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Drone Laws in Colorado

Colorado is a highly visited state that’s popular for Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Vail, snowboarding, skiing, and downtown Denver. You’re interested in moving or traveling to Colorado. As an avid drone enthusiast, what are the drone laws in this state?

Drones are welcome in Colorado, but their usage is regulated on a federal, state, and local level. Most ordinances and laws keep drone pilots away from parks and city property.

In today’s guide to drone laws in Colorado, we’ll go over all the details of what you can and can’t do with your drone here.

Before you launch your drone, you’re definitely going to want to read this!

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Federal Level Drone Laws

The United States federal government regulates the drone usage laws in Colorado, and the rest of the Union, on a federal level. These laws apply to state government employees using drones as well as commercial and recreational drone pilots.

Commercial Drone Pilots

Let’s begin by talking about commercial drone pilots. As all three drone pilot groups are required to do, commercial pilots must follow the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA’s drone flight rules, which are known as Part 107 rules.

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Be sure to read up on these laws and know them up, down, and sideways, as your aspirations of becoming a commercial drone pilot hinge on passing an FAA-issued exam.

Those who are over the age of 16 and have fluent English proficiency, who are deemed mentally and physically sufficient to operate a drone can take the aeronautical knowledge exam.

The exam includes 60 questions and you’re allotted two and a half hours to complete the test. You must score at least 70 percent to earn your license, which you can then use for the next two years to fly your drone commercially.

When the license expires, you’ll have to retest. Every FAA exam costs a fee and must be taken in person.

» MORE: Check out our recommended courses to help you study up for the exam.

Agency Drone Pilots

What if you’re a Colorado government employee who uses a drone in a professional capacity? You too must be abreast of FAA Part 107 rules, and you’ll also be required to produce a Certificate of Authorization or COA, which is only issued federally.

Recreational Drone Pilots

For those who are interested in recreational or hobbyist drone flight, you don’t have to jump through quite as many hoops to legally fly a drone in Colorado.

You can skip the aeronautical knowledge exam, but you have to take The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST for short.

This test is very different. You don’t have to pay for it, you can take it online instead of in-person, and you also can’t fail. Any incorrect answers are displayed for you to choose the right answer and get a perfect score.

Your TRUST certificate is also good for life unless you lose it.

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As a recreational drone pilot, you must pay $5 to register your drone through the FAA if it exceeds 0.55 pounds. You’re also expected to learn FAA Part 107 rules and follow them to the letter.

State Level Drone Laws in Colorado

Now let’s look at the state drone laws enforced in Colorado. There are only two of them, so they shouldn’t be too hard to commit to memory.

Colorado State Parks Regulation #100-c.24 // 2018

The first state drone law in Colorado is called Colorado State Parks Regulation #100-c.24. Under this law, drone flight is prohibited in all Colorado State Parks unless you’re in a designated area that says otherwise.

For example, Chatfield State Park and Cherry Creek State Park both have model airfields where you can fly a drone. However, you’re not allowed to use your drone elsewhere in either park.

If you’re flying a drone in Staunton State Park, commercial drone pilots are required to obtain a special use permit. Even recreational pilots might need flight permission.

The special use permit would be issued through the park, so contact the parks and rec association to learn how the process goes to obtain a permit.

HB 1070 // 2017

The other state drone law in Colorado is HB 1070. The Department of Public Safety, per this law, grants the Center of Excellence to perform a study with the goal of determining how drones could be used both on a state and local government level.

For example, drones could assist in jobs such as emergency management, crime scene documentation, accident reconstruction, search and rescue, and firefighting.

Through HB 1070, the Center of Excellence in conjunction with the Department of Public Safety established a pilot program permitting one or more UAS operating teams to learn how to use drones in fire hazard areas.

Local Level Drone Laws in Colorado

Finally, there are Colorado’s local laws, of which there are more than the state laws but still not an overwhelming amount. Here’s what you need to know.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Ouray, Colorado?

City of Lakewood – Municipal Law

In Lakewood, the municipal law in effect states that drone pilots must obey “all federal, city, and county guidelines.”

Specifically, you’re not allowed to launch, operate, or land “any unmanned motorized vehicle from or on any City of Lakewood facility, park or open space area without an approved drone use permit.”

Even with the permit, you’re required to follow FAA rules when operating your drone.

City of Aurora – Parks, Recreation and Open Space Drone Policy // 2019

In Aurora, the Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Drone Policy was instituted in 2019.

According to the policy, you cannot launch or land a done in the city unless you have permission and a permit from the Director of Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Department.

The only exception is if you’re using your drone in a designated Unmanned Aircraft Flying Area.

City of Boulder – Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Drone Policy

Boulder has its own Open Space and Mountain Parks Drone Policy that states, “Operating unmanned motorized vehicles including any drone, unmanned motorized boat, plane, helicopter, hovercraft is prohibited.”

If you have a special permit that the OSMP issues, then you could use your drone.

City of Denver – Municipal Law

Denver’s municipal law was established by the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation. According to those rules, you cannot fly a drone in any Denver park unless the park has an area for flying objects.

Those will include helicopter and model airplane flying areas. Although neither area seems like it’s allowable for drones, both are.

That said, even when flying a drone in these designated areas, you’re still subject to FAA Part 107 rules.

If you want to use a drone for certain activities or during events, then you’d have to contact the city of Denver to ask for permission. You’ll need a permit.

Town of Telluride – Municipal Law

In Telluride, the municipal law dictates that you cannot fly your drone across city property or private property without permission from the owners of said private property and/or town approval.

You cannot ever operate a drone in Telluride when under the influence of a controlled substance such as marijuana, other drugs, or alcohol.

You’re also barred from using your drone recklessly, including in a manner that could endanger nearby people and wildlife.

Village of Cherry Hills – Municipal Law

The last Colorado drone law is a municipal law from Cherry Hills.

Recreational drone pilots must register their drones to fly in Cherry Hills. The registration fee is $10 rather than the FAA’s standard $5. You’ll receive a registration number after signing up.

Here are some other rules that recreational drone pilots must follow:

  • Your drone cannot exceed 55 pounds
  • You must always fly your drone within the visual line of sight
  • You cannot fly your drone “on or over any City property inclusive of public streets, alleys, bridle paths, trails, playgrounds, parks, open space, parking lot, and public buildings” without the City Manager’s permission
  • You cannot launch, fly, or land a drone on someone else’s property unless you have permission; otherwise, you’re trespassing
  • You cannot use your drone carelessly and recklessly

Colorado Drone Law FAQs

You’re gearing up to take your drone out for the day, but before you do, you want to be crystal clear on Colorado’s drone flight laws. This FAQs section ought to help!

Can I fly a drone in a Colorado Public Park?

Public parks are plentiful throughout Colorado, but as the city and state ordinances and laws prove, you often cannot fly your UAV through these parks freely.

In most cases, your drone is barred. If not that, then you’d need either express permission or a permit to fly your drone.

Some public parks in Colorado do have designated areas where drone enthusiasts can enjoy beautiful nature and take some photos and videos on their drones. Stay in those areas as much as possible.

Can I fly a drone in a Colorado State Park?

Colorado has so many must-see state parks, from Lory State Park to Eldorado Canyon State Park, State Forest State Park, Trinidad Lake State Park, Chatfield State Park, and Eleven Mile State Park, just to name a few.

Yet all of these and the many other Colorado state parks not listed do not permit drones. Sorry, but you’ll have to find somewhere else to fly.

Conclusion

Colorado is a slice of heaven on earth that welcomes drone hobbyists and commercial pilots. You will have to stay out of state parks but can fly freely in many other areas, especially in designated areas in public parks.

References:
Colorado State Parks Regulation #100-c.24 (link)
HB 1070 (link)
Rules and Regulations of Community Resources – City of Lakewood (link)
Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Drone Policy (link)
OSMP Rules and Regulations | City of Boulder (link)
Municipal law – Cherry Hills (link)