Drone Laws in California (2023)

A list of drone regulations and links for people flying drones in California.

drone laws in CaliforniaCalifornia Drone Regulations


Federal Drone Laws in California

These are drone laws that apply to every state in the U.S., including California, and were created by the federal government.

To fly a drone as a commercial pilot in the state of California (i.e. for work / business purposes) you are required to follow the requirements of the FAA’s Part 107 Small UAS Rule (Part 107), which includes passing the FAA’s Aeronautical Knowledge Test to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate.

To fly a drone as a hobbyist in the state of California (i.e. for fun / pleasure) you are required by the FAA to take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). You are also required to follow the FAA’s recreational model aircraft rules. One of those rules is that if your drone weighs more than 0.55 lbs (250g), you’ll need to pay $5 to get it registered. There are additional rules when it comes to airspace and altitude, keeping your drone within line-of-sight while you’re flying, and more.

To fly a drone as a government employee in the state of California (i.e., for a police or fire department) you may either operate under the FAA’s Part 107 rule or obtain a federal Certificate of Authorization (COA).

Note: The content on this page is meant for informational purposes only, and is not meant to take the place of legal counsel.

State Drone Laws in California

These are drone laws that apply to the entire state of California, and were created by the California State Legislature.

According to the California Department of Transportation and the California General Assembly, California has three state-wide laws concerning the use of drones in the state.

SB 807 // 2016

This law provides immunity for first responders who damage a UAS that was interfering with the first responder while he or she was providing emergency services.

AB 1680 // 2016

This law makes it a misdemeanor to interfere with the activities of first responders during an emergency.

AB 856 // 2015

This law prohibits entering the airspace of an individual in order to capture an image or recording of that individual engaging in a private, personal or familial activity without permission. This legislation is a response to the use of UAS by the press in covering celebrities and other public figures.

AB 2655 // 2020

This law prohibits first responders from taking pictures of a crime scene without a valid reason. This includes any type of photography, including the use of drones.

California Department of Parks & Regulations (Cal. Code Regs. title. 14, § 4351) // 2015

This state regulation prohibits the use of a drone within State Park wilderness areas, cultural preserves, and nature preserves. It is important to check the regulations of each State Park as they may have their own posted regulations.

PO 925-19-32 // 2019

This regulation states that no person shall launch, land or operate a model aircraft or UAS within any park unit in the Orange Coast District (Bolsa Chica State Beach, Huntington State Beach, Corona del Mar State Beach, Crystal Cove State Park, Doheny State Beach, San Clemente State Beach, and San Onofre State Beach).

All drone pilots operating commercially in the state of California are subject to the FAA’s Part 107 rules. Learn more about the FAA’s certification process to obtain a commercial drone license in this free guide.

Know something we don’t about drone laws in California? Send us an email at support[at]uavcoach[dot]com. We do our best to keep this list up-to-date, but the reality is that given the pace of the small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) industry and how municipal governments are responding, drone regulations in California can change throughout the year, and changes can be hard to track.  If we missed something, please reach out to let us know.

drone laws in California
Why fly a drone in California? To get great shots like these!

Local Drone Laws in California

These are drone laws that apply only to certain regions, cities, or counties within the state of California, and were created by various authorities within the state.

Town of Los Alamitos—Municipal Ordinance // 2018

This city ordinance creates restrictions on drone flight and activity within the town.

City of Yorba Linda—Municipal Ordinance // 2017

This city ordinance bans drone takeoffs and landings outside of a drone pilot’s visual line of sight; within 25 feet of another individual, excepting the drone pilot or drone pilot’s designee; and on private property without the consent of the property owner.

This city ordinance also prohibits takeoffs and landings within 500 feet of a special event or emergency response without a city-issued temporary use permit, and any violation of an FAA temporary flight restriction or notice to airmen.

Town of Calabasas—Municipal Ordinance // 2017

This city ordinance gives local authorities the power to enforce FAA drone-related regulations by making violations of FAA regulations a misdemeanor. This city ordinance also places limits on how close a drone can fly to a school or public event.

City of Hermosa Beach—Ordinance 16-1363 // 2016

This ordinance requires drone operators to obtain an operating permit and identification number assigned by the City in order to fly a drone in Hermosa Beach. This ordinance also reinforces existing privacy laws, stating that no person shall operate a drone to record or transmit visual image or audio recording of any person or private property located in the City under circumstances in which the subject person or owner of the subject real property has a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is also stated that drones should not be flown on the grounds of, or less than 350 feet above ground level within the airspace overlaying a public school.

Sacramento County—County Code 9.36.068 // 2018

This county code prohibits drones in Sacramento County parks except in areas specifically provided therefor or with express permission of the Director, in areas compatible to said use. A map of Sacramento County parks to which this code applies can be found here.

San Francisco—Park Code Sec. 3.09 // 1981

This code prohibits drones in city parks without permission of the Recreation and Park Department.

Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority—Regulations Sec. 11.01.01 // 2018

This policy prohibits the use of drones on or over any property that is managed by the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. Drone pilots who are looking to operate a drone here must apply for a permit. Search and rescue operations, fire protection, and law enforcement operations are not subject to this policy and do not require a permit.

MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District Lands — Regulations Sec. 409.4 // 2014

This policy prohibits the use of drones on or over any property that is managed by the MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District. Drones are only allowed in areas designated for such use, or with a written permit. It is important to note that permits are only available for commercial drone pilots at this time.

Orange County Parks

This county ordinance prohibits the operation of drones in some Orange County Parks. Review the full list of parks here to determine if drone operations are legal in that location.

City of La Mesa—Municipal Ordinance // 2005

This city ordinance prohibits the operations of drones with or without a remote controller in any city park.

City of Malibu – Filming Permit 

In order to operate a drone for commercial purposes, drone operators must obtain a filming permit with the city. Most of the Malibu airspace is under National Park airspace which is a No-Fly Zone. However, the city can issue permits for commercial drone operations such as taking real estate pictures.  Information regarding the permits and application process can be found here.

Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority—Park Ordinance // 2018

This park ordinance prohibits the operation of drones within any park owned and or operated by the authority without a permit issued by the Executive Officer or the Executive Officer’s designee.

National Parks—Municipal Ordinance // 1984

This city ordinance prohibits the operations of drones within any city park owned park unless the operation is within an area designated for such use.

In addition to the local laws listed above, the National Park Service has banned the use of drones in all Golden Gate National Parks in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more here.

City of Rancho Palos Verde—Municipal Ordinance // 1991 

This city ordinance prohibits the operations of drones on any city-owned property unless the operation is within an area designated for such use.

City of Napa—Municipal Code 12.36.130 

This municipal code prohibits the operations of drones in city parks.

Take a Drone Flight Training Class in California

UAV Coach offers in-person training in select cities in California. The 2-hour, in-person training class provides hands-on flight time with an instructor, practice with intelligent flight modes, and education on what to do before, during, and after a flight mission to stay compliant and safe. During the class, you’ll also get a chance to ask your questions about regulations, software, flight operations management, checklists and more.

Sign up for an in-person drone flight training class in California.

Looking to get in more practice flying your drone? In addition to taking a drone flight training class with one of our trained instructors, you can also scout out safe and legal places to fly on your own using our guides to the Best Places to Fly a Drone in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.

Want to get a feel for the kind of footage you could get flying a drone in California? Here you go: