Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in California
FAA Drone Website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/
California State Laws – Text Search of California Laws
UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in California
Drone operation in the State of California is broadly governed by The Federal USA agency responsible for drone safety, the FAA. The California legislature has enacted several supplemental rules specific to California drone operations. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details go to the links above and search for unmanned aircraft
A local public entity or public employee of a local public entity shall not be liable for any damage to an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system, if the damage was caused while the local public entity or public employee of a local public entity was providing, and the unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system was interfering with, the operation, support, or enabling of any of the following emergency services:
(a) Emergency medical services or ambulance transport services, including, but not limited to, air ambulance services.
(b) Firefighting or firefighting-related services, including, but not limited to, air services related to firefighting or firefighting-related services.
(c) Search and rescue services, including, but not limited to, air search and rescue services.
An emergency responder shall not be liable for any damage to an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system, if that damage was caused while the emergency responder was providing, and the unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system was interfering with, the operation, support, or enabling of the emergency services listed in Section 853 of the Government Code.
(a) Except as provided in subdivisions (b), (c), and (d), a person who knowingly and intentionally operates an unmanned aircraft system on or above the grounds of a state prison, a jail, or a juvenile hall, camp, or ranch is guilty of an infraction, punishable by a fine of five hundred dollars ($500).
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.
Drones in State Wilderness Areas, Natural Preserves, and Cultural Preserves:
State Park regulations prohibit the use of motorized equipment (including UASs) within wilderness areas, cultural preserves, and natural preserves (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 4351.) Therefore, drone users should always check the designation of the park unit before operating a drone.
Specific additional laws in Jurisdictions within California
Many cities or towns within the state of California have specific restrictions within their jurisdictions. We recommend checking the local jurisdiction for the latest regulations.
Notes For Drone Hobbyists flying for fun in California
If you have a small drone that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly recreationally by following the Drone Laws in USA defined by FAA Part 107 guidelines.
Recreational drone operations in California are approved under FAA Part 107. Please check the specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.
Hobbyist rules in Parks, Recreation and Cultural Preserves
California State Parks recommends that recreational drone users check with their local State Park District before operating a UAS within a State Park. Each park unit may have its own posted orders. Even absent a posted order on drones, it is within the discretion of park staff to contact drone operators when drones threaten visitors, property, wildlife, or privacy. If a drone operator continues to fly in a dangerous or reckless manner, they may be asked to stop flying and remove the drone from park boundaries.
It is recommended that recreational drone operators consult the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules and regulations on the proper use of recreational drones and use common sense when operating these devices around crowded public areas, wildlife, or historic resources.
Notes for Commercial Drone Services operations in California
If you have a small drone that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly for work or business by following the Drone Laws in USA defined by FAA Part 107 guidelines.
Commercial drone operations in California State are approved under the FAA Part 107. Please check the specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.
(b) It is unlawful for any person to operate an unmanned aircraft system in pest control unless the pilot operating the unmanned aircraft system holds a valid manned pest control aircraft pilot’s certificate or a valid unmanned pest control aircraft pilot’s certificate issued by the director and is certified or otherwise authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate an unmanned aircraft system approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct pest control.
11902 (b) Each unmanned pest control aircraft pilot’s certificate shall designate the unmanned pest control aircraft pilot’s status as a journeyman, apprentice, or vector control technician.
To be eligible for an unmanned pest control aircraft pilot’s certificate under the status of vector control technician, a pilot shall be certified by the State Department of Public Health as a vector control technician in the category of mosquito control pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 2052 of the Health and Safety Code.
11905. Before an initial manned or unmanned certificate is issued, the applicant for an apprentice, journeyman, or vector control technician shall pass an examination to demonstrate to the director his or her ability to legally and safely conduct pest control operations and his or her knowledge of the nature and effect of materials that are used in pest control.
11910 (a) The director may refuse to issue a manned or unmanned pest control aircraft pilot certificate to an applicant and may revoke or suspend a manned or unmanned pest control aircraft pilot certificate after a hearing in which one or more of the following findings are made:
- The person is not qualified to conduct the pest control operations in accordance with the certificate.
- The application or certificate is for the operation of a manned aircraft in pest control and the person does not hold an appropriate and valid commercial pilot’s certificate and a current appropriate medical certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.
- The application or certificate is for the operation of an unmanned aircraft system in pest control and the person does not hold a certificate or other authorization issued by the Federal Aviation Administration for the operation of an unmanned aircraft system authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration for pest control.
- The person has violated any provision of, or any regulation adopted pursuant to, this division or Division 7 (commencing with Section 12501) pertaining to pesticides, any regulation of a county agricultural commissioner, or any industrial safety order of the Department of Industrial Relations, or has not complied with any order of the director or commissioner as authorized by Section 11737.
- The person has violated any regulation or privacy guideline adopted by the Federal Aviation Administration pertaining to the commercial operation of an unmanned aircraft system.
Commercial rules in Parks, Recreation and Cultural Preserves
The FAA requires commercial drone operators to receive special authorization; either a Section 333 Exemption or a Special Airworthiness Certificate. The FAA defines commercial drone use as, among other things: filming for hire; selling aerial photography or videography; inspections for hire; surveying for hire; or flying to further a business purpose.
Operating a drone for commercial purposes within a state park also requires a permit. Commercial Drone users must submit a copy of their FAA authorization to the appropriate State Park District(s). Depending on the proposed use, the District Superintendent may require a Special Event permit, Right of Entry permit, or other approval.
Further, commercial photography or filming within State Park also requires a permit from the California Film Commission. (Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14, § 4316.)
Useful published information on flying drones in California
We have partnered with the FAA and other drone enthusiasts in supporting an internet educational campaign called Know Before You Fly. The tips, pointers, and resources apply to California Drone Users also. Please visit the site for additional information: Know Before You Fly
Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International – Mostly for commercial drone service providers and users.
Academy of Model Aeronautics – Mostly for hobbyists
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