So you’re interested in flying drones for fun in your local national forest. You’re probably wondering “What kind of drone laws are there regarding national forests? I know there’s some rules because these places have to protect themselves from fires etc. Can I fly my drone in national forests? Will I be arrested if I do?”

National Forests are some of the most popular places to fly drones. They’re beautiful and offer lots of activities, but before you head out with your drone, make sure you know the rules. Don’t fly over people or animals, and don’t fly in a National Forest without permission from the Forest Service.

Drone Laws National Forests

Drone Laws National Forests

The National Forests Are A Great Place To Fly

The National Forests Are A Great Place To Fly and you have a lot of options. You could choose to fly in the forest, on roads or in parking lots. There are many restrictions that apply to flying in the forest itself, but the other two options are usually open for use. It’s important to know those rules before taking flight.

If you decide to fly your drone in a national forest, there are some specific regulations that need to be followed:

  • The drone must have an operator who has passed an FAA knowledge test if they want to fly above 400 feet
  • They must be at least 16 years old and should always keep their drone within line-of-sight when flying
  • They cannot fly over groups of people or areas where public gatherings occur without obtaining prior permission from local authorities

You Must Have Permission From The Land Manager

You Must Have Permission From The Land Manager before flying in the forest.

You can get permission from the land manager at many ranger stations across the country or by calling the ranger station.

National Forest Service (nfs) Lands

If you are on National Forest Service (nfs) Lands, you must comply with all Federal, State, and local laws as well as NFS regulations, orders, and special uses. This includes the prohibition against taking wildlife resources within a national forest without a permit. Therefore, if your drone is equipped with a camera that can capture images of wild animals or their nests or dens, it is considered to be trapping equipment subject to regulation under the Lacey Act. The Forest Service requires that all such activities be conducted in accordance with state law where applicable; however this does not apply in states that have no restrictions on their books regarding trapping.

Getting Permission Is Easy And Free

You can get permission to fly your drone almost anywhere in the National Forests, but you do have to follow some rules. To get permission, simply go to a ranger station or call and ask. The process is simple and takes only a few minutes. There are no fees to get permission, but you will need to give them information about where you want to fly and how long you’ll be flying for (usually less than an hour).

You can also find more information about getting permission on the Forest Service website: permits

Permission From Many Ranger Stations

You can get permission at many ranger stations across the country or by calling the ranger station.

If you are not allowed to fly, or if your drone is damaged, you will have to pay for any damage done. If you are found flying in an area that has been closed, it is possible that law enforcement could issue a fine of up to $5,000 and confiscate your equipment.

The Uas May Not Interfere With Firefighting Operations 

You must not fly your UAS in a way that interferes with firefighting operations or other emergency response efforts. If you’re flying over a wildfire, search and rescue operation, police operation or crime scene:

  • Make sure your UAS is visible to firefighters on the ground. That way they can see it and understand how to avoid it.
  • Keep your distance from firefighters on the ground. Firefighters are pulling together all of their resources to protect human lives and property in situations where seconds matter—they don’t want to be distracted by drones overhead or accidentally hit by one of them when they’re focused on containing a fire or rescuing someone who needs help because of one!

You Can Fly Your Drone Over Everywhere In The National Forest System

With a little effort and attention to detail, you can fly your drone over everywhere in the National Forest System. You’ll just need to know where you can fly and when.

What follows is a comprehensive guide for flying your drone anywhere in the United States Forest Service (USFS) lands.

Are Drones Allowed In National Forests

Are Drones Allowed In National Forests

Forests Are Home To A Vast Collection Of Wildlife, Birds And Fish

From the majestic bald eagle to the beautiful shy woodland creatures, these areas provide an important habitat for many animals. If you were to introduce drones into this delicate ecosystem, you could be interrupting their natural lives or even harming them.

Drones may fall out of the sky at any moment due to weather conditions such as wind or rain. These falling drones could easily hit an animal on its way down causing serious injury or even death!

Many Illegally Fly Drones In The Parks

Many Illegally Fly Drones In The Parks and fly them to bother the animals. The parks are home to a vast collection of wildlife, birds and fish. Many people want to see new national park policies enacted.

Some National Parks Allow The Flight Of Drones

Some National Parks Allow The Flight Of Drones. In these parks, you should check to see if you are allowed to fly your drone and what restrictions apply (if any).

For example, some parks allow drones for research purposes but not recreation. Other parks may allow drone use for both research and recreation. Some even allow drones in National Forests!

Many People Want To See New National Park Policies Enacted

Many People Want To See New National Park Policies Enacted that ban drones. They believe that drones are a threat to wildlife, visitors, rangers and staff.

The arguments against the use of unmanned aircraft in parks are compelling:

  • Drones can scare wild animals and disrupt their natural behavior;
  • Drones pose a safety hazard for visitors;
  • Park rangers have reported incidents involving drones flying too close to them while they’re rescuing hikers or plucking injured hikers off mountainsides; and
  • Drone operators have also been known to interfere with search-and-rescue operations by hovering over teams on the ground trying to assist an injured hiker.

Use Should Be Limited

Others feel they should not be banned outright but their use should be limited.

Some argue that drones are vital tools for research and emergency response, while others argue that they may interfere with wildlife. Many National Forest visitors enjoy hiking, mountain biking and other activities outdoors–how can you keep them safe from drones if you allow them in any capacity?

It’s important to consider the various types of drones that exist today when considering whether to allow them on public lands. Drones come in all shapes and sizes; some weigh only a few ounces while others weigh hundreds of pounds. Some have cameras attached while others do not; some are controlled by humans sitting inside them and flying manually, while others operate autonomously using computer programs or GPS systems to navigate through a series of pre-programmed waypoints (called “missions”).

Use Of Drones In National Forests Depends On The Park

So the answer to whether drones are allowed in National Forests is that it depends on the park. Some parks allow the flight of drones, while other parks ban them outright. Still other parks have a limited ban, restricting drone use in certain areas within the park. Some parks have a ban on drones over a certain size or weight as well.

Drones Are Banned From Many National Forests

Drones Are Banned From Many National Forests, but there are some exceptions.

If you’re in one of the following five types of national parks or wildlife refuges, drones can be used on your trip:

  • Anacapa Island Marine Protected Area (California)
  • East Cote Blanche Bay Louisiana Coastal National Wildlife Refuge (Louisiana)
  • Virgin Islands National Park (St. John and St. Thomas)


The U.S Forest Service has created a Drone/UAS flyer that outlines some basic rules for flying drones in national forests, Stay below 400 feet above ground level (AGL). Fly no closer than 150 feet from individuals standing under your aircraft. Keep clear of other aircraft, manned or unmanned.

While it’s understandable that drone users such as journalists and researchers want to get a closer look at our national forests, regulations are there for a reason. And although some drone flights in our National forests might not cause any damage, they can also be dangerous and disruptive to many visitors who enjoy visiting the national parks and wilderness areas that they protect.

Like it or not, there are laws in place which are designed to protect our public lands from reckless intrusion by both people and machines, and drone flyers need to follow them if they wish to fly in these sensitive areas.

Frequently Asked Questions (Drone Laws National Forests)

Is There A Place I Can Fly A Drone In The Forest?

In short, no. It is illegal to fly a drone in a national forest.

If you want to fly your drone in the United States, there are some places where you can do so legally:

  • National parks
  • National wildlife refuges
  • National monuments (such as Devils Tower)
  • National seashores (such as Cape Cod)

What Is The Policy For Bringing A Drone (uav/ua) On National Forest System Lands?

The policy for bringing a drone (UAV/UA) on National Forest System lands is that you can, as long as you are following the FAA’s rules. You can also bring your drone if you’re following USFS rules, state rules and local sheriff’s rules.

Is There A Permit Or Approval Required To Fly My Drone In A National Forest?

No approval or permit is required to fly your drone in a National Forest. However, you must follow all FAA rules and regulations which can be found here. You also may be subject to local laws and ordinances within the National Forest’s boundaries. In addition, there are some restrictions on where you can fly your drone:

  • Don’t fly over 400 feet above ground level (AGL), or higher than two miles away from an airport without contacting the airport operator first
  • Don’t fly near manned aircraft
  • Don’t fly over large crowds of people

You should always check with the local forest service office for more information about flying drones on National Forests.

Can I Use My Drone To Herd Livestock?

NO. It is illegal to use a drone in any way, shape or form to herd livestock. This includes:

  • Herd cattle
  • Herd sheep
  • Drive horses

Can I Shoot A Wildlfie Video With My Drone?

Yes and no. You can fly your drone over any national forest land you come across, as long as you get permission from the owner first. There are a few places where drones aren’t allowed, though:

  • Forest fires are off limits. If you see smoke in the air or nearby, keep your drone on the ground until it’s safe to fly again.
  • Roads and parking lots are too risky for drones of any size, so avoid flying them near roads and parking lots with cars coming and going all day long—or at least make sure it’s not a busy road first!
  • Campgrounds should be avoided when possible; if you must fly there (and there isn’t anyone around), do so only after making sure that everyone has left their campsite for the day.
  • Bodies of water like lakes or rivers also require caution .These areas can be dangerous when flooded and should not be used without proper training beforehand.

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