Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about where you can fly drones in Orange County. 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 B4UFly.
B4UFLY is an application from the Federal Aviation Administration made in partnership with Aloft, the company formerly known as Kittyhawk, that helps show pilots important information including where they can and cannot fly with interactive maps. The B4UFLY app is available to download for free at the App Store for iOS and Google Play store for Android. There’s also a handy desktop version.
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 by calling them. Or perhaps even easier, apply for LAANC. LAANC is an automated system that allows drone pilots to request to fly below 400 feet in controlled airspace that isn’t necessarily high-risk, such as in some areas around airports.
- 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.
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 get that LAANC approval or 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.