Can I Fly Drone in a National Forest? A Handy Guide


Are you planning on flying a drone in a national forest?

Before you take off, it’s important to know whether or not it’s legal to do so. The rules and regulations regarding drone flight can vary depending on the location, so it’s important to do your research beforehand.

In this article, I’ll answer the question: can you fly a drone in a national forest?

In short, the answer is YES! You can fly drones in a national forest, but there are some important considerations and regulations to keep in mind.

The laws around drone flight can be complex. So, I’ll also let you know about FAA regulations, security concerns, permissions needed, and penalties (if any) so that you’re fully informed.

Can I Fly Drone in a National Forest

FAA Regulations on Flying Drones in a National Forest

Even though it’s allowed to fly drones in a national forest, here are some FAA regulations that you need to keep in mind:

  1. Individuals and organizations flying drones for hobby or recreational purposes must avoid areas of National Forest System lands with Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) in place, such as wildfires, unless they have prior approval from the U.S. Forest Service.
  2. According to the FAA’s guidance on “Flights Over Charted U.S. Wildlife Refuges, Parks, and Forest Service Areas,” federal laws prohibit certain types of flight activity and/or provide altitude restrictions over designated Forest Service Areas. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are considered “mechanized” equipment and cannot take off and land in designated Wilderness on National Forest System lands.
  3. When operating a drone on National Forest Service (nfs) Lands, all Federal, State, and local laws as well as NFS regulations, orders, and special uses must be followed. This includes the prohibition against taking wildlife resources within a national forest without a permit.
  4. If a drone is equipped with a camera that can capture images of wild animals or their nests or dens, it is considered trapping equipment subject to regulation under the Lacey Act. The Forest Service requires that all such activities be conducted in accordance with state law where applicable, though this does not apply in states without restrictions on trapping.


Security Concerns

Flying a drone in a national forest comes with its own set of unique security concerns, which are worth considering before launching your drone. Here are some potential security concerns to keep in mind.

Security Concerns for Flying Drones in a National Forest

  1. Wildlife disturbance: Flying drones can disrupt the natural behavior of animals, leading to stress and potential harm to their well-being.
  2. Fire hazards: Drones may cause fires or make firefighting efforts more difficult in national forests, especially during dry seasons.
  3. Privacy invasion: Drones equipped with cameras can infringe on the privacy of visitors and park personnel within the national forest.
  4. Air traffic interference: Drones can cause collisions or near misses with other aircrafts, posing a risk to aviation safety.
  5. Illegal activities: Unauthorized drone use in national forests can lead to illegal activities, such as poaching or unauthorized surveillance.

Permissions and Permits

Although no specific approval or permit is required to fly your drone in a National Forest, it is crucial to follow all FAA rules and regulations, which are accessible through their website.

Be aware that local laws and ordinances within the National Forest’s boundaries may also apply. Some essential restrictions to follow include not flying over 400 feet above ground level (AGL), not flying higher than two miles away from an airport without contacting the operator, avoiding flying near manned aircraft, and not flying over large crowds.

It is always advisable to check with the local forest service office for more information about flying drones on National Forests.

Also check:


1. Can I Fly Drones in a National Forest if I am not a Licensed Drone Pilot?

No, you cannot fly a drone in a National Forest if you are not a licensed drone pilot. The U.S. Forest Service prohibits the use of drones for recreational purposes without proper authorization, as they may interfere with emergency response operations and disturb wildlife. To operate a drone within a National Forest, you must possess a valid Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate issued by the FAA and obtain special use authorization from the National Forest System. Failure to comply with these regulations may result in fines or penalties.

2. Who can Authorize the Use of Drones in a National Forest?

The use of drones in a National Forest can be authorized by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which is responsible for managing these protected lands. To obtain authorization, drone operators must apply for a Special Use Permit that outlines the specific purpose, location, and duration of drone use within the national forest. The USFS will review the application and determine whether to grant permission based on factors such as safety, environmental impact, and potential conflicts with other recreational activities or wildlife.

3. Can the Police Fly Drones in a National Forest?

Yes, the police can fly a drone in a National Forest under specific circumstances, such as search and rescue operations, law enforcement activities, or firefighting efforts. The use of drones by law enforcement or other public safety agencies is usually subject to obtaining the necessary permits and adhering to any regulations established by the specific National Forest and the Federal Aviation Administration.


In conclusion, before flying a drone in a national forest, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the appropriate resources and tools. Download the B4UFLY mobile app to easily find safe and legal flying locations.

Drone laws are subject to change, and information in this blog may become outdated; always consult official sources for the latest regulations.

And if you have a related query, kindly feel free to let me know in the comments.

Photo of author
Peter Karanja is a licensed drone pilot from Kenya, freelance writer and drone enthusiast. He has been using drones for land survey, GIS, and photography for the past three years. Being a drone user, he loves writing about drone applications, safety tips for using drones, and the best ways to get the most out of a drone.

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