Unmanned Aircraft Systems—popularly known as drones—are increasingly common on our public lands. They can capture amazing views of the landscape and your group as you paddle down the river, providing elevated perspectives you can’t otherwise capture.
If you own a drone, you should already be familiar with the general law and FAA regulations governing the use of drones in the United States. In addition, there are a number of important rules that specifically apply to operating a drone in the national forest. Here are the most common restrictions you should know about, as it pertains to using a drone along the Lower Salt River:
- Must be flying solely for recreational or hobby purposes—meaning your photos or footage cannot be used for work or business, or for any commercial purposes in which you are compensated or seek to make money (you’ll need a permit for non-recreational uses).
- Must satisfy all FAA regulations, including being registered and labeled, and the operator must be appropriately certified.
- Must be flown within visual line-of-sight of the operator. Operating a drone from a first person view using the drone’s camera is prohibited.
- Flown at a maximum elevation of 400 feet above ground level.
- Cannot be flown over people.
- Cannot be flown over any developed recreational sites.
- Must obey all privacy laws.
- Flown in daylight only.
- Cannot be used to harass or frighten wildlife, or otherwise causing the animal stress.
- Cannot fly within, or over, any seasonal wildlife closure areas (near the Lower Salt River, this includes both bald eagle closures, including on the south side of the river across from Water Users).
- Cannot be flown near, or interfere with the flight path of, any manned aircraft, including helicopters.
- Cannot be flown near active wildfires or prescribed burns.
In addition to these rules, it’s also common courtesy (and one of the principles of Leave No Trace) to avoid disturbing other people’s outdoor experience. The constant noise of a nearby drone can interrupt the peaceful experience of paddling the river, especially since it can sound like an approaching swarm of bees. If you think you may be irritating others, take a break for a few minutes and allow them to pass down the river before resuming your flight.