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Drone Laws in California

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

Drone Regulator in the USA: Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Contact Information

If you need additional details we have not covered or specific case assistance, you can contact the FAA directly at:

  • Address: 800 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20591
  • Phone: 844-FLY-MY-UA (+1 844-359-6982)
  • EmailUAShelp@faa.gov

Please continue reading for more details on USA Drone Laws.

Link to: 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

Assembly Bill No. 856 (2015)

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.

CHAPTER 4.5. Unmanned Aircraft [853 – 853.5]

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.

PART 2. PERSONAL RIGHTS [43 – 53.7]

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.

CHAPTER 3. Unauthorized Communications With Prisons and Prisoners [4570 – 4577]

(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).

UAS in State Parks

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

Calabasas City Municipal Ordinance 2017-354

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.

City of Hermosa Beach Ordinance 16-1363 (2016)

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.

City of La Mesa Municipal Ordinance 9.08.150 (2005)

This strict city ordinance bans drones and remote-controlled UAS in all city parks.

The City of Malibu | Drone Filming Permit

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.

City of Yorba Linda Municipal Ordinance (2017)

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.

Los Alamitos Municipal Ordinance (2018)

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.

MidPeninsula Regional Open Space District Lands | Regulations Sec. 409.4 (2014)

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.

Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority | Park Ordinance (2018)

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.

National Parks | Municipal Ordinance (1984)

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.

Orange County Parks

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.

Sacramento County—County Code 9.36.068 (2018)

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.

San Francisco Park Code Sec. 3.09 (1981)

This code prohibits drone operations in San Francisco’s metropolis parks without prior permission from the Recreation & Park Department.

Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority | Regulations Sec. 11.01.01 (2018)

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.

Santa Cruz District Superintendent’s Posted Order No. 715-001-17 (2017)

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.

University of California, Santa Barbara

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? Will you need flight authorizations? And, if so, how do you 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?

The FAA runs Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC). It is the only way to get permission to fly in controlled airspace.

LAANC is available to drone pilots. It applies if you are operating under the Small UAS Rule Part 107. And it applies if you are operating under the exception for Recreational Flyers.

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.

LAANC is available at 726 airports. Use the manual process to apply for authorizations for airports not offering LAANC.


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. If law enforcement or FAA personnel ask, you must provide proof of passage. 

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

  1. 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 photograph houses they sell. 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 for 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).
    • Visit the Recreational Flyers page to learn about the rules for recreational flyers.
    • Download the FAA’s B4UFLY mobile app for more recreational drone flying resources.
  2. Take TRUST
    • You may take the free online test through any 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
  3. 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. The law describes how, when, and where you can fly drones for recreational purposes. Following these rules helps keep people, your drone, and our airspace safe:

  1. Fly only for recreational purposes (personal enjoyment).
  2. 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, 
  3. 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.
  4. Give way to and do not interfere with other aircraft.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage when flying.
  8. 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.
  9. 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:

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

Get an FAA Tracking Number (FTN)

Schedule an Appointment

Complete FAA Form 8710-13

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 helpful in case it gets lost or stolen.

ARTICLE 1. Generally [11901 – 11911] – Agriculture Pest Control

(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:

  1. The person is not qualified to conduct pest control operations per the certificate.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:



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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30 responses to “Drone Laws in California”

  1. Kate Juliana

    Are there rules protecting listed wildlife from drone use? We have nesting Northern spotted owls on our land and are concerned that drone pilots entering their documented core area constitutes harassment, especially during reproductive season.

    1. Editorial Team

      Kate, we are not aware of any specific California regulation regarding drones and wildlife. Check with the state department responsible for wildlife regulations.

  2. Ray Pili

    City of Carlsbad in San Diego County have specific muni codes to allow RC aircraft (sUAS) along part of the bluffs overlooking the ocean and also city parks.

  3. Rob

    Are you aware of any California regulation that prohibits commercial drone companies from hiring drone pilots as 1099 sub-contractors?

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      We are not aware of this specifically applying to or exempting drone operations. There is a new regulation regarding the treatment of sub-contractors that would apply to all subcontractors. We don’t have enough details to cover that law here

  4. George

    I intend to use a drone in support of agricultural research. This is not a for-hire use, it is to produce images and video to give context and illustrate certain aspects of the research projects. No one will be billed for drone time or the images that are produced, but they will be included within reports that are a part of an annual service contract. Do I need a license of some sort to fly a small consumer drone for this purpose?

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      George, we believe this falls under the commercial/research regulations.

  5. Brendon Mendoza

    The freedom to fly a Drone over neighborhoods is an invasion of privacy regardless if they take photos etc. I have the right to lay and swim in the nude in my backyard. Yes, I have tall hedges, more than 6 feet tall, surrounding the entire perimeter. This was done for a reason. To have MHA be full privacy so no one can see in unless they violate the law. Now I have drone or drones that fly overhead an a daily basis. What I don’t understand is why drones are allowed in densely populated neighborhood ar all. They have the freedom to see in everyone’s private property rand that is ok? The violation is based on capturing images, pictures and or video? This does not protect me or anyone from invasion of privacy. How do I know what they are capturing and why does that matter. Why is this any different than someone peeping over the hedges? i have called local authority and nothing has been done. I’m not sure they know what to do anyway. so it’s incumbent on me to report a drone, follow up, and assert a reasonably complaint and or violation ? How do I know they are breaking the law? This law has to change. I do not accept that breaking the law of privacy is only enforced when images are captured.
    That’s like saying you can look over your neighbors hedges as long as you don’t take video or pictures. Why do the drones have so much freedom when it is no doubt violating privacy of the entire neighborhood? How about a law prohibiting flying drones in densely populated neighborhoods and require the pilot to drive to an established area to fly. Palm Springs banned all motorcycle and alike to ride freely in open desert land in the city limits. Citing public nuisance and environmental hazards. Meanwhile i have to be concerned that if I do choose to lie in the nude I am being watched regardless of content saved. Furthermore, by the time a complaint is answered my pictures/videos can be posted on the web and remain there permanently. I have photographed a drone overhead every night for past two weeks. Maybe it has been there longer and I haven’t noticed. I believe Privacy is more important for each of us than is being able to fly a drone wherever you want as long as you stay under 400 feet.

    1. Andrew Somers

      Airspace is public property, and is regulated by the FAA.

      You do not have ownership of the airspace over your home or your backyard, therefore you do not have control of it and it is not an invasion of privacy to fly in the airspace over your home. You do not have control over helicopters flying over your airspace or other aircraft, and this goes for drones as well.

  6. Brandon

    I’m looking into using a drone commercially for roof/gutter inspections for HOA’s. If we get hired by the HOA are we allowed to fly close to the homes to inspect the roofs and gutters without worrying about privacy concerns? Do we need to send out a notice to the residents that inspections will be occurring?

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      The current regulations do not require homeowner approval of commercial drone flights, subject to operating safely and within the regulations (not violating homeowners privacy). If the HOA has established the inspection requirement, all homes would be governed by that requirement.

  7. John Ellison

    We live in the Sierra foothills, south of Placerville in an area of high wildfire risk. We know that drones can not be flown over an active fire after emergency responders have arrived and are actively working the fire. Can a drone be used under recreational rules to check out a fire that has just started prior to the arrival of emergency services to assess potential risk to our location and determine the exact location of the fire?

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      John, sounds like a use case that makes sense, but we recommend you contact the local law enforcement/fire organizations to get a more accurate direction. Please let us know what you find out.

  8. Moziah

    Can drones be flown over Universities? Or junior colleges?

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      Colleges and Universities may have drone regulations/restrictions. Check for local regulations before doing so

  9. Julian

    I have a neighbor who is beating/hurting his dog. My only proof as of now is the dog yelping and the owner screaming at the dog aswell as other neighbors statements hearing the same thing. My question is: if I keep my drone above my land and zoom in while this neighbor is in the act of hurting their dog can the footage I capture be used in a court of law and was it legally obtained?

    Thank you for your help here.

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      Julian, this is beyond the scope of what we can help with. Please check with a local attorney.

  10. B.mann

    I’m being harassed by law enforcement drones 7 nights a week,they hover over my property line n I’ve caught them using thermal imaging to observe my family within our home, they also use smaller drones that have no lights n I’ve captured over 244 images n video of them staring at my family thru small cracks in our windows curtains. I’ve complained to FAA, Local law enforcement n nothing has been done to assist me in protecting my family’s rights privacy or safety , I’m thinking about sending my videos n photos to local news agencies to get community aware of their intrusive behaviors, I’m not a criminal,not on parole or probation, I’m also thinking of a civil lawsuit for their complete disregard of drone laws

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      You can also contact your local regulators (Representative/Senator/Mayor, etc.)

      1. B.L.Mann

        I appreciate the info. I respect law enforcement n there duty to investigate crimes committed in the area I live in, that being said I don’t think they should abuse their power n use drones as a tool to harass n provoke a negative response. My quality of life has been taken away n my families safety threatened. Who can I trust now to provide safety to my family if law enforcement is conducting such business practices, thank you for your input

  11. cindy

    recently i have a drone problem someone is flying there drone and hovering over my home and even trying to peep through my windows i have called the local police but they do nothing about it is there any law that prevents this

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      It depends on where you are in California, the specific privacy laws in place, or restrictions on drone use. Please contact your local law enforcement.

      1. Corrupt Law

        Contact Local law enforcement for what so they can tell you to notify FAA then FAA will tell you to Notify Local corrupt enforcement,Do we not see that the technology is being abused.This has been going on for 4 years the noise is so loud 24/7 you can feel it running through your head and body,They also have shared data with my employeer.It’s sick it really is we need to get these people help they need to be locked up they are committing criminal acts.You call this being surveillanced.Not when they are interfering with your messages in your phone your emails Your DMV Records we have a major problem it’s not the Drones it’s the Corrupt law enforcement and Government and people are to afraid to speak up.

    2. Sisamer

      Where in CA do you live? In some places, flying a drone over your property is illegal.

      Please take pictures of the drone peeping and report to the local police.

  12. Fernando Arteché

    I want to start a business or use my drone for realtor purposes. Ofcourse I still need a license for this correct?

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      Fernando, any use of a drone for commercial activities requires a license. Best wishes on your new business

  13. Holly

    Do we have any rights as private citizens to privacy over our property? I live in a rural canyon area outside a medium sized city and recreational drone operators are always snooping at “what’s behind the closed gate and line of trees.” I have a small farm with horses and chickens and a garden.. the drones do tend to upset the livestock.. any recourse??

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      Holly, there are laws in California that are aimed at privacy violations. See the text at the top of the page here for a general overview, and here are the specific regulations:

      https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=1708.8.&lawCode=CIV

      (a) A person is liable for physical invasion of privacy when the person knowingly enters onto the land or into the airspace above the land of another person without permission or otherwise commits a trespass in order to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity and the invasion occurs in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person.
      (b) A person is liable for constructive invasion of privacy when the person attempts to capture, in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person, any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity, through the use of any device, regardless of whether there is a physical trespass, if this image, sound recording, or other physical impression could not have been achieved without a trespass unless the device was used.
      (c) An assault or false imprisonment committed with the intent to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff is subject to subdivisions (d), (e), and (h).
      (d) A person who commits any act described in subdivision (a), (b), or (c) is liable for up to three times the amount of any general and special damages that are proximately caused by the violation of this section. This person may also be liable for punitive damages, subject to proof according to Section 3294. If the plaintiff proves that the invasion of privacy was committed for a commercial purpose, the person shall also be subject to disgorgement to the plaintiff of any proceeds or other consideration obtained as a result of the violation of this section. A person who comes within the description of this subdivision is also subject to a civil fine of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) and not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).

  14. Stacie Welcome

    I live in the San Bernardino Mountains we have had an issue with Southern California Edison -They have been up here within the last few years cutting trees with a completely destructive tendency removing Bee Hives and their sub contractors have been seen grinding up live baby birds in their grinding machines. They do this in the spring time which should be illegal and their are many photos of them cutting birds nests out of trees. They started the largest wildfire in So California History along with PGE. We have just received an email stating they are going to fly drones over our private property they have lied over many things including they law that they are supposed to leave trees alone if the lines are insulated or covered they are competely ignoring this law all for Greed and Corporate Interests. They need to not be allowed to fly their drones over our private property especially in the mountains where there is wildlife they are disturbing taking picture of wildlife and peoples private property they are on a power trip because no one is stopping them or PGE they are incompetent and are destroying what is left of Californias Bird Habitat and Wildlife Habitat and Our Old Growth trees including Dead Trees that contain Bee Hives they hire Biologists that only say Yes if they say No they hire another Biologist that says Yes. Who gave them all this power PGE and Edison they both started the largest wildfires in California History and Edison needs to be stopped from flying drones over the San Bernardino Mountain Communities close to National Forest where we and our Wildlife want and need our privacy. Please stop Edison from Flying Drones over Crestline, Lake Arrowhead , Twin Peaks and all of our national forest and mountain commmunities and do not let PGE do this either you must stop them they are ruining California Nature Urgent!!!

    1. Merlin at Drone Laws

      Stacie, we recommend you work with your neighbors and local legislators on this situation. We wish you the best

Leave a Comment

30 thoughts on “Drone Laws in California”

  1. Are there rules protecting listed wildlife from drone use? We have nesting Northern spotted owls on our land and are concerned that drone pilots entering their documented core area constitutes harassment, especially during reproductive season.

    Reply
    • Kate, we are not aware of any specific California regulation regarding drones and wildlife. Check with the state department responsible for wildlife regulations.

      Reply
  2. City of Carlsbad in San Diego County have specific muni codes to allow RC aircraft (sUAS) along part of the bluffs overlooking the ocean and also city parks.

    Reply
  3. Are you aware of any California regulation that prohibits commercial drone companies from hiring drone pilots as 1099 sub-contractors?

    Reply
    • We are not aware of this specifically applying to or exempting drone operations. There is a new regulation regarding the treatment of sub-contractors that would apply to all subcontractors. We don’t have enough details to cover that law here

      Reply
  4. I intend to use a drone in support of agricultural research. This is not a for-hire use, it is to produce images and video to give context and illustrate certain aspects of the research projects. No one will be billed for drone time or the images that are produced, but they will be included within reports that are a part of an annual service contract. Do I need a license of some sort to fly a small consumer drone for this purpose?

    Reply
  5. The freedom to fly a Drone over neighborhoods is an invasion of privacy regardless if they take photos etc. I have the right to lay and swim in the nude in my backyard. Yes, I have tall hedges, more than 6 feet tall, surrounding the entire perimeter. This was done for a reason. To have MHA be full privacy so no one can see in unless they violate the law. Now I have drone or drones that fly overhead an a daily basis. What I don’t understand is why drones are allowed in densely populated neighborhood ar all. They have the freedom to see in everyone’s private property rand that is ok? The violation is based on capturing images, pictures and or video? This does not protect me or anyone from invasion of privacy. How do I know what they are capturing and why does that matter. Why is this any different than someone peeping over the hedges? i have called local authority and nothing has been done. I’m not sure they know what to do anyway. so it’s incumbent on me to report a drone, follow up, and assert a reasonably complaint and or violation ? How do I know they are breaking the law? This law has to change. I do not accept that breaking the law of privacy is only enforced when images are captured.
    That’s like saying you can look over your neighbors hedges as long as you don’t take video or pictures. Why do the drones have so much freedom when it is no doubt violating privacy of the entire neighborhood? How about a law prohibiting flying drones in densely populated neighborhoods and require the pilot to drive to an established area to fly. Palm Springs banned all motorcycle and alike to ride freely in open desert land in the city limits. Citing public nuisance and environmental hazards. Meanwhile i have to be concerned that if I do choose to lie in the nude I am being watched regardless of content saved. Furthermore, by the time a complaint is answered my pictures/videos can be posted on the web and remain there permanently. I have photographed a drone overhead every night for past two weeks. Maybe it has been there longer and I haven’t noticed. I believe Privacy is more important for each of us than is being able to fly a drone wherever you want as long as you stay under 400 feet.

    Reply
    • Airspace is public property, and is regulated by the FAA.

      You do not have ownership of the airspace over your home or your backyard, therefore you do not have control of it and it is not an invasion of privacy to fly in the airspace over your home. You do not have control over helicopters flying over your airspace or other aircraft, and this goes for drones as well.

      Reply
  6. I’m looking into using a drone commercially for roof/gutter inspections for HOA’s. If we get hired by the HOA are we allowed to fly close to the homes to inspect the roofs and gutters without worrying about privacy concerns? Do we need to send out a notice to the residents that inspections will be occurring?

    Reply
    • The current regulations do not require homeowner approval of commercial drone flights, subject to operating safely and within the regulations (not violating homeowners privacy). If the HOA has established the inspection requirement, all homes would be governed by that requirement.

      Reply
  7. We live in the Sierra foothills, south of Placerville in an area of high wildfire risk. We know that drones can not be flown over an active fire after emergency responders have arrived and are actively working the fire. Can a drone be used under recreational rules to check out a fire that has just started prior to the arrival of emergency services to assess potential risk to our location and determine the exact location of the fire?

    Reply
    • John, sounds like a use case that makes sense, but we recommend you contact the local law enforcement/fire organizations to get a more accurate direction. Please let us know what you find out.

      Reply
    • Colleges and Universities may have drone regulations/restrictions. Check for local regulations before doing so

      Reply
  8. I have a neighbor who is beating/hurting his dog. My only proof as of now is the dog yelping and the owner screaming at the dog aswell as other neighbors statements hearing the same thing. My question is: if I keep my drone above my land and zoom in while this neighbor is in the act of hurting their dog can the footage I capture be used in a court of law and was it legally obtained?

    Thank you for your help here.

    Reply
  9. I’m being harassed by law enforcement drones 7 nights a week,they hover over my property line n I’ve caught them using thermal imaging to observe my family within our home, they also use smaller drones that have no lights n I’ve captured over 244 images n video of them staring at my family thru small cracks in our windows curtains. I’ve complained to FAA, Local law enforcement n nothing has been done to assist me in protecting my family’s rights privacy or safety , I’m thinking about sending my videos n photos to local news agencies to get community aware of their intrusive behaviors, I’m not a criminal,not on parole or probation, I’m also thinking of a civil lawsuit for their complete disregard of drone laws

    Reply
      • I appreciate the info. I respect law enforcement n there duty to investigate crimes committed in the area I live in, that being said I don’t think they should abuse their power n use drones as a tool to harass n provoke a negative response. My quality of life has been taken away n my families safety threatened. Who can I trust now to provide safety to my family if law enforcement is conducting such business practices, thank you for your input

        Reply
  10. recently i have a drone problem someone is flying there drone and hovering over my home and even trying to peep through my windows i have called the local police but they do nothing about it is there any law that prevents this

    Reply
    • It depends on where you are in California, the specific privacy laws in place, or restrictions on drone use. Please contact your local law enforcement.

      Reply
      • Contact Local law enforcement for what so they can tell you to notify FAA then FAA will tell you to Notify Local corrupt enforcement,Do we not see that the technology is being abused.This has been going on for 4 years the noise is so loud 24/7 you can feel it running through your head and body,They also have shared data with my employeer.It’s sick it really is we need to get these people help they need to be locked up they are committing criminal acts.You call this being surveillanced.Not when they are interfering with your messages in your phone your emails Your DMV Records we have a major problem it’s not the Drones it’s the Corrupt law enforcement and Government and people are to afraid to speak up.

        Reply
    • Where in CA do you live? In some places, flying a drone over your property is illegal.

      Please take pictures of the drone peeping and report to the local police.

      Reply
  11. Do we have any rights as private citizens to privacy over our property? I live in a rural canyon area outside a medium sized city and recreational drone operators are always snooping at “what’s behind the closed gate and line of trees.” I have a small farm with horses and chickens and a garden.. the drones do tend to upset the livestock.. any recourse??

    Reply
    • Holly, there are laws in California that are aimed at privacy violations. See the text at the top of the page here for a general overview, and here are the specific regulations:

      https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=1708.8.&lawCode=CIV

      (a) A person is liable for physical invasion of privacy when the person knowingly enters onto the land or into the airspace above the land of another person without permission or otherwise commits a trespass in order to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity and the invasion occurs in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person.
      (b) A person is liable for constructive invasion of privacy when the person attempts to capture, in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person, any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity, through the use of any device, regardless of whether there is a physical trespass, if this image, sound recording, or other physical impression could not have been achieved without a trespass unless the device was used.
      (c) An assault or false imprisonment committed with the intent to capture any type of visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of the plaintiff is subject to subdivisions (d), (e), and (h).
      (d) A person who commits any act described in subdivision (a), (b), or (c) is liable for up to three times the amount of any general and special damages that are proximately caused by the violation of this section. This person may also be liable for punitive damages, subject to proof according to Section 3294. If the plaintiff proves that the invasion of privacy was committed for a commercial purpose, the person shall also be subject to disgorgement to the plaintiff of any proceeds or other consideration obtained as a result of the violation of this section. A person who comes within the description of this subdivision is also subject to a civil fine of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) and not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000).

      Reply
  12. I live in the San Bernardino Mountains we have had an issue with Southern California Edison -They have been up here within the last few years cutting trees with a completely destructive tendency removing Bee Hives and their sub contractors have been seen grinding up live baby birds in their grinding machines. They do this in the spring time which should be illegal and their are many photos of them cutting birds nests out of trees. They started the largest wildfire in So California History along with PGE. We have just received an email stating they are going to fly drones over our private property they have lied over many things including they law that they are supposed to leave trees alone if the lines are insulated or covered they are competely ignoring this law all for Greed and Corporate Interests. They need to not be allowed to fly their drones over our private property especially in the mountains where there is wildlife they are disturbing taking picture of wildlife and peoples private property they are on a power trip because no one is stopping them or PGE they are incompetent and are destroying what is left of Californias Bird Habitat and Wildlife Habitat and Our Old Growth trees including Dead Trees that contain Bee Hives they hire Biologists that only say Yes if they say No they hire another Biologist that says Yes. Who gave them all this power PGE and Edison they both started the largest wildfires in California History and Edison needs to be stopped from flying drones over the San Bernardino Mountain Communities close to National Forest where we and our Wildlife want and need our privacy. Please stop Edison from Flying Drones over Crestline, Lake Arrowhead , Twin Peaks and all of our national forest and mountain commmunities and do not let PGE do this either you must stop them they are ruining California Nature Urgent!!!

    Reply

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