Hollywood is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States bar none. What drone pilot wouldn’t dream of taking their own unique footage of the esteemed Hollywood sign?
Are drones even allowed in Tinseltown?
You can’t fly a drone in Hollywood, including near or around the famed Hollywood sign. Drones are allowed in other parts of Los Angeles but are required to follow federal, state, and local guidelines when flying.
Keep reading for more information so you can get your aspirations of flying a drone around the Hollywood sign in check.
We’ll even go over California’s most pertinent drone laws, so you won’t want to miss it!
Can you fly a drone in Hollywood, including the famous Hollywood sign?
We’ve all seen the Hollywood sign in countless films and television shows, but nothing beats seeing it in person with your own two eyes.
Well, except maybe for commemorating the occasion forever by taking a photo or video (or dozens) using your drone.
Unfortunately, you cannot do that. As we talked about here, drones are forbidden from flying around the famed Hollywood sign.
Why can’t you get too close? Well, for one, as we said before, the Hollywood sign is an incredibly popular tourist attraction.
Vacationing resource The Better Vacation  predicts that the sign might attract over 45 million visitors per year, which is no small feat!
Additionally, the City of Los Angeles knows how valuable the Hollywood sign is. By allowing drone pilots access to the sign, there’s always the risk that the letters could be damaged or even knocked down.
That’s not to say that the sign hasn’t been lovingly restored over the years, but the fewer repairs it needs, the better.
Can you fly a drone in Hollywood’s Griffith Park?
Okay, so you can’t fly your drone near the Hollywood sign. You figure that if the sign is so beloved that surely, you can see it from another vantage point in LA and fly your drone there.
There is indeed another part of the City of Angels where you can see the Hollywood sign, and that’s Griffith Park’s observatory.
Griffith Park is a Hollywood park that features the LA Zoo, the Greek Theatre, and equestrian trails besides the observatory.
The park and the Hollywood sign have one thing in common: drone pilots are outlawed from both.
It’s not only drone pilots in the case of Griffith Park (and the attached observatory). Pilots of any type of powered device cannot take to the skies within the parameters of the park.
Thus ends your plans to capture the Hollywood sign from a close vantage point. Maybe if you find a legal area to fly a good distance away and your drone camera has a really good zoom function, you can take some photos or videos.
Otherwise, you’ll have to capture the wonders of the sign sans drone.
Can you fly a drone elsewhere in Los Angeles?
You hadn’t realized that Hollywood had such stringent drone laws. It’s enough to make you nervous about the prospect of flying your drone elsewhere in Los Angeles.
Well, you needn’t be. Outside of Griffith Park and the Hollywood sign, Los Angeles warmly welcomes drone pilots who obey FAA guidelines and know the local rules.
If you’re visiting this famous part of Cali on vacation or for business, you can still make the most of your time here and capture some excellent drone footage. You just can’t film or fly near the Hollywood sign.
California drone flight laws to follow
For the rest of this article, as promised, we want to make California’s drone laws crystal clear so you don’t end up getting yourself into any legal snafus that can ruin your trip or vacation in a hurry!
Drone pilots must be licensed
As is the case throughout the rest of the United States, before you operate a drone in California, you must have the appropriate license as issued by the FAA.
Let’s start by talking about recreational pilots first. The license you need is called the TRUST certificate, with TRUST short for The Recreational UAS Safety Test.
You can sign up today to take the TRUST exam for free and online at home or wherever you have a solid Internet connection.
The test consists of fewer than 30 multiple-choice questions, and you can’t fail because all incorrect answers can be changed before you submit your exam.
Once you have the TRUST certificate, you don’t ever have to worry about it expiring, which sure is handy.
What about commercial pilots? You’re required to carry the Remote Pilot Certificate, another FAA license that separates commercial pilots from hobbyists.
You won’t take the TRUST exam but rather the Part 107 test, a rigorous, in-person exam with 50+ multiple-choice questions.
You must be confident in your answers; since the test isn’t online-based, there’s no way to tell what you got right or wrong at the time you take the test.
If you earn a score of at least 70 percent, then congrats, you’ll have your Remote Pilot Certificate mailed to you. You can always retest if needed, but each test attempt costs money.
The Remote Pilot Certificate expires within two years so you don’t get lax on your knowledge of FAA guidelines. When your license nears expiry, you can take a free online FAA license renewal test.
The test requires you to answer all questions perfectly to pass, but you can see wrong answers as you take the test and change them.
Drone pilots must register their drones
Before you book your flight to Los Angeles, make sure your drone is registered.
Recreational pilots only have to register drones that weigh more than 0.55 pounds. When you register your drone with the FAA, the registration lasts for three years.
Flying in state parks is strictly forbidden
California’s state parks are some of the most breathtaking on the entire planet, but drones are prohibited from entering per rules established by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
The agency believes that drones can disturb wildlife, disrupt human peace and quiet, and possibly destroy plants.
Do not fly near Orange Coast beaches
According to PO 925-19-32, a 2019 California state law, drones cannot be flown, launched, or landed in Orange Coast, including at Bolsa Chica State Beach, Huntington State Beach, Corona del Mar State Beach, Crystal Cove State Park, Doheny State Beach, San Clemente State Beach, and San Onofre State Beach.
Keep your drone out of wilderness areas, cultural preserves, and natural preserves
The California Department of Parks and Recreation also cracks down on drones flying in wilderness areas, cultural preserves, and natural preserves.
In Cal. Code Regs. Title 14, §4351, all motorized equipment is illegal around the above areas.
Do not use your drone for surveillance or privacy-violating purposes
The same California state law also strictly prohibits drone pilots from surveilling any part of California using a UAV.
On top of that, you cannot photograph anyone in an area where they should have a reasonable expectation of privacy unless you get the person’s express permission first.
Avoid flying near sensitive property and infrastructure
Throughout California, Cal. Code Regs. Title 14, §4351 makes it illegal for pilots to fly in the vicinity of what’s deemed as sensitive property and infrastructure.
That includes power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, and congested roadways.
You’ll certainly see a lot of those when touring California, especially LA!
Only fly if your drone weighs less than 55 pounds
Federal drone law also makes it illegal to take to the skies if your drone is heavier than 55 pounds. Check your payload before ascending, as if your payload pushes your drone over the weight limit, that counts as well!
Avoid flying near crowds and stadiums
In Cal. Code Regs. Title 14, §4351, it’s explicitly clear that pilots cannot commandeer a drone over large crowds, including in stadiums and arenas.
Do not use your drone in inclement weather
When high winds blow through or any conditions reduce your visibility, you should not fly your drone in California (or elsewhere in the US, for that matter!).
For one, it’s illegal. On top of that, it’s also dangerous. You can easily lose sight of your drone, and if not, then you might struggle to control the UAV as you fight against Mother Nature.
Flying in inclement weather is a great way to end up with a damaged or broken drone! It’s simply not worth it.
Keep your drone within your visual line of sight
Can you see your drone in front of you? As long as you can, then you’re in the clear when flying.
If your drone begins to fly at a distance that you can’t see it, whether with your naked eye or when wearing glasses or contacts, then it’s outside of your visual line of sight.
Do not fly your drone over 400 feet
Your drone must also not surpass altitudes of 400 feet when flying in Los Angeles and other parts of the US.
Stay at least five feet from an airport
In California, you must keep your drone five feet away from any airports, and manned aircraft should always get the right of way.
While you can fly a drone in Los Angeles, you’re not permitted to get too close to the Hollywood sign, nor can you enter Griffith Park with your drone for closer views of the sign.
When operating a drone in LA, always have a license, fly within 400 feet, and keep your drone in your visual line of sight!
1. The Better Vacation (link)