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Can You Fly a Drone in Breckenridge, Colorado?

This town on the cusp of the Rocky Mountains is a skier’s dream come true, but what about drone pilots?

Can you fly your drone in Breckenridge?

Drones are permitted in Breckenridge, Colorado but must fly under Title 5, Chapter 14 of the Breckenridge Town Code on Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Pilots must also follow FAA rules, like staying within one’s visual line of sight, only flying in Class G airspace, and staying at a height of 400 feet. You also need a permit.

Breckenridge may welcome drone pilots, but there are plenty of rules and a few hoops you have to jump through before you can fly.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Colorado

You’ve read our article about drone laws in Colorado, but you notice that it didn’t mention anything about Breckenridge specifically.

This guide will provide all the information you need, so make sure you don’t miss it!

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Flying a drone in Breckenridge, Colorado – the town’s rules

Breckenridge, since late 2017, now enforces Title 5, Chapter 14 of the Breckenridge Town Code, as we touched on in the intro.

Additionally, Breckenridge also has an ordinance that went into effect in 2017 that encompasses drones.

Let’s break down both sets of rules before you pack your bags and head to Breckenridge.

Title 5, Chapter 14 of the Breckenridge Town Code on Unmanned Aircraft Systems

In Section 5-14-4: Unlawful Acts of Title 5, Chapter 14, drone pilots are forbidden from using their drones in the following manners:

“A. In a reckless or careless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another. In any proceeding alleging a violation of this section, the factfinder shall consider the standards for safe operation of aircraft prescribed by Federal Statutes or regulations governing UASs.

B. If the UAS is equipped with a firearm or other deadly weapon.

C. For the purpose of conducting surveillance, unless permitted by law (Ord. 21, Series 2018)”

Section 5-14-4-1: Obstructing a Peace Officer, Firefighter, Emergency Medical Services Provider, Rescue Specialist, or Volunteer by Use of UAS adds these pertinent laws.

“A. Except as provided in subsection C of this section, it is unlawful for any person to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly operate a UAS in a manner that obstructs, impairs, or hinders:

  1. The enforcement of the penal law or the preservation of the peace by a peace officer, acting under color of his or her official authority;
  2. The prevention, control, or abatement of fire by a firefighter, acting under color of his or her official authority;
  3. The administration of medical treatment or emergency assistance by an emergency medical service provider or rescue specialist, acting under color of his or her official authority; or
  4. The administration of emergency care or emergency assistance by a volunteer, acting in good faith to render such care or assistance without compensation at the place of an emergency or accident.”

Then, Subsection C mentions that Subsection A only applies “if the person who operates the UAS:

1.) obtains permission to operate the UAS from a law enforcement agency or other entity that is coordinating the response of peace officers, firefighters, emergency medical service providers, rescue specialists, or volunteers to an emergency or accident;

2) continues to communicate with such entity during the operation of the UAS; and

3) complies immediately with any instructions from the entity concerning the operation of the UAS.”

Section 5-14-5 makes it clear that drone pilots cannot land or launch a drone “from any real property owned by the Town without prior written permission of the Town Manager or the Town Manager’s designee.”

You’re also forbidden from disturbing, annoying, or harassing wildlife with your drone according to Section 5-14-6.

Violating any of the rules presented in Title 5, Chapter 14 of the Breckenridge Town Code on Unmanned Aircraft Systems is a misdemeanor according to Section 5-14-8.

Your drone could be impounded, and you could face fines and potential time behind bars as well.

Ordinance No. 33

That’s not all. Ordinance No. 33 amends Title 5, Chapter 14 of the Breckenridge Town Code on Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

The rules are essentially the same, so let’s recap:

  • You cannot operate your drone “in a reckless or careless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”
  • You cannot use a drone with a deadly weapon or firearm equipped.
  • You cannot conduct surveillance with your drone unless with prior permission.
  • You cannot get in the way of government emergency operations, firefighting, or law enforcement operations.
  • You cannot launch or land a drone, nor can you use it, from any “town-owned real property.”
  • You cannot annoy or harass wildlife with your drone.

Do you need a permit to use a drone in Breckenridge, Colorado?

Okay, so great! You’ll keep those rules in mind and head out to your favorite spot in Breckenridge today to fly your drone.

Not so fast. Interestingly, Breckenridge requires one of two types of permits, either a single flight or annual permit.

As the names imply, a single flight permit is for one usage of your drone in the town. If you plan to fly more frequently, then you can purchase an annual permit.

A single permit costs $25 per flight whereas an annual permit is $150.

To apply for a permit, you need to download and print an application (the application for single flight permits is here and the application for annual permits is here).

The application goes to the Assistant Town Manager, who will then review the contents of your application and decide to approve or deny the application. This can happen in as few as seven days ahead of your flight and up to a year ahead of the flight.

According to the Administrative Rules and Regulations Concerning Permits Issued Under the Town of Breckenridge Unmanned Aircraft System Ordinance, your permit must include your full name, address, email address, and driver’s license number (or other valid government ID information).

You also have to include a description of your drone, a digital photograph, its FAA registration number, its payload, its weight and dimensions, and the make and model.

The application must include where you want to fly the drone, including a description of the flight and what payloads you’ll use (if any) as well as the time and date of flight. You also have to state why you want to fly in Breckenridge.

You need proof that you have general liability coverage as part of your application, and the insurance must be for at least one million dollars.

Your permit can be taken away, including an annual permit, by the Assistant Town Manager for these reasons:

“(a) fraud, misrepresentation or a false statement of material fact contained in the permit application;

(b) noncompliance with any of the duties set forth in Section V of these Regulations;

(c) a violation of any Town, state, or federal law or regulation;

(d) a violation of any of the terms and conditions of the permit;

(e) a violation of any of the provisions of these Regulations; or

(f) any unforeseen, unanticipated, or uncontrollable circumstance if the Assistant Town Manager determines that the permitted UAS flight under such circumstance would pose a threat to public health, safety, or welfare.”

Flight tips when operating a drone in Breckenridge, Colorado

Before we wrap up, be sure to follow these local and federal guidelines to ensure that your drone flights in Breckenridge go as smoothly as possible!

Commercial pilots need a town business license in addition to an FAA license

Are you a commercial pilot? As is the case when flying anywhere else in the United States, Breckenridge local laws require you to have the appropriate license, which is the Remote Pilot Certificate.

This license is only issued through the FAA after passing the Part 107 exam, a test that proves your mastery of the FAA’s drone flight rules.

Your Remote Pilot Certificate needs to be current and on your person in case you’re asked to produce it.

Further, Breckenridge requires you to have a town business license as a commercial pilot. Their website doesn’t go into further detail on how to obtain a town business license, but you should contact the Assistant Town Manager for more information.

And yes, this is on top of you having the required permits, be that a single-flight or annual flight permit. It’s a lot, admittedly, so have all your documentation ready!

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Recreational pilots must be licensed

Hobbyist pilots needn’t go out their way for a special town business license. Your TRUST certificate suffices for identifying you as a recreational pilot.

If you don’t yet have a TRUST certificate, then you need to sign up to take The Recreational UAS Safety Test through the FAA. You also need the appropriate permit before you fly.

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Avoid flying near emergency response efforts

As Title 5, Chapter 14 made rather abundantly clear, when any emergency response efforts are ongoing in Breckenridge, your drone should stay far away. You do not want to interrupt the duties of these parties or you could be faced with a misdemeanor.

Stay away from large groups of people

Federal law also requires you to keep your distance from sizable gatherings of people, including full stadiums, public events, and other situations where large groups would congregate.

Don’t fly close to aircraft

Breckenridge rules and federal law prohibit drone pilots from flying close to aircraft, be that other drones or larger aircraft such as planes. 

Keep your drone within your visual line of sight

At all times when operating your drone, it should always be within your visual line of sight. Your visual line of sight can be augmented with glasses or contacts but not binoculars.

Fly at or under 400 feet

When operating your drone in Class G uncontrolled airspace like that throughout Breckenridge, you must not exceed a height of 400 feet.

Conclusion

Breckenridge, Colorado is a picturesque town that welcomes drone flight if you have a permit, you follow the town rules, and you always obey FAA guidelines to boot. We hope this information helps you plan a successful drone flight in Breckenridge!

References:
Title 5, Chapter 14 of the Breckenridge Town Code on UAS (link)
Ordinance No. 33 (link)
Town of Breckenridge UAS Ordinance (link)