The great state of Florida has many natural wonders, and perhaps none are more prevalent than across its 175 state parks. If you’re soon visiting Florida with your drone, then you’ll naturally want to explore the 800,000 acres that these state parks comprise.
Are drones allowed in Florida State Parks?
Florida State Parks does not permit pilots to launch, land, or operate a drone unless a park happens to have its own “designated landing facility” or your life is in danger. Reviewing natural disaster areas via drone is often allowed, but mostly by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
In this article, we’ll elaborate further on the rules above as well as the potential punishments you can face for flying in an undesignated area, so make sure you check it out!
Can you fly a drone in Florida’s State Parks?
Florida State Parks are managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. According to the parks usage policy , in Section 1.5, drones are not allowed in the parks.
Here is the statement in full on flying drones.
“Launching and/or landing a drone is prohibited within Florida State Parks except in very rare circumstances. The portion of the Florida Administrative Code that governs the operation of Florida State Parks (Chapter 62D-2.014, F.A.C.) states:
(15) Aircraft. No person operating or responsible for any aircraft, glider, balloon, parachute or other aerial apparatus shall cause any such apparatus to take off from or land in any park except in an emergency when human life is endangered or when a designated landing facility may exist on park property.”
You can read the Florida Administrative Code & Florida Administrative Register in full here.
While it’s true that Chapter 62D-2.014, F.A.C. does not mention drones by name in its policy on aircraft, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection clarifies that they count “drones in the category of ‘other aerial apparatus.’”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection also makes it clear that at current they don’t have any “guest-accessible landing facilities in any Florida state park.”
Thus, while you would theoretically be allowed to use those landing facilities if they existed, they don’t, making that a moot point.
The only times that you’d ever be allowed to use a drone in a Florida State Park is if your life was at risk by not landing or launching the drone in the vicinity.
The parks otherwise do allow for drone use except on “very limited occasions” for rescuing purposes or for surveying the parklands after a natural disaster without putting human lives at risk.
Why can’t you fly drones in Florida State Parks?
It’s definitely a bummer to learn that you can’t fly your drone inside any designated Florida State Parks.
If you’ve read our blog, you’ll see that across the United States, the overarching opinion is that drones don’t belong in state parks, but some states do have differing policies, of course.
Why is it then that you can’t operate your UAV in Florida State Parks?
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection explains as much on its website. The organization’s main purpose is “the preservation of natural resources.”
According to the department’s observations, when birds see drones, they often perceive the device as a predator, thinking the drone is alive. Birds will then leave habitats that should have been perfect environments for them.
More so, if a bird has started a nest and later sees a drone, the bird could abandon the nest for good, which will almost assuredly lead to the death of any hatchlings.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection considers its park locations to “be sanctuaries for our native wildlife” and do not want to see drones interfere with the behaviors and lives of that wildlife in the way that has happened elsewhere.
How do you find Florida State Parks?
As we touched on in the intro, Florida has more than 170 state parks. Many of them are thousands of acres apiece, so you don’t want accidentally encroach on land where you shouldn’t be.
How do you find Florida State Parks?
The full list of parks happens to be on the Florida State Parks website here. If you know the name of a park in Florida but you’re not sure if it’s a public park, national park, or state park, you can search for it using the Florida State Parks website.
You can also divide each of the 175 Florida State Parks by criteria such as wilderness, trails, springs, lakes and rivers, culture and history, geological, gardens, and beaches.
The Florida State Parks website lists the address of almost every park, and if you click on any park on the list, you can read more information and see photos.
This page is mostly designed for people visiting Florida State Parks sans drone, so no matter how inviting the verbiage or photos of the various parks may seem, don’t forget that your drone is still off-limits!
What if you get caught flying a drone in one of Florida’s State Parks? What happens?
There are, admittedly, a lot of Florida State Parks, and keeping track of which is which can sometimes be difficult. What happens if you accidentally fly out of bounds and land in one of the parks?
Unless it’s a life-threatening situation where you absolutely had to launch or land your drone there, then you’re not supposed to be there and can be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
We did some deep digging and were unable to find any specifics on what the punishment(s) might entail but based on what we know other states to do when flying a drone in a forbidden area, we surmise you could face these consequences.
At the very, very least, you would be contacted by a park ranger or park representative and asked to stop flying your drone immediately.
If you comply in a situation like this and don’t violate the rules for the rest of the day, then it’s no harm, no foul. You might want to put your drone in your car just so you don’t get called out for having it.
Oh, and of course, make sure to remember to keep your drone out of Florida State Parks going forward.
It’s at the discretion of every park ranger or park representative across the more than 150 Florida State Parks as to whether you’ll solely be warned to stop using your drone or if your UAV will be taken from you.
Considering how stringent the policy is and why the Florida Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t want drones in Florida State Parks, we’d say drone confiscation is decently likely.
If your drone is taken from you, there’d be a potential appeals process you could go through, but whether you’d ever see your drone again is unclear.
For those who are only traveling through Florida and don’t even call this southern, sunny state home, it might be best to just cut your losses and use this as a painful reminder not to fly in state parks that disallow it.
Most drone crimes are punishable by fines.
The range of these fines varies, with some as little as $100, others still $500, and yet more fines over $1,000. Some fines for drone crimes are even in the five figures, although your crime must usually be deemed quite egregious for that to be the case.
So to recap, you could potentially lose your drone as well as have to pay a hefty fine on top of that. Already, you can see how flying in a Florida State Park or any forbidden area simply isn’t worth it.
We’re not finished yet, of course!
In addition to the fines, or separate from them, you could face time behind bars for flying your drone in a Florida State Park.
How long jail sentences are for drone crimes again varies. You may spend as little as 30 days in jail or up to six months or longer.
Barred from Florida State Parks
Finally, you could find yourself outlawed from visiting all Florida State Parks in the future, whether you bring your drone or not, and even if your drone crime only occurred in one state park.
Considering the sheer amount of land that all 175 Florida State Parks take up, that’s a lot of Florida you’d be missing out on!
Can you fly your drone just outside of Florida State Parks?
You have one more question. What if you fly your drone outside of a Florida State Park but never cross the threshold into the park? Is that okay?
Usually, we would say yes, but in the state of Florida, it’s a little dicey. Here’s why.
Besides overseeing the 175 state parks throughout Florida, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection also manages four million acres of submerged and coastal lands and over 12 million acres of public lands.
You could venture outside of a Florida State Park and right onto another piece of land managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
It’s best not to risk it and fly in areas designated for drones only!
Florida has more than 170 state parks and drone pilots are strictly outlawed from flying in them all except in life-threatening situations that call for launching or landing a UAV.
Since the Florida Department of Environmental Protection manages so much land, it’s best to be ultra-cautious when you fly!
1. Activity Questions | Florida State Parks (link)