Summary of Drone Laws in Drone Laws in California
Hobbyist Drone Laws For Residents of California and USA
Drone Operations in California are regulated.
- Hobbyist drone flights are allowed
- Hobbyist drone pilot license may be required for certain operations.
- A TRUST Test is required.
- Hobbyist Drone registration is required for hobbyists flying a drone of more than 0.55 lbs.
- Drone Remote ID is required for hobbyists, although full implementation is delayed
- Drone Insurance is not required but recommended for hobbyists’ drone operations
Read below for more details on Hobbyist Drone Laws in California and to find links to regulators and other credible sources!
Commercial Drone Laws For Residents of California and USA
Drone Operations in California are regulated.
- Commercial drone flights are allowed
- A commercial drone pilot license is required
- Commercial Drone registration is required in California
- Drone Remote ID is required for Commercial Drone Operators. However, full implementation has been delayed
- Drone Insurance is not required but recommended for commercial drone operations
Read below for more details on Commercial Drone Laws in California and to find links to regulators and other credible sources!
Drone Laws For Foreign Visitors To California (not USA Residents)
Drone Operations in California are regulated.
- Foreign visitor drone flights are allowed in California
- Foreign visitor drone pilot license is required
- Drone registration is required for visitors/tourists
- Drone Remote ID is required in California for tourists. However, full implementation has been delayed.
- Drone Insurance is not required but recommended for tourist drone operations
Read below for more details on Drone Laws in California for Visitors (Tourists) and to find links to regulators and other credible sources!
Drone Laws For Government Drone Operators
Drone Operations in California are regulated.
- Government drone flights are allowed in California
- Government drone pilot license is required
- Drone registration is required for Government operations
- Drone Remote ID is required in California for Government operations. However, full implementation has been delayed.
- Drone Insurance is not required for Government drone operations
Read below for more details on Drone Laws in California for Government Drone Operations and to find links to regulators and other credible sources!
Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the State of 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. Click here for details on FAA USA Drone Laws.
In addition, 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.
Are drones allowed in California?
Drones are allowed in California for recreational and commercial use, subject to FAA regulations and flight controls established by local governments. Read on for details.
Specific additional drone use laws by California State legislature
No drone pilot can enter the airspace of persons to capture images without consent. Nor can they take photos or record videos of persons engaged in personal, private, or familial activities without approval. This legislation came about as a direct response by local authorities regarding press invasion of public figures and celebrities.
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 specific posted orders.
Drones in State Wilderness Areas, Natural Preserves, and Cultural Preserves:
State Park regulations prohibit using 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 UAV laws by local governments within California State
This city ordinance allows local authorities to enforce FAA UAS drone-related rules and regulations. Authorities view any FAA violations as misdemeanors. The ordinance also stipulates the closest distance drones can fly to public events and school facilities without prior consent.
The city council then adopted ordinance 16-1363 on April 26, 2016. It imposes specific restrictions for operating model aircraft, drones, and other unmanned aerial systems. Furthermore, remote pilots must obtain annual permits to fly. This city ordinance exists to protect the safety of residents.
This strict city ordinance bans drones and remote-controlled UAS in all city parks.
Most of Malibu’s national park airspace falls under no-fly zone restrictions. However, there are certain exceptions for commercial filming purposes, except on Sundays. Drone operators must apply for city filming permits. You can see more about film permit requirements here.
This city ordinance states that no drone operator shall attempt to take off or land outside the pilot’s visual line of sight (VLOS). Takeoffs and landings must not occur within 25ft of other persons unless that person is the pilot’s designee. Moreover, no recreational or commercial drone pilot can operate from private property without the owner’s consent.
The same municipal ordinance prohibits drone takeoffs, landings, and flight control within 500ft of special events and emergency response operations. The only exceptions are if the pilot has an official, city-issued permit for temporary use.
The local ordinance for the town of Los Alamitos stipulates specific restrictions regarding drone no-fly zones and UAS activities. It lays out city regulations with specific limitations on drone flight and operation within the city boundaries.
This policy forbids drone operations on or over properties managed by the Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District. Exceptions are designated areas or pilots with an official written permit. Only commercial pilots can apply for permits at the last check.
Parks owned and managed by the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority prohibit all drone operations except in designated areas or with official permits. Pilots can only obtain permits from the Executive Officer or the EO designee.
No drone pilots can operate radio-controlled UAS in national parks other than designated areas. Exceptions are with written authorization from a city manager or his/her designee. The authorization is not guaranteed and depends on local factors. That may include the time of day, anticipated crowding of the requested areas, public safety, and other factors.
In addition to the local laws listed above, the National Park Service has banned drones in all Golden Gate National Parks in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more here.
This county ordinance bans the flying of drone operations in specified OC Parks. Some OC parks allow drone operations, but pilots must stay within the designated takeoff/landing areas.
This county code exists to prohibit drone operations in Sacramento’s county parks. The exceptions are designated, compatible areas provided with the express permission of the local Director. You can view the fee-based map of all county parks to which this code applies.
This code prohibits drone operations in San Francisco’s metropolis parks without prior permission from the Recreation & Park Department.
This Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority policy bans the free use of unmanned drones and other UAS. Recreational drone pilots who wish to fly over the said property and structures must apply for a permit through official channels. The rules do not apply to law enforcement and emergency response organizations.
This regulation prohibits using model aircraft and UAS from land and facilities located in all state parks under the jurisdiction of the Santa Cruz District, except for the following areas where drone use is allowed:
- Seacliff State Beach: above the field on the Southern end of the primary day-use parking lot.
- Sunset State Beach: non-motorized gliders at the designated glider port located across from the South campground.
- Events authorized by Special Event or California Film Commission permit.
Requests for exemption may be made in writing by contacting the district superintendent.
UCSB Recreational UAS & Drone Policies: This section explains how to get approval to fly recreational drones and model aircraft on the UC Santa Barbara campus.
Specific additional laws in Jurisdictions within California
In California, the following civil and criminal laws may apply to drone use:
- Civil Code Section 1708.8: Trespassing, or the physical invasion of privacy, either by entering private land or air space without permission, especially to take images or recordings in an offensive way.
- Civil Code Section 3481: Protection against private nuisances, such as the disruptive noise of the drone’s blades near an individual or his or her premises.
- Penal Code Section 632: Privacy regarding eavesdropping or unlawful recording of conversations where the recorded parties did not give consent.
- Penal Code Section 634: Trespassing on private property and committing or attempting to commit an act in violation of Penal Code Sections 631, 632, 632.5, 632.6, 632.7, or 636.
- Penal Code Section 646.9: Stalking or purposefully repeatedly following another person, sometimes maliciously or intentionally causing fear.
- Penal Code Section 647: Invasion of privacy, especially using technology, including cameras and voice recorders.
Also, according to the Code of Civil Procedure Sections 525-526, and 527.6, someone harassed may obtain a temporary restraining order or injunction against the responsible party (or drone operator).
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.
What you must know about California No Fly Zones or No Drone Zones
You need to know if you can operate your drone. Under what limitations? Whether you will need authorizations? And, if so, how to get those authorizations.
We encourage you to read our explainer. It provides more details here: Explainer – What You Must Know About No Fly Zones or No Drone Zones
How do I check for no-fly zones, no-drone zones, and uncontrolled or controlled airspace in California?
The FAA has partnered with Aloft to develop the B4UFLY mobile app. The app can tell you if there are any airspace restrictions where you want to fly.
If you are looking for a drone no-fly zone map, then B4UFLY is a good place to start.
The app provides situational awareness to recreational flyers and other drone users. You will need airspace authorizations to fly in controlled airspace. This app does not allow you to get airspace authorizations. Authorizations are available through the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC).
The B4UFLY app is available to download for free:
Get the B4UFLY at the App Store for iOS. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/b4ufly-drone-airspace-safety/id992427109
Get the B4UFLY at the Google Play store for Android. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.faa.b4ufly2&hl=en_US&gl=US
B4UFLY is also available as a desktop version for preflight planning and research. https://b4ufly.aloft.ai/ (“B4UFLY App | Federal Aviation Administration”)
How do I get authorization to fly in controlled airspace in California?
Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) is run by the FAA. It is the only way to get permission to fly in controlled airspace.
You can get access through one of the FAA-approved LAANC UAS Service Suppliers. Some providers have apps that can be used to apply for approval in near-real time.
There are two ways to use LAANC:
- Submit a near real-time authorization request for operations. Applies to flights under 400 feet in controlled airspace around airports. This is available to Part 107 Pilots and Recreational Flyers.
- Submit a “further coordination request.” This applies if you need to fly above the designated altitude ceiling in a UAS Facility Map, up to 400 feet.
- You can apply up to 90 days before a flight. The approval is coordinated manually through the FAA. This is available to Part 107 pilots only.
Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in California
If you have a small drone of less than 55 pounds, you can fly recreationally by following Drone Laws in the USA defined by 49 USC 44809.
In California, recreational UAS operations (i.e., flying for recreational purposes) are approved under law, specifically 49 USC 44809. Please check the specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.
Following these rules will keep you and your drone safe. And that helps keep the airspace available to everyone.
All recreational flyers must pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test. The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) meets this rule. You must provide proof of passage if asked by law enforcement or FAA personnel.
TRUST provides education and testing on important safety and regulatory information. If you fly your drone recreationally under the Exception for Recreational Flyers, you must pass the test before you fly.
Note: If your drone weighs more than .55 pounds (lbs), you must register your drone through the FAA’s Drone Zone.
For a complete discussion on drone registration, see our Drone Registration Explainer.
To fly your drone as a recreational flyer, it’s as easy as 1-2-3
- Understand recreational flying requirements
- Note: Non-recreational drone use is when you fly drones for business or to help out, not just for fun. For example, real estate agents may use drones to take photos of houses they are selling. Roof inspectors might use drones to get a closer look at roofs. A high school might have someone fly a drone to record football games and post videos on their website. Doing volunteer work with drones also counts as non-recreational use. So, non-recreational drone use is any time you operate a drone to do useful work. Or help others out. It is when you are not just doing it to enjoy flying it for hobby or sport. If you’re unsure which rules apply to your flight, fly under Part 107 (See below).
- Take TRUST
- You may take the free online test through any of the FAA-approved test administrators.
- All FAA-approved TRUST test administrators offer the test free.
- All test questions are correctable to 100% before issuing your completion certificate.
- After completing TRUST, you must download, save, or print your completion certificate.
- If you lose your certificate, you will need to retake TRUST.
- View a list of TRUST Test Administrators
- Receive your certificate
- After you pass the test, you will receive a certificate. The test administrator you selected gives you your certificate.
- Test administrators will not keep a record of your certificate. If law enforcement officers ask, you must present a copy of your certificate.
General Rules for Recreational Flyers
USC44809 is the Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft. It is the law that describes how, when, and where you can fly drones for recreational purposes. Following these rules helps keep people, your drone, and our airspace safe:
- Fly only for recreational purposes (personal enjoyment).
- Follow the safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community-Based Organization (CBO). Read Advisory Circular 91-57C. It provides more information on how to become an FAA-recognized CBO,
- Keep your drone within the visual line of sight. Or use a visual observer who is physically next to you and directly communicating with you.
- Give way to and do not interfere with other aircraft.
- Fly at or below FAA-authorized altitudes in controlled airspace with prior FAA authorization. Controlled airspace is Class B, C, D, and surface Class E designated for an airport. Get your FAA authorization using LAANC or DroneZone.
- Fly at or below 400 feet in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace. Note: Flying drones in restricted airspace is not allowed. Before the flight, drone pilots should always check for airspace restrictions. You can do so on the B4UFLY app or the UAS Facility Maps webpage.
- Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage when flying.
- Have a current FAA registration. Mark (PDF) your drones on the outside with the registration number. And carry proof of registration when flying. Starting September 16, 2023, registered drones must broadcast Remote ID information. The FAA has delayed enforcement to March 16, 2024.
- Do not operate your drone in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system.
Recreational drone pilots must not violate safety requirements. Nor should they operate their drone flight carelessly or recklessly. You could be liable for criminal and/or civil penalties if you do.
You do not need a drone license if your drone use is recreational and falls within the scope of 44809. But, to fly your drone commercially, you must first get a Remote Pilot Certificate (RPC). This is also true for flights under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107). The RPC is also known as a drone license or a Part 107 certificate. You may want to get your drone license for the flexibility it allows in your drone flights.
For more details on drone licensing, please see our Drone License Explainer.
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 dangerously or recklessly, 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 operating Commercial Drone Services 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 the 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.
For a complete review of the FAA Part 107 regulation, please see our comprehensive FAA 107 Explainer.
Note: The Operations Over People rule became effective on April 21, 2021. Drone pilots operating under Part 107 may fly at night, over people and moving vehicles without a waiver as long as they meet the requirements defined in the rule. Airspace authorizations are still required for night operations in controlled airspace under 400 feet.
If you have a small drone of fewer than 55 pounds, you can fly for work or business by following the Part 107 guidelines. There are three main steps to fly under Part 107 rules.
Step 1: Learn the Rules
Ensure you understand what is and is not allowed under Part 107 rules.
If you are unsure if Part 107 rules work for you and your intended operation, check our user identification tool.
Some operations will need a waiver. Here are the regulations specified in §107.205 that are subject to waiver:
- Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft – §107.25
- Operation at Night – §107.29(a)(2) and (b)
- Visual line of sight aircraft operation – §107.31
- Visual observer – §107.33
- Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems – §107.35
- Yielding the right of way – §107.37(a)
- Operation over human beings – §107.39
- Operation in certain airspace – §107.41
- Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft – §107.51
- Operations Over Moving Vehicles – §107.145
Learn more about Part 107 Waivers.
Drone operators should avoid flying near airports. It is difficult for crewed aircraft to see and avoid a drone while flying. Remember that the drone operator must avoid manned aircraft. You are responsible for any safety hazard your drone creates in an airport environment.
Step 2: Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by Passing the Knowledge Test
For more details on drone licensing, please see our Drone License Explainer.
To be eligible to get your Remote Pilot Certificate, you must be:
- At least 16 years old
- Able to read, write, speak, and understand English
- Be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a UAS
Study for the Knowledge Test
- Review Knowledge Test Suggested Study Materials provided by the FAA.
Get an FAA Tracking Number (FTN)
- Create an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile. Then, register for the knowledge test.
Schedule an Appointment
- Take the Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.
Complete FAA Form 8710-13
- Once you’ve passed your test for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application), log in to the FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application System (IACRA)* to complete FAA form 8710-13.
- Review the entire process to get your Remote Pilot Certificate.
Step 3: Register your Drone with the FAA
For a complete discussion on drone registration, see our Drone Registration Explainer.
Registration costs $5 and is valid for three years. You’ll need a credit or debit card and the make and model of your drone handy to register. Learn more about registering your drone.
- Create an account and register your drone at FAADroneZone. Select “Fly sUAS under Part 107.”
- Once you’ve registered, mark your drone (PDF) with your registration number. The number will be useful in case it gets lost or stolen.
(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 according 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 pest control operations per the certificate.
- The application or certificate is for operating a manned aircraft in pest control. 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 operating an unmanned aircraft system in pest control. 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 under, this division or Division 7 (commencing with Section 12501) about 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 about 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 to support 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
Authoritative Sources of Information on California Drone Laws
We will attempt to keep an updated list of online authoritative links to regulators and other official websites here:
- Drone Regulator Website: FAA Drone Website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/
- Link To SUAS Laws: 49 USC 44809 or 14 CFR Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
- State-Specific Laws: See sections above.
- No Fly Zone Maps/Locations: See No Fly Zone Section above – B4UFLY – https://b4ufly.aloft.ai/
- UAV Registration Site: FAADroneZone
- Drone Operator Licensing Site: TRUST or FAA in person (see sections above)
- The Recreational UAS Safety Test: The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST)
- Others: Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International – Mostly for commercial drone service providers and users.
- Others: Academy of Model Aeronautics – Mostly for hobbyists
- Others: US Forest Service Recreational Drone Tips
NOTE: This page is about the Regulation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS), Small UAS, Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and drone are interchangeable terms unless specified. Model Aircraft, toy, remote-controlled, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.
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