The southern state of Georgia is home to more than 60 state parks. These parks run the gamut from mountainous regions to lakeside attractions and many feature historical monuments. You’d love to fly your drone in one or several of Georgia’s state parks.
Can you fly a drone in Georgia State Parks?
Flying a drone in Georgia State Parks is illegal unless you have a commercial film/photography permit from the park’s Division Director. If you were granted permission to use your drone, you’d have to follow all Georgia state and local drone laws as well as federal laws and FAA rules.
In this guide, we’ll unpack the commercial flight permit rules to help you determine if you’re eligible and provide a recap of Georgia’s drone flight laws so you can stay on the right side of the law when you fly!
Can you fly a drone in Georgia State Parks?
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources  regulates the state parks and historic sites throughout the Peach State. All regulations and rules are posted on their website as well as at site offices so there’s no excuse to miss them.
Here is the department’s policy on drone use in state parks:
“Drone operation is prohibited in Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites. However, occasionally, waivers are approved for professional commercial projects which may generate revenue or in other ways help promote the sites. In these cases, prior approval is required from the Division Director…Blanket requests will not be approved and drone use is not allowed over populated areas that may put park guests at risk.”
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
Those rules are quite clear. Recreational pilots will never be allowed to fly in Georgia State Parks due to the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s ruling.
Commercial pilots must have a permit, but not just any pilot will receive one. Your project has to in some way benefit Georgia State Parks, ideally financially, to be considered.
Stone Mountain Park
As one of the 60+ state parks in Georgia, we wanted to take a moment to discuss Stone Mountain Park separately, as it has its own local ordinance about drone use.
We talked about this ordinance in our article about Georgia drone laws. Passed in 2014, Section 4-113 prohibits airplanes, helicopters, and drones from being flown throughout the park.
» MORE: Drone Laws in Georgia
You may be able to receive flight permission from a chief executive officer at Stone Mountain Park, but otherwise, you can’t fly here.
Georgia State Park permitting – what you need to know
For those commercial pilots who believe they have a viable project, what permit do you even need and how do you begin to obtain that permit from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources?
The permit is a commercial film/photography permit, which you can apply for here. That form is from the Georgia State Parks website.
Various Georgia State Parks have been used to film everything from the hit television show Vampire Diaries to The Hunger Games movie, but that’s not all.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources also mentions that the park is frequently used for print advertisements, fashion shoots, music videos, documentaries, reality shows, live feeds, promotional videos, television commercials, feature films, and independent films.
If your project meets the description above, then as a commercial drone pilot, you might be permitted to use your drone at a Georgia State Park of your choosing.
Going back to the application, here’s the information you’re required to include:
- The project name and location(s)
- Your company address, phone number, and email address
- The phone numbers and email addresses of your production manager and location manager
- The type of production and your project’s intended use
- Production details, including how many people are on your production staff, whether you need on-site accommodations, and the number of personal cars, large trucks, semis, vans, camera cars, picture cars, motorhomes, and other vehicles
- Your production schedule, including how many days you’ll need to use a drone at the parks, the times you’ll use a drone, which days are dedicated to filming, and which days are wrap/restore days
- Whether your project will require parts of a park to close, need historic structures or artifacts, require access to restricted facilities, require special hours, need supervision, or possibly create liability issues
- If your project needs unique equipment and/or will use animals
If you do plan to use your drone for your project–which, reading this, we assume you are–you have to also include your FAA license number, the number of drones you’ll use, and your full name as part of the application.
Oh, and don’t forget the insurance. While the Georgia Department of Natural Resources do not mention how much money you need to have available for insurance, since you’re a drone pilot and UAVs are generally forbidden at Georgia State Parks, we’d say the more, the better.
Speaking of payments, you also have to pay a $200 processing fee regardless of whether your application is accepted.
You may be charged an additional location fee depending on “the scale and scope of each individual film project,” but no further information is available on how much that fee would be.
Georgia drone laws to obey when flying
Since the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for the most part does not want drones in its parks, if you’re granted permission to fly, you must make sure that you follow these federal, state, and local laws.
You must have an FAA license
Federally, commercial and recreational pilots alike must carry a current drone license as issued by the FAA to be eligible to fly a drone in Georgia and elsewhere in the United States.
Since recreational pilots cannot fly in Georgia State Parks, we’ll focus on the commercial license, which is the Remote Pilot License.
You’re eligible to apply for this drone license as soon as you’re 16 years old and feel you’re adequately prepared.
The Part 107 exam, which includes more than 50 multiple-choice questions, tests your full proficiency of FAA rules and flight guidelines.
You’re given more than two hours to take the test, and all questions must be completed by the time you’re done for them to count. You need to score at least 70 percent on the exam to pass.
You’ll soon thereafter receive your Remote Pilot Certificate in the mail, which is good for two years from the date you receive it.
Then you’ll have to take the FAA’s free online commercial license renewal exam, which is a lot easier to do. All the incorrect questions on the test are highlighted so you can change them before you submit your test.
Your drone has to be registered
Only recreational pilots get some leeway regarding registering their drones. The FAA requires that all commercial pilots register their drones for $5 per drone. The registration terms are for three years.
Stay out of cities and counties with laws against drones
Besides the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, when you delve more locally still, many cities, towns, and counties in Georgia have ordinances against drone flights.
In Conyers, you cannot launch or land a drone at the Georgia International House Park according to Section 11-1-2. – Prohibition on unmanned aircraft systems at Georgia International House Park in the city’s municipal law.
In Augusta, drones are similarly outlawed from operation in all of Richmond County unless you have a.) written word from the Augusta, Georgia Commission, and b.) FAA authorization. That’s According to Article 6, Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems/Drones, Section 1-3-44.
Keep your drone within your line of sight
As is the case when flying a drone in many other parts of the world, when using your drone in Georgia and especially its state parks, you must keep the drone within your visual line of sight at all times.
If you can’t naturally see your drone (including when wearing contacts or glasses), then you’re flying illegally. At that point, you could be asked to leave.
Do not fly higher than 400 feet
The standard altitude limit of 400 feet for commercial pilots applies in Georgia as well. At this height, you can still get some incredible overhead shots, so make sure you don’t get too carried away with your altitude.
Don’t fly your drone in inclement weather
Georgia is a beautiful, sunny state, but even it gets its share of bad weather. When the weather is rainy, foggy, or very windy, you should not use your drone.
Georgia State Parks prohibits all recreational drone flights and most commercial ones outside of the projects that will directly benefit the parks. You must apply for a commercial film permit to enter the parks with your drone.
If you are permitted to fly, remember to always follow all FAA guidelines and federal, state, and local laws. This will enable more Georgia commercial pilots to enjoy the beauty of the state parks here!
1. Georgia Department of Natural Resources (link)