Bordering Utah and Arizona, Monument Valley is a desert-like region with picturesque peaks and red sands.
The nearby Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is often a site for filming westerns, so of course, you want the clout of having gone there and filmed with your drone.
Can you fly a drone in Monument Valley?
You can fly a drone in Monument Valley, but you’re prohibited from entering Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park with your UAV. You’ll see signs discouraging the activity. Since Monument Valley is between two states, follow the drone laws for whichever state side you’re entering from.
This article is critical reading if you’re planning a trip to Monument Valley.
We’ll delve deeper into the existing laws in this area, including in Utah and Arizona, so you can fly without any legal snafus.
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Can you fly a drone in Monument Valley?
Monument Valley on the Colorado Plateau is characterized by its trademark sandstone buttes.
On its grounds are the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, which you’ll recall attracts so much attention because it makes a great scene for westerns. So too does parts of Monument Valley itself.
You can fly a drone in Monument Valley. Many pilots have captured inspiring overhead shots of the region.
Truly, that’s the best way to go, considering that you can only reach some areas of Monument Valley as part of a guided tour, like Hunts Mesa and Mystery Valley.
Before you plan a flight route, you should use your drone map to guide you. Stay out of restricted airspace and check your app each day to ensure no temporary flight restrictions have gone into effect in the area.
If you can, avoid traveling to Monument Valley during weather extremes like winter or summer.
The heat of summer days isn’t the greatest for your drone, and you can say the same about the deep chill of some colder winter days.
That said, in the winter, the temps don’t often drop below freezing.
Can you fly a drone in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park?
We’ve made it quite clear that in this area, the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is the big lure.
Recreational drone pilots want to fly here to say they’ve filmed in the same place that great westerns were shot. Commercial pilots might believe the area makes a great backdrop for their own similar projects.
Well, sorry to disappoint, but pilots cannot operate drones in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park. The Navajo Nation prohibits all aircraft, including drones, from all their park locations.
Yes, if you do some digging, you’ll see that the parks issue permits to private and commercial visitors, but that doesn’t apply to drone pilots.
The Navajo Nation says as much on its website:
“This is a Drone & Aircraft free Navajo Tribal Park area. Drones are prohibited within the Tribal Park areas and on Navajo Nation.”
There’s no sense in applying for a commercial permit, as you won’t get it. You’d just waste money, as you’d have to pay a processing fee priced at $100 to $250.
We couldn’t find any exceptions to this rule. Perhaps agency aircraft could operate, but not your average hobbyist or commercial drone pilot.
In case it’s not clear enough on the Navajo Nation website, you’ll likely see signs posted around Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park further cementing that you shouldn’t fly there.
We’d recommend using your drone app to ensure you don’t encroach on the park grounds as you use your drone around Monument Valley.
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Arizona state drone laws to know before visiting Monument Valley
Since Monument Valley borders Arizona and Utah, you have two ways to enter the area.
Regardless of which side you come from, you’ll have to follow federal FAA drone laws, but each state also has its own respective drone laws to know.
Let’s go over those state laws, beginning with the laws in Arizona.
Avoid disorderly conduct with your drone
The Arizona bill SB 1449 from 2016 outlines the full extent of what the state considers disorderly conduct with a drone.
Here’s an overview:
- You cannot use your drone too close to someone else’s property without their consent.
- You cannot fly a drone too close to other people unless they grant you permission to do so.
- You can’t use your drone with the intention of killing an animal. If it happens accidentally, while unfortunate, it doesn’t count as disorderly conduct.
- You cannot operate your drone more than 500 feet horizontally or 250 feet vertically.
- You can’t use your drone in any way deemed careless and/or reckless.
- You must not get in the way of manned aircraft or first responders like police or firefighters when operating your drone.
- You must have LAANC permission if required when flying a drone.
- You cannot violate temporary flight restrictions or enter restricted airspace with your drone.
- You cannot violate federal drone laws.
In any of these instances, proven violations will result in a Class I misdemeanor.
Although in some cases, you won’t incur any penalties when charged with a Class I misdemeanor, you could also end up in jail for six months, so it’s a very fine line to tread.
You can’t use your drone in any trails parks or state parks
It’s not only Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park that prohibits you from flying a UAV.
You’ll recall that all tribal parks in the Navajo Nation are off-limits, and Arizona state law also prohibits you from entering trails parks and state parks.
The only exception is for commercial pilots involved in news, publicity, or promotions.
You’d have to go through the legal channels to obtain a flight permit. You couldn’t use a commercial drone for any other purposes though.
That’s 30 state parks off the menu.
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Utah state drone laws to know before visiting Monument Valley
If you’re visiting Monument Valley from the Utah side, this state has a bevy of state laws to learn, far more so than Arizona. We go in-depth on each law here, so this section will serve primarily as a recap.
» MORE: Drone Laws in Utah
Don’t use your drone to harass livestock
HB 217, a 2017 Utah state law known as Livestock Harassment, makes it illegal to harass and chase livestock (including with the intent to kill) with a drone, a dog, or a motorized vehicle.
If you own livestock, this law doesn’t apply to that livestock only.
Stay away from manned aircraft
In state law 65A-3-2.5 or Title 65A, Forestry, Fire, and State Lands, recreational and commercial drones are prohibited from collisions with manned aircraft.
The collision alone lands you a third-degree felony charge and a $10,000 fine.
If you cause an accident with the manned aircraft, you’ll receive a second-degree felony charge and have to pay a fine of up to $15,000.
Do not use your drone in areas marked with temporary flight restrictions from wildland fires
Although temporary flight restrictions come and go, you’re expected to take them seriously when you see them, especially as they pertain to wildland fires.
The same state law, 65A-3-2.5, in Chapter 3, enacts the following policy:
“A person may not operate an unmanned aircraft system in a manner that causes an unmanned aircraft to fly within an area that is under a temporary flight restriction that is used by the Federal Aviation Administration as a result of the wildland fire, or an area designated as a wildland fire scene on a system managed by a federal, state, or local government…unless the person operates the unmanned aircraft system with the permission of, and in accordance with the restrictions established by, the incident commander.”
If you violate this rule as a commercial or recreational pilot (as some exceptions exist for agency pilots), you’re looking at a Class B misdemeanor charge. You could have to pay a fine of $2,500 to $5,000.
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Monument Valley between Arizona and Utah is a natural wonderland with peaking sandstone buttes and the famous Monumental Valley Navajo Tribal Park.
However, you’re prohibited from flying in the park, and since Monument Valley houses so much of the park, you need to use a drone app to avoid restricted airspace.
Remember to follow the state laws for whichever state side you’re on and obey FAA guidelines!
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.