Los Angles might be the entertainment capital of the world if you count it as part of Hollywood. But Southern California is also well known for its marvelous climate and soaring natural beauty.
All of these things make it ideal for flying drones, especially camera drones.
But of course, there are laws, regulations, and best practices to be concerned about.
To that end, we will discuss the rules you need to follow and the best spots in Los Angeles to fly drones. But first, let’s cover the legalities briefly.
LA County drone flight laws
- Drone flight is legal for both commercial and recreational purposes.
- No drone or model aircraft may be flown within 5 miles of an airport without permission.
- Drones may not be flown beyond the sight line of the pilot.
- Flight above 400 feet is prohibited.
- Flight closer than 25 feet to a person is prohibited except during takeoff and landing.
Take note that these rules may change without warning. Always check local laws before flying your drone.
The top 10 spots to fly drones in LA
There are loads of great places to fly drone aircraft in LA. So much that we only have time and energy to cover the best of them.
1. Lake Hollywood
GPS Coordinates: 26 0′ 57.2724 , 80 7′ 14.2608
With its rolling hills, visually pleasing dam, placid blue-green water, and a sweeping view of the city below, Lake Hollywood checks a lot of boxes. It was built in 1924 and holds 2.5 billion gallons of water. A paved road travels all around and through the reservoir, making getting around easy.
There’s ample opportunity to film the Los Angeles skyline with palm trees and infrastructure. Whether you’re flying for fun or looking for establishing shots for a film, Lake Hollywood is perfect.
2. Hermosa Beach Pier
GPS Coordinates: 33 51′ 41.40 , -118 24′ 13.68
This wooden structure, built in 1904, is long and narrow and stands alone in its location. That makes it great for visual purposes since the view is not obstructed by other objects in the background. It extends 1000 feet into the sea and has a somewhat stoic seafaring appeal to it, making it good for filmmaking purposes.
There are certain ordinances in place, so drone pilots are required to get a permit before flying their devices. There may be a waiting period, so the sooner you apply, the better.
3. Wilders Addition Park
GPS Coordinates: 33.70598 , -118.29199
Excellent for fun drone activities and especially useful for local establishing shot filmmaking, Wilders Addition Park is an excellent location. It is a piece of land encompassing a park, some residential, and some commercial zoning.
But it’s the striking ocean rock bluffs that make it stand out the most. There are dramatic sea cliffs, crashing waves, and plenty of them. There is also an interesting spot where bright patches of graffiti are visible from the air. Also, the sunsets are second to none.
4. Sepulveda Dam
GPS Coordinates: 34 09′ 59.55 , -118 28′ 21.32
This piece of infrastructure is an especially iconic spot in the Hollywood landscape. The bridge and mega-structure of the dam are visually striking and unique. The canals are a lot like the ones you see in Terminator 2, if they are not the very same ones.
Admittedly, there is very little of visual interest other than the dam and canals themselves. But there are plenty of interesting visuals nonetheless.
You might also enjoy doing maneuvers around the interesting structures that the bridge and dam compose.
5. Hollywood Hills
GPS Coordinates: 34 7′ 3.578 , 118 21′ 7.34
Needless to say, there is no piece of aerial photography done in Southern California that can be considered complete without an establishing shot of the Hollywood sign.
In addition to the world-famous letters on the hillside, there are rolling hills, cityscapes, lavish homes, and much more. Drone laws might be especially stiff here since there are plenty of rich people who want to protect their privacy. But you can probably get the permissions you need after jumping through a few hoops.
6. Simi Valley
GPS Coordinates: 34.269447 , -118.781479
One of the cool things about this spot is that the FAA has given blanket permission for drone pilots with commercial permits to fly over this area for the purpose of surveying roads, pipelines, and other equipment. So it might be easy to get permission if you promise to survey equipment.
The Simi Valley, interestingly, has been used to create more science fiction scenes set on other planets than any other location on Earth. This is because it is rocky, barren, and has lots of compelling mountain lines that run cross-ways to each other in interesting ways.
It’s also the closest area of its kind to Hollywood itself, and there are labor laws that make its proximity attractive to film studios.
7. MacArthur Park
GPS Coordinates: 34 03′ 18.60 , -118 16 23.40
There’s a small lake in the center of this location, and it makes a visually interesting juxtaposition to the parks, residential, and city areas all around it. There are plenty of LA skyline and other background shots to be had.
Like Venice Beach, it is also a great spot to film people at play. You’ll see skaters around the lake, joggers, picnickers, and more. Sometimes, there are interesting events at the lake. One such example is the exposition of large colored beach balls that nearly covered the entire surface of the lake. Strange, yes, but worth filming.
8. Apollo XI Field Airstrip
GPS Coordinates: 34.1739 , -118.4821
If you love to fly model aircraft, this is the best location in Los Angeles county for you. It’s just a small strip of runway in the middle of an otherwise uninteresting field. But it is frequented by all kinds of model aircraft enthusiasts. And it must be said that some of the model aircraft they fly are works of art in their own right.
So, if you want to get interesting shots of those devices, you might talk to their pilots and see if you can work together to create some images. If you are willing to share those images with them, they will probably be more than happy to agree.
9. Rose Bowl Stadium
GPS Coordinates: 34.1568 , -118.1672
Sports stadiums are always nice for filming people, interesting structures, sports, and more. The Rose Bowl Stadium is an outstanding example of a stadium that earns high marks on all of those points. Also, it is absolutely massive.
There are interesting parks and city locations all around it, for plenty of variety.
If you do choose to fly there, you will have to base your drone operations out of Lot H. Drone pilots are specifically permitted to fly their devices in and out of this location. Part of the reason is that it’s easy for law enforcement to check everyone for licenses and permits since they are all in one place. So if you choose to fly out of Lot H during a big event, you can expect to talk to police or FAA officials.
10. Venice Beach
GPS Coordinates: 37.28′ 47.79 , 22.26′ 59.399
Venice Beach is one of the most frequently filmed places in the world. Of course, there are many reasons for this. But the fact remains that it is a beautiful stretch of beach that is almost always covered in people having a wonderful time in revealing clothing.
If you get there early and establish a base of operations, you can enjoy a full day of flight and filming. If you get there late, be prepared to fight the crowds.