Some of us bought our first drone to realize it doesn’t take off. Most of the time, it isn’t a technical issue but the location.
Where can you fly a drone in the United States?
Airspace divides into six zones in the US, and Class G is the only airspace where a drone can fly up to 400 feet above ground level without asking for permission.
In this article, we’ll explore common questions about this tricky topic. After reading, you’ll be confident about where to fly your drone in the US.
Where can I fly my drone in the US?
The FAA regulates US airspace, classifying it into six zones.
Class G airspace is a vast zone where you can fly your drone from ground level up to 400 feet.
If you want to go higher, find a structure like a communication tower. Go above it, and fly up to 400 feet above that structure.
Class B, C, and D are airport airspaces where you can’t fly without special authorization.
Class E airspace also requires authorization.
If Class E airspace surrounds an airport, or the airspace starts at ground level, you need special clearance to fly there.
You can fly without trouble if the airspace starts at 400, 700, or 1,200 feet, where Class G airspace ends.
What can happen if I fly my drone in a zone I’m not allowed to?
Class G airspace is uncontrolled but can have controlled zones, like parks where masses congregate.
Also, Class E airspace becomes uncontrolled when you fly from Class G airspace.
The rest of the airspace is controlled.
Flying into controlled airspace without authorization has two consequences.
Technically speaking, drones with GPS modules will force a landing or lose control when they sense these airspaces. You won’t have this issue if your drone lacks GPS.
Any drone that flies into controlled airspace without ATC clearance becomes a hazard to US airspace operational safety.
You’re committing a crime punishable by fines or even jail.
Remote ID and your drone
Since September 16, 2023, all commercial drones must have a Remote ID module installed from the factory or as an external device for older drones.
Remote ID sends real-time information about the drone and its pilot to the FAA, which knows your drone’s position.
A drone with a working Remote ID module can fly in unrestricted areas without authorization and in restricted airspace with the appropriate clearance from the ATC.
Drones without a Remote ID module can fly in fixed sites and FAA-Recognized Identification Areas or FRIAs.
These zones have boundaries to fly without broadcasting your location data.
You can get fined if you go out of this zone.
How to fly a drone in the US safely
Pilots of manned aircraft receive extensive training on how to read charts and NOTAMs.
Regular citizens without too much aviation experience can find these charts tricky.
Thanks to technology, you don’t need extensive training in aviation to fly your drone safely in the US.
Try one of these apps instead.
B4UFLY: Recreational flying
The FAA designed an app with charts at your disposal called B4UFLY.
You only have to tap the screen on the specific map area you desire to fly.
Then the app shows you any restrictions and if you can fly with or without prior authorization.
B4UFLY is handy, as it’s specific to the US.
Also, the app tells you why you can’t fly a drone in an area. If you can fly there, submit the required approval through the app.
Aloft: Commercial flying
The beauty of Aloft is that it works on mobile and desktop, compared to B4UFLY, which is only available on Android and iOS devices.
This app is a partnership between the company formerly known as Kittyhawk and the FAA.
It’s the best way to get LAANC approval in the US.
Although B4UFLY and Aloft give you almost everything you need to seamlessly fly in the US, each state has its own rules.
Here is a link to our collection of drone laws in the US. Scroll down to your state, select it, and begin reading.
» MORE: Drone Laws in the United States
Can I lawfully fly my drone in the US?
You can lawfully fly a drone in the US by following FAA and local regulations.
Be aware that the rules differ for recreational and commercial use.
You must follow FAR Title 49 Chapter 44809 for recreational purposes.
This regulation states that you can lawfully fly a drone in the US within Class G airspace up to 400 feet and in other airspaces with prior approval from the ATC with B4UFLY or Aloft.
Commercial pilots must follow FAR Part 107 rules.
This regulation requires you to certify as a commercial drone pilot and register your drone.
Where can I fly my drone legally?
You can fly your drone legally in almost all uncontrolled airspace without authorization and in special uncontrolled airspaces like parks where people congregate, along with controlled airspaces with previous clearance from the nearest ATC.
However, there are zones that civil aviation authorities specify as restricted and prohibited.
You must avoid flying in those airspaces.
Military or governmental entities own them, so flying there can get dangerous.
For example, your drone can get shot down, or you can lose the drone signal due to strong signal jammers.
Are restricted zones always restricted?
It depends on the zone, but that’s the case most often.
The entities that govern these restricted zones provide statuses you can check on apps like B4UFLY and Aloft.
Are there laws about places I cannot fly in the US?
The FAA issues Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR), which are Notices to Airmen (NOTAM).
These regulations notify you about prohibitions and allowances in US airspace.
Review the TFRs of the area you want to fly your drone.
The easiest and fastest way to do it is with the B4UFLY and Aloft apps.
These apps collect this information from the FAA and publish it live on their maps as boundaries.
You will see the restrictions once you tap or click in that area for information.
However, there are airspaces that you can’t fly into, no matter what, like nuclear stations or naval bases.
How do I fly a drone in the US as a non-resident?
You must comply with FAA rules to fly a drone as a non-resident.
The rules depend on if you intend to fly the drone recreationally or commercially.
Recreational pilots must comply with FAR Title 49 Chapter 44809. Commercial pilots must stick to FAR Part 107 rules.
Ultimately, you must register your drone for the required activity before flying unless you intend to fly a drone like the DJI Mini 3 or Autel Evo+ that weighs less than 250 grams.
The FAA exempts you from registering those drones for recreational purposes.
What rules/laws do I have to follow when I fly my drone in the US?
Pilots must fly up to 400 feet above ground level in Class G airspace without surpassing 100 mph.
You must first submit authorization through B4UFLY or Aloft to fly in controlled airspace, such as near an airport.
Also, you must avoid flying at night unless your drone has the required lighting.
FAA UAS Facility Maps (UASFMS) – What you need to know
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and civil aviation authorities, such as FAA, divide airspace to represent the max flight ceilings.
FAA UAS Facility Maps help you understand where you can fly around airports.
How to use FAA UAS Facility Maps
Aloft allows you to check UAS Facility Maps and get authorization from LAANC with a few screen taps.
You don’t need to access a specific section of the app; only check the airport you want to fly around and follow the steps to get authorization.
However, getting the authorization on the same day you apply is unlikely.
Here is a link with a complete step-by-step guide to successfully achieving LAANC authorization through Aloft.
For DJI users
DJI is a pioneer in drone aviation safety.
That’s why they have a system to get LAANC clearance for controlled airspace.
This system is also handy to know if you can legally fly your drone in a particular zone.
You can get started with DJI mobile apps such as DJI GO and DJI Fly.
Once you click the map on one of the DJI apps, it will display a map with boundaries of different colors.
By tapping any place on the map, the app tells you if you can fly with or without authorization.
If you need clearance, the app guides you on how to get it.
Do you want to become a pro at unlocking these geofenced zones? Don’t miss the following article:
Can you fly drones indoors?
You can fly your drone indoors but consider two factors first.
First, if your drone has a GPS module, it won’t start during an indoor flight in controlled airspace.
Let’s say you live near an airport.
You still need authorization, as the GPS module doesn’t know you’re inside a facility or house.
Some drones have functions to stop or bypass obstacles, but it’s a high-end feature only available for pricy drones.
Other drones come with helpful accessories, like propeller guards, that absorb shock when hitting objects.
If it hits a wall, you can fly less worried about damaging your drone.
Do I have to take a test to fly a drone?
The short answer is yes, whether for recreational or commercial purposes.
The commercial drone exam is called the Part 107 test, and the recreational test is the TRUST exam.
The Part 107 exam is more difficult because you won’t see incorrect answers as you go, so you must know your stuff.
Check out our favorite Part 107 online test prep courses here to study up.
Do I need training to fly a drone?
You don’t need training to fly a drone, per se, but if you can get it, it will prevent you from making mistakes and damaging your drone.
Let’s assume you want to become a roof inspector.
Training yourself with an expert in the topic will help you gain confidence faster as the expert gives you hints, tells you things to avoid, and offers advice on doing the job efficiently.
Don’t miss our DroneSchool to learn drone photography, cinematography, and industry basics.
Where can you legally fly a drone in the US? FAQ
To summarize, you can legally fly your drone in the US in uncontrolled and controlled airspace.
Most uncontrolled airspace doesn’t require authorization, while controlled airspace always does.
Restricted and prohibited airspaces are also controlled, so you must stay alert and avoid taking off or flying into those zones.
Is it legal to fly a drone in my area?
Along with the controlled, restricted, and prohibited airspaces rules, you must avoid flying low on private property.
You will break aviation and private privacy rules.
Also, the property owner can catch your drone flying low and assume you’re spying on them.
However, you can legally fly low on private property if the owner permits you.
You can fly your drone legally almost everywhere with the required authorization.
For controlled, restricted, and temporary prohibited zones, you get clearance with the B4UFLY and Aloft apps.
Can I fly my drone at night in the US?
You can with the required equipment and allowance.
Your drone must have a set of anti-collision lights.
These lights must strobe between 40 to 100 times per minute and be visible up to three statute miles.
Most drone accessories manufacturers sell lights to comply with FAA regulations.
Anti-collision drone lights come in red, green, and white.
You can install them near your drone’s positioning lights.
The lights must weigh little to avoid balance issues due to the added weight.
How high can you fly a drone without FAA approval?
You should only fly 400 feet from ground level in Class G airspace, but you can go higher with approval.
For example, you see a tall structure, like a communication tower 600 feet above ground level.
If it’s in Class G airspace, you can fly up to 400 feet above that tower. In some conditions, you can fly up to 1,000 feet.
But what if that now means entering Class E airspace?
Don’t panic. With the rule exemption, you can fly into Class E airspace from Class G airspace.
Be aware that your drone must be within a 400-foot radius of the structure to fly above it without breaking FAA regulations.
How do you find no-fly zones for drones?
Try using the B4UFLY app. No-fly zones appear in red.
Aloft is handy for international pilots.