Situated near Flagstaff, Sedona is a desert region in Arizona with forests, canyons, and buttes. It’s beloved as much for its natural beauty as for its arts.
If you’ve always wanted to visit Sedona and you’re finally making it happen, naturally, you may wonder – can you bring your drone with you?
Can you fly a drone in Sedona?
You can fly a drone throughout much of Sedona but not in Wilderness Areas or Sedona Airport and Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. You’re also required to follow FAA guidelines when in the skies.
If you have a trip to Sedona in the cards, this is the article for you.
In it, we’ll discuss in-depth whether you can use a drone in this part of Arizona, highlight all the off-limits areas, and go over Arizona’s flight rules.
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Can you fly a drone in Sedona?
Under Public Law 112-95, Section 336 and the FAA, commercial and recreational pilots can operate a drone in Sedona.
However, the desert town has a lot of off-limits places, so let’s review.
Sedona is only 18.31 square miles, yet still contains several airports. One is the aptly-named Sedona Airport, and the other is Flagstaff Pulliam Airport.
As a drone pilot, you’re prohibited from flying within five nautical miles of an airport. Given the tiny size of Sedona, this will make planning flight routes difficult but not impossible.
Across Sedona’s borders, you’ll find a couple of military bases. These too can complicate your flight plans, as you’re not allowed within five nautical miles of a military base either.
Drones are strictly prohibited in Wilderness Areas throughout the United States. That’s been the case since 1964, when the Wilderness Act went into effect.
The goal of that act is to prohibit industrialization that prevents designated areas from existing that solely protect wildlife and nature.
Sedona has two Wilderness Areas, Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness and Munds Mountain Wilderness.
Neither area is small. The Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness is 47,195 acres, while Munds Mountain Wilderness is 18,150 acres.
Designated Primitive Areas
Further, Sedona law restricts drone access in designated Primitive Areas.
The United States Forest Service once used these lands, which have since mostly converted to Wilderness Areas.
Other restricted airspace
Always use a drone map when operating your UAV in Sedona. The above areas all constitute restricted airspace, but other restrictions could exist throughout the town.
Also, stay vigilant for temporary flight restrictions, which only affect your drone plans for a limited time but are still enforceable.
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4 fantastic places to fly a drone in Sedona
Although Sedona restricts drone access to many places throughout the town, if you know where to look, you’ll find an exceptional selection of spots where you can take breathtaking footage.
Here are some of our favorites.
West Fork Oak Creek Trail
About 9.5 miles from Sedona is the West Fork Oak Creek Trail. As you stroll along the trailhead, you’ll spot canyons, a stream, and cliffs.
The buttes here are a trademark red, and when autumn arrives in Arizona, the fall foliage will take your breath away.
Charge up your drone battery, as you’ll surely want to stay here for a while!
Devil’s Bridge Trail
Venture out to Yavapai County to hike the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead.
Only moderately difficult, the entire hike (round trip) is 1.8 miles, so you won’t have to sweat it out too much if you’re trying to look professional for a drone project.
The route takes you across sandstone arches, so you’ll have lots to film or photograph here.
Schnebly Hill Vista
Along Schnebly Hill, you’ll find a vista with a clearance area to witness the beauty of Sedona.
While the Schnebly Hill Vista isn’t all that far from the Munds Mountain Wilderness, it’s well outside of the wilderness boundary line.
Many drone pilots have flown here before, so you shouldn’t have to stress about restrictions. If anything, keep in mind that the crowds here can be rather plentiful.
Since it’s often such a populated area, consider scheduling your drone flight either earlier or later in the day to avoid the crowds.
We also recommend exploring Courthouse Butte while you’re staying in Sedona. The butte near Oak Creek in Yavapai County is just a bit southward of Sedona. The peak of the butte is 5,454 feet.
You don’t have to ascend that high up, of course. That’s what you have your drone for!
You can take some aerial shots of the tall, tree-lined butte that will make a fantastic addition to your portfolio.
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Drone operation rules to know before visiting Sedona
With your plane tickets and hotels booked, it’s time to jet off to stunning, warm Sedona.
Before your plane touches down, make sure you’re privy to the following drone rules, which apply to Arizona as a whole.
Do not launch your drone closer than 328 feet to wildlife
Sedona drone law prohibits drone pilots from vertically approaching birds or animals with their UAVs.
Further, you cannot launch your drone any closer than 328 feet or 100 meters from local wildlife.
It’s no secret that drone exposure can cause unfortunate behavior in wildlife, including aggression and sometimes even abandoning their young.
Do your part to preserve Sedona’s great wildlife!
Have your drone license and registration ready
As a safe drone pilot, you must have a current drone license and an active registration (as required), both issued by the FAA or another body with authority.
Let’s start by discussing your registration. Commercial pilots must register their drones, but it’s optional for recreational pilots, depending on the weight of their UAVs.
If your drone weighs 0.55 pounds or under, you don’t have to register it. For all other drones that require registration, you can register for up to three years.
Next, let’s go over licenses. Hobbyists must carry a TRUST certificate issued by the FAA after passing The Recreational UAS Safety Test.
That license doesn’t expire but don’t lose it on your trip to Sedona, or you’ll have to take the exam again.
Commercial pilots need the Part 107 license, aka the Remote Pilot Certificate. You can only obtain this license by passing the Part 107 exam administered by the FAA.
Your certificate is good for only two years, but you can recertify online for free.
Avoid critical facilities
Arizona drone law mandates that pilots fly no closer to critical facilities than 250 vertical feet and 500 horizontal feet.
Examples of these facilities include hospitals, courthouses, power plants, and water treatment facilities.
Do not interfere with emergency response efforts
When firefighters, police departments, and other emergency responders arrive on the scene, do not get in their way with your drone.
You could prevent people from receiving the life-saving services they need!
Do not fly higher than 400 feet
You cannot operate your drone more than 400 feet from the ground throughout Arizona. It’s your responsibility to gauge the allowable height and fly your drone within that range.
Maintain a visual line of sight on your drone
You must also keep eyes on your drone the entire time you fly. If you operate your drone so far out of range that you can’t see it with the naked eye or when wearing contacts or glasses, you’re beyond VLOS range.
You must bring your drone back or operate it with a spotter who can watch it beyond your visual line of sight.
Do not fly your drone in inclement weather
Arizona is known for its hot and humid weather, but the sun can’t shine every day.
On those less-than-perfect days with strong winds and rain, refrain from operating your drone. The weather makes flying a UAV too dangerous.
You could also end up with a damaged, broken drone!
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Sedona is a desert town in Arizona known for its towering buttes and appealing arts scene.
You can fly your drone here but must avoid designated Wilderness Areas, Primitive Areas, military bases, and airports.
Follow FAA drone rules when you take to the sky, and remember to avoid wildlife with your drone especially. Stay safe and have fun out there!