Can You Fly Drones in National Parks in the USA?

Due to the 2014 National Park Service (NPS) ban, you cannot fly drones in National Parks in the USA. The June 2014 law banned drones in all 417 national parks in the USA. The law covers historical monument areas, national trails, national rivers, and historic parks.

Hi folks! My name is Lavelle and I’m a National Park Pass Member and a drone pilot. Like many of you, I absolutely LOVE national parks. They are covered in natural beauty and are some of the most exciting places in the U.S. to experience. 

Countless numbers of people visit National Parks each year. Travelers come from destinations around the world. The parks boast some of the most unique wildlife and breathtaking views. 

When you visit these parks, our obvious desire is to capture the amazing views and sights with our drone. However, the NPS placed a ban on all drone activity in 2014. Unfortunately, that ban is still in place today.

In this article, we will cover some of the frequently asked questions about National Parks and about drone usage in and around National Parks. While the immediate answer is not what we want to hear, fear not! There are a few exceptions and some nice alternatives!

Why Can’t You Fly a Drone in a National Park?

This is, of course, the million-dollar question. The short answer is: 

Because a few drone operators misused the ability to fly drones in the parks. It’s a part of the old adage, one bad apple spoils the bunch. 

Drones can be intrusive to wildlife if used inappropriately. Disturbing the natural habitat of the wildlife is a “no-no”. And irresponsible use of our drones is not good for any of us. At the end of the day, we all want to co-exist peacefully and we want to respect our National Parks.

Are There Exceptions to the 2014 ban?

Yes! That’s the good news. 

As with any law, there are exceptions to the rule. Drone operators are able to request a Special Use Permit from the National Park where they would like to fly their drones. To request a permit, go to the park’s website and you will find information there.

What Happens If I Fly My Drone in a National Park?

Breaking any law can have serious consequences. Park Rangers are on duty in each National Park and enforce all applicable laws. 

Violators are subject to legal ramifications, however, most Park Rangers look at violations on a case-by-case basis. It is always best to check in with park staff before doing anything that could violate a law.

Will I Get in Trouble If I Fly My Drone for Just a Few Minutes?

There are consequences for violating any law. To avoid any kind of trouble, it is best to communicate with park staff and adhere to all rules and regulations.

We all want to enjoy the National Parks and the best way to do that is to legally and responsibly comply with all park etiquette.

For the Love of Nature

I’m sure most of you are nature lovers just like me. We enjoy taking early morning walks and seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. Nature is beautiful. It’s majestic. And we want to capture those moments permanently. 

As drone owners, we love seeing nature from above. After all, that’s one of the main reasons we purchase drones. We want to see panoramic views of parks, streams, rivers, and the such. That is exactly why national parks are so appealing to so many people. 

Whether you are a thrill seeker who cherishes seeing your drone fly through a canyon or if you’re a photography buff who lives for vibrant colors and dynamic landscapes, national parks are at the top of the list for these thrills.

Fortunately, there are some nice alternatives where we can fly our drones within park boundaries.

Exciting Alternatives

When we are prohibited from flying our drones in National Parks, we can find a few other ways to fill our void:

  • Speak to the park superintendent to ask about special permits.
  • Move to any area outside of the park boundary and take drone shots from airways that are not in violation of the law.
  • Always bring a good camera with you as a backup plan.
  • Consider flying over state parks.


Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about flying drones in National Parks and my brief answers.  

What is the fine for flying a drone in a national park?

The fine is $5,000 and the possibility of up to 6 months in jail for not complying with federal law.

Can you fly a drone over the Grand Canyon?

No, the Grand Canyon is a U.S. National Park and the drone ban is enforced within its boundaries.

Can you fly drones in US national forests?

No, if there are flight restrictions on those lands. It is best to check with the National Forest System for detailed information.

Final Takeaways

We can’t fly drones in National Parks as of June 2014 due to the NPS ban on drone activities within its borders. We have found that there are a few exceptions to this rule but it is on a case-by-case basis and a Special Use Permit is required for any exception.

While this news is an obvious disappointment to drone operators and nature lovers, we understand that it is in the best interests of the inhabitants (wildlife) of these lands. We can still enjoy National Parks in many other ways. 

Drone experiences are second to none. As a drone owner/enthusiast, there are so many ways we can share in some once-in-a-lifetime adventures. Let’s make the most of our drones and as always, Happy Flying!

Any other questions about flying drones in National Parks? Feel free to leave me a comment and I will respond as soon as possible. I always look forward to your comments and feedback!

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