Tampa, a city on the Gulf Coast, is known for its Spanish and Cuban-influenced Ybor City with nightlife and dining, its rich culture, and its business hub.
The city also has museums, zoos, beaches, and sports galore. You’re eager to experience everything Tampa has to offer with your drone.
Can you fly a drone in Tampa?
You can fly a drone in Tampa, although not over or on the grounds of the University of Tampa. The best places to use a drone in this city include Sulphur Springs Tower, Dunedin Causeway, and McKay Bay.
This guide will lay out all the rules for operating a drone in Tampa, including recommendations on where to fly, a list of places that are off-limits, and a recap of the state’s pertinent drone laws.
You won’t want to miss it!
Can you fly a drone in Tampa?
The FAA establishes the drone usage rules in Florida, which permit drones throughout the state, including Tampa.
Between federal, state, and local laws, let’s take a look at the places you cannot legally take a drone here.
The University of Tampa
Many college campuses prohibit drone usage on or around campus grounds to maintain the peace and privacy of students and staff.
The University of Tampa follows the same policy.
Since 2015, the college has banned drones on campus unless the public or university community members have permission and a contract permitting drone use.
This is according to Section 16-36 of the City of Tampa City Ordinance, which states that:
“No person shall take off, launch, ascend, or descend any aircraft, glider, balloon, model airplane, or parachute in or upon any department managed land without contractual authority or an approved facility rental application from the department.”
As is the case throughout the US, you cannot use your drone within five nautical miles of any airports throughout Tampa.
Tampa International Airport is the big one, but stay abreast of these airports when planning your drone adventures in Tampa:
- St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport
- Tampa Executive Airport
- Peter O. Knight Airport
Just as you can’t fly a drone within five nautical miles of an airport, the same rule applies to military bases in and around Tampa.
MacDill Air Force Base is the main military base in this coastal city.
Florida Administrative Code 40C-9.320 states that “all-terrain, off-road, or other motorized vehicles” must have a Special Use Authorization before operating on Florida District Lands, including state parks.
Make sure you keep your distance from the following state parks:
- Skyway Fishing Pier State Park in St. Petersburg
- Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin
- Ybor City Museum State Park in Tampa
- Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin
- Egmont Key State Park in St. Petersburg
The 6 best places to fly a drone in Tampa
Now that we’ve discussed the parts of Tampa you must avoid when operating your drone, let’s delve into the places where you’re allowed to go, as there are plenty of them!
1. Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park
In bustling downtown Tampa, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is an eight-acre park that’s a close walk on foot to the Rivergate Tower, Glazer Children’s Museum, Tampa Museum of Art, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, and Tampa Riverwalk.
Although drones are prohibited in those locales, you can explore the waterfront park to your heart’s content.
Its urban-inspired design makes it unlike most parks you’ll see, as it features LED illumination throughout, reclaimed irrigation water, the Great Lawn, and pavilions.
If you use your drone near the Mist or Louver fountains, keep in mind they’re interactive and thus unpredictable.
2. Sulphur Springs Tower
The Sulphur Springs Tower is a water tower on 455-479 Bird Street in Tampa.
Although a water tower doesn’t sound like the most thrilling place to visit when you have a limited time in Tampa, this isn’t your average water tower.
The tower has a castle-like design, for starters. Sulphur Springs Tower is also steeped in history, as it was constructed in 1927. At the time, its design was intended as an amusement park centerpiece.
Visiting the tower means stepping through the public park that surrounds it. The tower is 214 feet, so your drone can legally fly to the top. However, don’t land your UAV on the tower!
3. Area 52 AMA Field
The Bay City Flyers manage the AMA field at Area 52 in Tampa Bay. If you’re interested in flying your drone here, you’ll have to join the club.
New members must prove proficient in operating drones. For those still new to the hobby, the BCF will issue a No Solo Card, which means the drone pilot must have someone more experienced accompanying them.
The one-time initiation fee to join the club costs $125, then it’s a $75 charge every year to maintain membership. You must also be a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics to be eligible to join the BCF.
4. Dunedin Causeway
A tranquil part of Florida in nearby Dunedin, the Dunedin Causeway is a far less crowded area than most of the city’s beauteous beaches.
Dedicated paddlers will venture out here, but otherwise, you should have most of the area to yourself.
You can take some truly breathtaking shots here, especially at sunrise or sunset as the sky comes alive in pastel, electric hues!
5. Fort De Soto Park
A little south of St. Petersburg is Fort De Soto Park. Although not in Tampa outright, it’s still worth visiting, as it’s a gargantuan 1,136 acres.
Popular for kayaking, beachcombing, and strolling, Fort De Soto Park includes five interconnected keys.
As you venture from one key to another, you can spot native plants, hardwoods, palm hammocks, wetlands, mangroves, and beach plants.
Over 300 bird species call the area home, and loggerhead sea turtles nest here every year.
Give the wildlife and plant species a wide berth and avoid crowds and you should be good to go when flying here!
6. McKay Bay
Tampa Bay’s northeastern corner is known as McKay Bay. This body of water features the McKay Bay Greenway that leads to the Tampa Bypass Canal. The McKay Bay Nature Park is also in the area, but we recommend sticking nearer to the bay.
Like when visiting the Dunedin Causeway, you can capture some truly magnificent footage at McKay Bay!
Florida drone laws for your trip to Tampa
To wrap up, the following drone laws in Florida are pertinent to keep in mind as you launch your drone in Tampa.
Do not operate on managed lands
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Surfaces prohibits drone use on managed lands throughout the state without permission.
Respect the privacy of others
According to SB 766, drone pilots cannot use their UAVs to photograph properties, building owners, tenants, or privately-owned occupants if they’re in an environment where they can reasonably expect a degree of privacy.
The only exception is if you speak to the person first and request their permission.
Follow FAA laws
In addition to Florida’s state and local laws, you’re also required to follow these FAA guidelines when you operate your drone.
- Do not fly your drone higher than 400 feet from the ground.
- Register your drone if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds.
- Carry a valid drone license. Commercial pilots must have a current Remote Pilot Certificate (which expires every two years), and recreational pilots need a TRUST certificate.
- Only operate your drone between sunrise and sunset unless you have prior permission and requisite lighting for your drone.
- Use your drone in uncontrolled airspace. If you must enter controlled airspace, request authorization.
- Do not operate your drone within five nautical miles of military bases and airports.
- Give manned aircraft the right of way.
- Do not operate a drone that weighs more than 55 pounds, including the drone’s original weight or the addition of payload.
- Only fly a drone within your visual line of sight, or how far you can naturally see it. If you can’t do that, you must have a visual observer with you.
- Do not fly your drone in inclement weather, including strong winds, fog, or heavy rains.
- Don’t fly your drone over moving vehicles.
- You cannot fly your drone over crowds unless you have permission or your drone weighs under 0.55 pounds.
FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Test Prep
Peltier has quite the experience, making him qualified to teach about photography and drones in separate courses. He was a part of the U.S. Air Force as an F-15E flight instructor for a decade.
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Tampa is an exceptional place to visit, and it’s especially great to bring a drone.
The beaches, bays, and city coastlines here attract huge crowds, including drone pilots. When operating, remember to follow local, statewide, and federal laws.
1. University of Tampa drone policy (link)