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Can You Fly a Drone in Moab?

Surrounded by rugged deserts and red rock canyons, Moab is one of the most iconic places to visit in Utah. 

Whether you’re planning a rafting trip down the Colorado River or a more family-friendly vacation in town, you may wonder if you can bring your drone along. After all, Moab offers a landscape unlike anywhere else in the United States.

But before you pack your bags, you need to be aware of Moab’s drone rules and regulations. 

Though stunning, Moab isn’t all that welcoming of UAV pilots because of its close proximity to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Per Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines, drone flight is strictly prohibited in these areas. 

Continue reading to learn more about drone laws in Moah, Utah. 

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Federal drone laws in Moab

Maybe you want to capture footage of the mighty Green River. Or, perhaps you want to take photos of your rock climbing friends ascending a soaring red cliff. 

Either way, you will need to be mindful of Part 107 rules mandated by the FAA. These federal laws apply to every place in America, not just Moab. 

What are these rules? 

  • Take the test: As a hobbyist drone pilot, you are required by the FAA to take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) [1]. You must carry proof of passing the exam at all times when flying. 
  • Register your drones: Does your drone weigh more than 0.55 pounds? If so, you must register it with the FAA (link) and carry proof of registration when flying.

As a recreational drone pilot, you should also:

  • Keep your drone within your visual line of sight
  • Not interfere with other aircraft
  • Fly at or below 400 feet
  • Avoid flying at night or during bad weather
  • Avoid flying over crowds

State drone laws in Moab 

If Moab is on your bucket list, you’re not alone. More than two million people flock to this southwestern destination each year, many hoping to explore the desert and canyonlands from the sky. 

Hole N The Rock near Moab, Utah

But before you take flight, you must familiarize yourself with Utah’s many drone laws. 

We discuss these in more detail in our overview of Utah state drone regulations.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Utah

Though we encourage you to read this blog post closely, we have distilled the main points below. 

  • Do not fly above private property. According to 76-6-2-206(2)(A), which is also known as Title 76 of the Utah Criminal Code, using an unmanned aircraft to enter private property is considered trespassing. In Utah, trespassing is a Class B misdemeanor that could result in a $1,000 fine and/or a six-month jail sentence.
  • Avoid wildfire areas. According to 65A-3-2.5 (a.k.a. Title 65A, Forestry, Fire, and State Lands), flying in an area that is under a temporary flight restriction because of a wildfire could result in a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a $2,500 to $5,000 fine.
  • Do not harass livestock: According to HB 217, “…a person is guilty of harassment of livestock if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly chases, with the intent of causing distress, or harms livestock…” through the use of an unmanned aircraft system. To be safe, avoid flying your drone around a rancher’s herd.
  • Do not use your drone with malicious intent. According to SB 111, flying a drone that is carrying a weapon or has a weapon attached to it could result in a Class B misdemeanor.

Utah’s SB 111 also establishes several safety precautions for drone pilots.

These include:

  • Maintain a visual line of sight
  • Do not fly near an airport without prior permission
  • Do not fly your drone in a way that interferes with traffic patterns at any airport, heliport, or seaplane base
  • Do not operate your drone from a public transit rail platform or station, under 50 feet within a public transit fixed guideway right-of-way, or directly above electrical lines used to power a public transit rail vehicle
  • Fly below 400 feet

If you violate any aspect of SB 111, you could face a Class B misdemeanor. 

Local drone laws in Moab 

Compared to other places like South Carolina and Montana, Utah has fairly stringent drone laws. However, there is good news: This state doesn’t have any local drone laws. 

That means cities, towns, villages, and counties haven’t established any additional rules besides what is already mandated by the federal and state governments. 

Does this mean you can fly your drone anywhere in Moab? Not exactly. There are still several no-fly zones to be aware of. 

Can you fly a drone in Arches National Park?

With more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches and thousands of other geological spectacles, Arches National Park is a natural wonder. 

Considering its fascinating beauty, you may be tempted to fly your drone in Arches. However, drone usage is strictly prohibited in any National Park. 

Why the restriction? According to Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Parks Service, the drone ban is rooted in “serious concerns about the negative impact that flying unmanned aircraft is having in parks.”

More specifically, NPS officials fear that drones could disturb endangered or threatened wildlife. Unmanned aircraft could also disturb park visitors, causing noise that detracts from the overall outdoor experience. 

Can you fly a drone in Canyonlands National Park?

With more than 250,000 acres of stunning canyons carved by the Colorado River, Canyonlands National Park is another natural wonder located near Moab. 

Though beautiful, Canyonlands is also off-limits to drone pilots since it’s a National Park. 

Consequences for flying a drone in a National Park 

What happens if you can’t resist flying over Arches or Canyonlands? 

Unfortunately, flying an unmanned aircraft in a National Park could result in a $5,000 fine and six months of jail time. 

No drone flight is worth these steep consequences. 

Can you fly a drone in Dead Horse Point State Park?

With more than 5,000 acres of high desert, Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab is a great place to hike, mountain bike, and camp. But can you fly a drone there?

Yes and no. 

Since this park sees many visitors during the warmer months, drone usage is strictly prohibited from March through October. 

However, between November 1 and the last day of February, drone usage is permissible with a permit. Permits cost $10 per day and can be obtained online or at the visitor center. Permits must be approved by park staff at the visitor center before you can take to the skies. 

Even if you do have a permit, you must fly within designated zones. These areas are listed on the Dead Horse Point State Park website (link). 

Image Credit: Utah State Parks. Main Utah State Parks Office.

Can you fly a drone on Bureau of Land Management land?

If you want to spend some time off the beaten path, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages thousands of acres in and around Moab, Utah. Rugged and wild, this land offers a unique desert experience. 

Generally speaking, drone flight is allowed on Bureau of Land Management land. But there’s one exception: If the land has been designated by Congress as a wilderness area, drone flight is strictly prohibited. 

Since Moab is surrounded by thousands of acres owned by various state and federal agencies, we recommend using the B4UFLY App when flying. This app will help you avoid no-fly zones. 

Conclusion 

With red rock formations and high-elevation deserts, Moab is truly a spectacular place. However, there are many federal and state drone regulations you must be aware of before taking to the skies. 

You should also be mindful of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. These are strict no-fly zones. For most of the year, Dead Horse Point State Park is a no-fly zone as well.

Additionally, you should fly with caution when recreating on Bureau of Land Management land. Though drone flight is generally allowed on Bureau of Land Management land, you cannot fly on Bureau of Land Management land that has received a “wilderness area” designation. 

If you follow these drone rules and regulations, you’ll be sure to enjoy the wild, wild west that is Moab, Utah.

References:
1. The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) (link)