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Can I Fly My Drone During a City or State Quarantine?

BY Tres Crow
3 April 2020

One of the most common questions that has come up over the last few weeks has been around how shelter-in-place orders affect local and state drone laws. This is admittedly a thorny issue since local drone laws can be subject to a wide range of statutes and rules at all governmental levels, but we figured we’d take a moment to help provide a good working checklist for determining whether it’s ok to fly your drone in your locality.

1. Are you flying in prohibited airspace?

The first thing you want to do is take a look at what your airspace looks like by either using a digital sectional chart tool like skyvector.com or vfrmap.com, or by using an airspace research tool like Skyward, Airmap, Kittyhawk. You want to start here because if your airspace is prohibited during normal times, it’s definitely still prohibited during emergencies. Examples of prohibited or restricted areas include: national parks, military bases, national security sensitive areas, and prisons.

Man holding Phantom 4 Pro controller

Image credit Unsplash

2. Check for TFR’s and NOTAM’s

Next, you want to make sure that there aren’t any Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) or Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) applicable to your area. Usually these are put in place during large scale events like the Super Bowl or the NYC Marathon, but they are also effective during localized emergencies like hurricanes or wildfires.

You can check for TFR’s here.
You can check for NOTAM’s here.

3. Are there local laws at play?

Even though you might be in full compliance with the Part 107 FAA regulations, you could still be in violation of local laws, so you want to make sure that you’re clear on what your local laws say about drone flight during emergencies.

We’ve put together a regularly updated list of drone laws for every state in the United States, and while these pages may not include emergency rules, they can be a great starting place for finding out about your local regulations. We’ve also put together a “Where to Fly” guide for several major metropolitan areas in the US, which can be a helpful guide.

Also Google can be your friend if you’re in a pinch. Because the situation on the ground can be changing so regularly, check if your city has an emergency declaration or shelter in place order, and then CTRL-F to search for terms like “drone,” “UAV,” or “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” to see if there is any mention of local changes to drone regulations in the order. Also, make sure you’re even allowed to be outside or in public spaces before you start flying your drone.

So, after you’ve done all that and you can’t find any law, rule, or regulation that says you can’t fly your drone, then get out there and fly away. Oh, and when you’re done make sure to share your awesome videos and photos on our Community Forum for a chance to be featured on our social media pages.

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