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Can You Fly a Drone in Golden Gate Park?

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is a sizable 1,017 acres and isn’t far from the beloved Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re thinking of packing up your drone and heading to San Fran, you’ve got to know.

Can you fly a drone around Golden Gate Park?

Golden Gate Park is a designated no-fly zone as it’s a national park. You also cannot fly your drone over the Golden Gate Bridge even though permits are issued to photographers and videographers not using drones.

Before you plan your California business trip or vacation, make sure you keep reading.

This article will be jam-packed with handy information to guide your decision-making as you choose where you’ll fly in San Francisco!

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Can you fly a drone in Golden Gate Park?

First, let’s talk more about operating a drone in Golden Gate Park.

Although it’s administered by the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department, the park adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge is a national park, as we wrote about here in our post about flying a drone in San Fran.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in San Francisco?

All Golden Gate National Parks, which comprise of 80,000 acres in all, prohibit drone usage.

As this Parks Conservancy[1] article states, “The public may not launch, land, or operate unmanned aircraft within the boundaries of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.”

If you’ve read our blog, this information should hardly surprise you. Many national and non-national parks alike have begun enforcing stricter drone usage laws, edging out pilots who may wish to fly for fun or do commercial jobs.

There are plenty of reasons why this is. Protecting and preserving wildlife is usually chief among them but maintaining the peace of the people is another important reason to outlaw drones.

Golden Gate Park has lakes, groves, gardens, and many points of interest. It’s known for its relaxing activities like Segway tours, fishing, bike rentals, and picnicking.

To many people, including drones in these activities would disrupt their enjoyment and detract from their coming to the park. Hence, drones are banned.

» MORE: Can You Bring a Drone to Coachella?

Can you fly a drone on the Golden Gate Bridge?

Although it’s disappointing that you can’t operate your drone inside Golden Gate Park, you were more looking forward to flying around the Golden Gate Bridge and using your drone camera to capture awesome footage.

Well, sorry, but you can’t do that either.

Although the Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District does issue photography and filmography permits, that doesn’t apply to drone pilots.

Instead, here’s the district’s policy on drones in full per their website[2]:

“Drones (also known as Unmanned Aerial Systems) pose a safety and security risk to the Golden Gate Bridge. They are banned from flying over or near the Bridge or other District property. Look for signs that remind people that drones are prohibited.

The Bridge is a very busy roadway, both as a transportation artery in and out of San Francisco and as an icon for the thousands of people who visit over the holiday season. Whether due to operator error or technical problems, drones can and do fail. When they drop from the sky, they pose great risk of causing traffic, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents, especially given the crowded conditions on the Bridge and on District property.

Drones are also prohibited from flying at or near the Bridge and surrounding property for security reasons…Drones are also banned from National Park Service land, which includes areas immediately surrounding the bridge to the north and south.”

It’s a long statement for sure, but it covers all the bases. The Golden Gate Bridge has too much human and vehicular traffic for flying to be safe for drone pilots.

There’s the aforementioned risk of your drone failing and falling from the sky, but even barring that, the mere presence of your drone could be enough to cause panic and possibly an accident as well.

Besides, the FAA has its Operations over Moving Vehicles law enacted across the United States which strictly prohibits pilots from operating a drone over moving vehicles. Only vehicles in a restricted-access or closed-access site with participants of your project can be flown over.

The Golden Gate Bridge has plenty of vehicular traffic, as mentioned, so even if the authorities behind the bridge didn’t mind you flying your drone in the area, the FAA would!

Can you fly a drone just outside of Golden Gate Park?

With all your drone flight plans to this point quashed, you figure that perhaps you’ll just fly outside of Golden Gate Park. Is that allowed?

Possibly, but it depends on where you want to go. Remember, Golden Gate Park is a part of the overarching Golden Gate National Parks.

Unlike the 1,000+ acres that the Golden Gate Park comprises, the Golden Gate National Parks are 80,000 acres in all.

Once you’re outside of those lands, then yes, you should theoretically be free to fly. However, do make sure that you don’t end up flying your drone in another outlawed park!

» MORE: Can You Bring a Drone to Catalina Island? 

Can you fly a drone elsewhere in San Francisco?

Please don’t take all this to mean that you can’t fly your drone in San Francisco at all, as you absolutely can!

Outside of the Golden Gate Park and Golden Gate Bridge, you’re also prohibited from accessing Muir Woods and Alcatraz with your drone.

Still, places such as Treasure Island, Cesar E. Chavez Park, Empowerment Park, Richardson AMA Field, and Blue Park are all permissible.

Always follow these drone flight rules.

Do not interfere with first responder efforts

According to 2016 California state drone laws AB 1660 and SB 807, if your drone gets in the way of first responders and their emergency response efforts, you could be charged with misconduct.

Further, if your drone is destroyed, the first responder is not liable.

Avoid Orange Coast District Parks

There are a few more places you can’t fly, and that includes all Orange Coast District parks.

Don’t bring your drone to:

  • Bolsa Chica State Beach
  • San Onofre State Beach
  • San Clemente State Beach
  • Huntington State Beach
  • Doheny State Beach
  • Crystal Cove State Beach
  • Corona Del Mar State Beach

Don’t fly over sporting events or stadiums

Pilots in California are prohibited from using their drones to fly over sporting events or stadiums, especially when there is a game or event in progress.

Only use your drone when physically and mentally adept

Operating a drone under the influence of any substances, such as drugs and/or alcohol, is expressly illegal. On those days when you’re not physically and/or mentally capable of operating your drone, don’t do it.

Maintain an altitude of 400 feet

Federal drone guidelines limit your flight altitude to no more than 400 feet. This is the case across San Francisco, California, and the rest of the US.

Don’t fly your drone beyond your visual line of sight

If you can’t see your drone when looking at it with your naked eye or with a visual aid such as glasses, then it’s ventured out too far. Continuing to fly the drone beyond your visual line of sight is illegal.

What happens if you get caught flying a drone at Golden Gate Park?

With clear regulations and signage throughout Golden Gate Park, there should be no question about whether you can fly your drone here.

Accidents do happen, and if you make a mistake and fly illegally, you can expect consequences.

As we discussed in our post about flying drones in San Francisco, operating your drone without a permit in the park could net you a fine of at least $200.

The Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation Authority is also very clear on the punishments for illegal drone use.

Here’s what they have to say: “Drones found flying near the Bridge will be tracked and the operator identified. The aircraft may be confiscated and the operator may be prosecuted.”

At the very least, then, you could permanently lose your drone. More seriously, you could also face legal penalties such as fines and potentially even imprisonment.

Drone laws should always be taken seriously, so don’t look for any outs or loopholes. Keep away from Golden Gate Park and the Golden Gate Bridge with your UAV.

Operating a drone in Golden Gate Park is illegal, and the same goes for flying around the ultra-popular Golden Gate Bridge.

These rules are enacted for the safety and privacy of California’s citizens and visitors as well as to preserve wildlife and Cali’s natural beauty.

If you have your heart set on capturing footage of the Golden Gate Bridge, you do have options.

You can find a legal place to fly a drone with a vantage point of the bridge or you can take photos and videos (with a permit, of course) not using your drone.

1. Parks Conservancy (link)
2. Filming & Photography Permits (link)