know more than park officials who question them about it. Many of the most beautiful locations in California are protected State Park or National Park land, and though we know the National Park System’s stance on drone use (you can’t do it as of the publication of this article), the State Park rules have been a challenge to understand. Depending on who you ask and when, you get a different answer.
Today that changes, as we received more concrete, definitive rules directly from the Superintendent for Emergency Services, Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Division of the California State Park System, Scott Elliot, which contains the general guidelines that will become public on the California State Park website in the next couple weeks. In it, the Park System makes one thing immediately clear: there is no blanket ban on drones. In fact, recreational drone flying is allowed in California park systems unless posted otherwise by the district superintendent:
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.
Below is the full breakdown, directly from the State Park System.