Drones can be a fun way to capture aerial photography in some of Washington's more scenic landscapes, but there are some rules on where they're allowed to fly. Take a look at the tips below to ensure you have a safe and courteous flight before lifting off.
1. Register your drone. As of Dec. 21, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration is requiring all owners of unmanned aircraft, drones, models and RC aircraft weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds to register online before flying. The registration cost is $5. Get more info and register today.
Washington State Parks and national forests do not currently have any policies in place regarding drones, but FAA rules do apply whenever you're in flight no matter where you take off and land. If you're not sure you can fly a drone somewhere be sure to give the nearest ranger station a call to check.
For hikes closer to urban areas, drones are prohibited near airports, stadiums, etc. Get more info on where to avoid here.
3. Be aware of your surroundings. Be sure that you can recover your drone wherever it's flying in the event of a crash. Avoid sensitive areas that are in rehabilitation or areas where recovering a drone would not be possible due to safety concerns like canyons, waterfalls, rivers and lakes.
4. Avoid wildlife. Because drones can stress animals it's best to give them plenty of space. Try to give animals a 200-yard distance so they aren't disturbed. If a drone startles an animal, it may force it to run from cover or expose itself to predators. As you're flying, try to anticipate where animals might be, and try to avoid those areas.
5. Stay clear of wildfires. As tempting as it might be to get an overhead shot of a wildfire in action, drones can, and have, caused major safety concerns to wildfire crews and cause interruptions which may allow the fire to spread. Firefighters are asking that drones be kept well away from any active fire areas to ensure that crews can do their job safely and effectively. If you're flying, they can't.
6. Be courteous of other trail users. Drones aren't for everyone. Be courteous to other hikers and don't approach them with your drone. Remember that drones make noise and may be impacting someone else's wilderness experience.
7. Practice Leave No Trace. Proper Leave No Trace practices are important both when hiking and flying a drone in the outdoors.
Get more tips and guidelines before taking flight.