Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in San Francisco
FAA Drone Website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/
California State Laws – Text Search of California Laws
Updated March 31, 2022
UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in San Francisco
Drone operation in San Francisco is broadly governed by The Federal USA agency responsible for drone safety, the FAA. Click here for details on FAA USA Drone Laws
The highlights of San Francisco UAS regulations are enumerated below.
Can you fly a drone in San Francisco?
Drones are allowed in San Francisco for recreational and commercial use, subject to FAA regulations and flight controls put in place by local governments. Read on for details.
Specific additional San Francisco Drone Laws
This code prohibits drone operations in San Francisco’s metropolis parks without prior permission of the Recreation & Park Department.
Currently, the National Park Service (NPS) prohibits drones at national parks which include the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Mateo, San Francisco, and Marin counties; Rosie the Riveter grounds in East Bay, Fort Point, Presidio, Alcatraz Island, and the Maritime in San Francisco as well as Point Reyes and Muir Woods in North Bay.
Changes Coming in the Future
California State Legislature has taken up and is considering a number of proposed bills. We highly recommend checking with the local jurisdiction for the latest information.
Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in San Francisco
If you have a small drone that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly recreationally by following the Drone Laws in the USA defined by FAA Part 107 guidelines, however, San Francisco has specific restrictions listed below.
Recreational drone operations in San Francisco are approved under FAA Part 107 but restricted in San Francisco as per local rules. Please check the specific city and state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.
Following these rules will keep you and your drone safe and will help keep the airspace available to everyone.
- Fly only for recreational purposes (enjoyment).
- Follow the safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community Based Organization (CBO). Note: We have not yet begun officially recognizing CBOs. Recreational flyers should follow the safety guidelines of existing aeromodelling organizations or use the FAA-provided safety guidelines per Advisory Circular 91-57B.
- Keep your drone within the visual line of sight or use a co-located visual observer (physically next to) and in direct communication with you.
- Give way to and do not interfere with crewed aircraft.
- Fly at or below 400′ in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) with prior authorization by using LAANC or DroneZone.
- Fly at or below 400 feet in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace. Note: Drone flights may be prohibited in certain airspace or may require FAA authorization. A drone pilot can find navigable airspace, other Classes of airspace, and flying restrictions on our B4UFLY app or the UAS Facility Maps webpage.
- Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage.
- Have a current registration, mark (PDF) your drones on the outside with the registration number, and carry proof of registration with you. For recreational flyers, the FAA does not require you to register or mark a drone which weighs less than 0.55 lbs (250 grams).
- Do not dangerously operate your drone. For example:
- Do not interfere with emergency response or law enforcement activities.
- Do not fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Avoid flying near or over critical infrastructure.
Recreational drone pilots should know that if they intentionally violate any of these safety requirements and/or operate their drone flight carelessly or recklessly, they could be liable for criminal and/or civil penalties.
Hobbyist rules in California Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
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.
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.
Notes for operating Commercial Drone Services in San Francisco
If you have a small unmanned aircraft 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, however, San Francisco Drone Laws have specific restrictions listed below.
Commercial drone operations in CA State are approved under the FAA Part 107 but restricted in San Francisco as per local rules. Please check the specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.
There are three main steps drone owners must follow To fly under Part 107 rules:
Step 1: Learn the Rules
- Make sure you understand what is and is not allowed under Part 107 rules. Review a summary of the Part 107 rules (PDF). Still unsure if Part 107 rules work for you and your intended UAS operation? Check the FAA user identification tool.
- Some operations are not covered by Part 107 and will require a waiver. Here are some common examples of Part 107 sections that are subject to waiver:
- Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft (§ 107.25) *
- Daylight operation (§ 107.29)
- 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 people (§ 107.39)
- Operation in certain airspace (§ 107.41)
- Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft (§ 107.51)
- *The FAA will not waive this section to allow the carriage of property of another by aircraft for compensation or hire.
- If your operation will require a waiver, read about the Part 107 Waiver application process.
- Commercial Drone Pilots should avoid flying near airports because it is difficult for manned aircraft to see and avoid a drone while flying. Remember that the UAS operator must avoid crewed aircraft and are responsible for any safety hazard their drone creates in an airport environment. Read more about flying near airports.
Step 2: Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by Passing the Knowledge Test
- To be eligible to get your Drone License (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
- Review the entire process to get your Drone License or Remote Pilot Certificate.
- Study for the Knowledge Test by reviewing the Test Prep materials provided by the FAA.
- Obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) by creating an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile before registering for a knowledge test.
- Schedule an appointment to take the Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.
- Once you’ve passed your test, complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA)*
- You are now eligible to operate as a commercial drone pilot
Step 3: Register your drone with the FAA
- 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.
- Visit dronezone.faa.gov and select “Fly sUAS under Part 107” to create an account and register your drone.
- Once you’ve registered, mark your drone (PDF) with your registration number if it gets lost or stolen.
Commercial rules in Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
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.)
Drones may prove a valuable tool for scientific research and surveys. The operation of a drone for research purposes requires approval from the FAA. Before operating a drone for research purposes within a state park, please submit a copy of your FAA authorization to the appropriate State Park District(s). California State Parks requires a scientific collection permit (DPR 65) for any scientific research and surveys within a State Park.
Public Agency Drones:
The FAA requires public entities to obtain a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to operate public aircraft. Before operating a drone for governmental purposes within a state park, please submit a copy of your COA to the appropriate State Park District(s).
Useful published information on flying drones in San Francisco
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 San Francisco 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
NOTE: 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 aircraft, Remote controlled aircraft, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.
Traveling with a Drone?
Click here to read our Comprehensive Guide For Traveling With A Drone
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