Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about how to read the Know B4UFly map. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.
I’ve been scanning B 4 U Fly and some of the forums for tips on where I can fly (legally) in Orange County and it looks like the abundance of helipads/airstrips makes the whole County a no drone zone. Any recommendations?
For new pilots, it can be extremely unclear where people can or can’t fly.
The best way to know whether your flight is legal in the eyes of the FAA — in Orange County (or anywhere!) is by checking the FAA’s website called Know Before You Fly. Know Before You Fly is a website initially founded by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, so you can assure the data on the site is accurate.
On that website, you’ll find the U.S. airspace map on where you can fly.
The great news —albeit perplexing thing — about flying as a hobbyist is you have far fewer restrictions than commercial pilots.
There are three things you need to pay attention to:
- You DO need to pay attention to airports. Drone community guidelines ask that recreational operators give notice for flights within 5 miles of an airport. You can give that notice to the air traffic control tower, simply by calling them.
- You also need to pay attention to temporary flight restrictions (TFRs). It is actually illegal to fly a drone that is under a TFR – which are typically enacted during natural disasters (don’t fly over fires) or for major political events, such as if the President is in town.
- Finally, you need to pay attention to prohibited airspace. Some of the most sensitive locations in the U.S. — including Disneyland — are prohibited airspace for the safety of the people underneath. Other common areas that are prohibited are the White House or military bases.
Beyond that, you just need to respect the rules of the place you are flying. National Parks have banned drones. And of course, private property owners have the right to set their own rules.
Luckily you aren’t legally bound by heliports. There are surprisingly many — so if you were — there would be so few places you could fly your drone! That being said, be vigilant and give right of way to helicopters (or better yet, land completely) if you see one approaching.
As far as Orange County specifically, you’re going to be mostly bound by Long Beach and John Wayne airports — taking out a huge chunk of Long Beach, Irvine and Newport Beach flights (unless you call the airport). You’re also out of luck to do flying through most of Anaheim; the red dot in the center of Anaheim is for the security of Disneyland.
That still leaves you with plenty of other great spots to fly. I had a blast flying early in the morning around Balboa Island. Irvine Lake is a popular spot for drone racers. Pretty much any park or open space that steers clear of people or buildings is going to work.