Between the summery temperatures and the picturesque landscapes that abound, Florida is calling your name. You’d love to capture some of its beauty with your drone, but since you’ve never visited, you’re not clear on what the regulations are. Can you fly a drone legally in Florida?
You can fly a drone in Florida as a commercial pilot provided you have your FAA-mandated Part 107 license. For those who fly a drone recreationally, you must pass the TRUST test. You’ll likely have to register your drone as well.
Yes, that was a lot we just threw at you, but we’ll elaborate on everything ahead. Keep reading for drone flight laws and regulations in Florida (including on beaches and in state parks) as well as our list of the best places throughout the Sunshine State to fly a drone. You won’t want to miss it.
Is it legal to fly a drone in Florida?
So you want to fly a drone in Florida. The good news is that you legally can do so, but you need to be an informed drone pilot and make the proper preparations first. Let’s explain what that means, whether you’re a commercial, recreational, or governmental drone pilot.
For commercial drone pilots
The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA (link) mandates that all commercial drone pilots have their Part 107 drone license. This license proves that the FAA certifies you as a drone pilot.
You’re eligible to obtain your FAA license once you turn 16. You must have a complete grasp of the English language and be deemed mentally and physically fit for drone flight.
We reviewed quite a lot of FAA online testing crash courses on the blog that you should check out if you’re testing for your Part 107 license for the first time. These crash courses will certainly be helpful »
The test entails you answering 60 questions that will challenge all areas of your drone flight knowledge. If you pass, you can register for the certification of your license.
Every two years, you must renew your commercial certification, so make sure you stay current on your drone knowledge between now and then!
What if you already have your FAA license when you visit Florida? Since the Part 107 license is not state-specific, if it’s current in your home state, then it should be current in Florida as well. Make sure you bring the license with you on your travels.
For recreational drone pilots
If you don’t plan on using your drone for commercial purposes (i.e., making money using your UAV), then you’re considered a recreational drone pilot or a hobbyist. You can skip the Part 107 licensing test, but you will have to pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST (link).
By taking the TRUST test, you’ll receive a TRUST completion certificate. Unlike the Part 107 test, taking the TRUST test is free. You must go through an FAA-Approved Test Administrator for the test; the list is included in the FAA link above.
The first part of the TRUST test is the information stage where you glean everything you’ll need for the second part, which is the test itself. The questions are all multiple-choice.
Another difference between the Part 107 test and the TRUST test is that you can’t fail the latter. Also, once you get your TRUST certificate, you never have to re-test. You are expected to maintain the knowledge you learned and always follow FAA drone flight rules when flying your UAV recreationally.
For government drone pilots
If you use drones for governmental purposes, then an FAA Part 107 license usually suffices. In some instances, you might also need a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization or COA (link). An Air Traffic Organization will provide a COA for certain drone activities in Florida.
To obtain a COA, you must complete an application. In 60 days or less, you’ll hear back from the FAA regarding the status of your application.
For all drone pilots
Does your drone weigh more than 0.55 pounds? Unless it’s a mini drone or a toy drone, then the answer is likely yes. In that case, you’ll have to register your drone whether you use it only recreationally or commercially.
According to the FAA, drone registration is good for three years. It costs $5 to get your UAV registered, which isn’t too expensive.
Florida state regulations and laws for drone use
Although you might be legally permitted to fly a drone in the great state of Florida, you’re still subject to the multitude of laws and regulations that are applied on a city/town and statewide level. This section will highlight those laws for you.
Local Florida drone use laws and regulations
Canaveral Port Authority – Tariff No. 16, Section 200, Rule 265 (link)
In the Canaveral Port Authority’s Tariff No. 16, Section 200, Rule 265 – Filming, Photography and Unmanned Aircraft Systems, it’s outlined that you must have Canaveral Port Authority authorization to “operate, control, fly, assist, or permit the operation or control of any vehicle, vessel, or aircraft, or similar objects, on any CPA property.”
The University of Tampa | UAV & Drone Policy // 2015 (link)
If you’re hoping to fly your drone around the University of Tampa, you must have “official authorization.” That’s true of using the drone on any grounds and property the university owns as well.
Pinellas County / Code of Ordinances // 2018 (link)
In Pinellas County, you cannot use your drone on any land that’s owned or managed by the county without written permission through a designee or local administrator.
Lake County – Code of Ordinances // 2001 (link)
The Lake County rules dictate that you cannot use a drone for landing or takeoff in any county-owned areas that ban drones or areas that are considered non-recreational. The exceptions are having permission from a designee or director.
City of Orlando | Municipal Law Sect. 37-12 // 2016 (link)
Orlando’s city law requires that your drone stays at least 500 feet away from any structure, such as buildings owned by the city as well as venues, parks, and schools. If a gathering has more than 1,000 people, you’re also limited to the same distance.
If you have a permit, which is $150 for the year or $20 for each flight, then exemptions are granted.
Town of DeFuniak Springs – Municipal Law // 2015 (link)
No private or public property in DeFuniak Springs allows for drone flight around that property unless the owner gives their consent. If you want to work commercially in this area with your UAV, you’d need to contact the town police department to register your drone.
Town of Bonita Springs | Municipal Law // 2016 (link)
The last local drone ordinance in Florida applies to Bonita Springs. You can only fly a drone in a community park if the fields are empty. Even then, you must keep your UAV at least 25 feet away from any lighting fixtures, powerlines, buildings, places, and people.
Statewide Florida drone use laws and regulations
Florida Administrative Code 40C-9.320 // 2004 (link)
In this section of the Florida Administrative Code, which went into effect in 2004, “all-terrain, off-road, or other motorized vehicles” cannot use Florida District Lands without a Special Use Authorization.
“Motorized vehicles” would indeed refer to drones, but what is a district land? A district land (which is not specific to Florida, by the way), is a natural area where activities such as cycling, hiking, and even horseback riding are allowed but other activities might not be.
Florida Administrative Code 5I-4.003 // 2016 (link)
Under this part of the Florida Administrative Code, a drone cannot fly on managed lands in Florida outside of heliports, runways, or areas in which they have access through the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Surfaces.
Even with that authorization, using your drone must not affect a person’s welfare, safety, or health in any way, nor can you damage natural resources or affect a forest or state park when using your drone.
SB 92 // 2013 (link)
This Florida law enforcement regulation determines that law enforcement is allowed to operate a UAV for missing person searches, to limit the loss of life, when terrorist threats arise, or if they need a warrant.
Also covered under this law is an interesting provision. If someone in Florida is injured by another’s drone, they have the right to civil action.
SB 766 // 2015 (link)
Senate Bill 766 bars drone pilots from taking photos of a privately-owned occupant, tenant, owner, or property if they can reasonably expect privacy. If the person gives the drone pilot permission, then the law would not apply.
HB 1027 // 2017 (link)
Florida Legislature is the leading body that dictates drone usage laws and regulations in Florida per this law. However, local governments can create and enact their own ordinances if the ordinances cover illegal drone usage, property damage, reckless endangerment, harassment, voyeurism, nuisances, and related topics.
Can you fly a drone in Florida State Parks?
As you’ll recall from the last section, the Florida Administrative Code 51-4.003 bans the usage of drones in managed lands throughout the state.
The Florida Administrative Code in Section 5I-4.003 also prohibits drones from flying in managed lands, and that includes forests. If you were hoping to get some photos or videos on a stop at a Florida State Park using your drone when visiting Florida, you’re going to have to change your plans.
Can you fly a drone on the beach in Florida?
Greenery isn’t exactly what attracts millions of people to Florida each year. That would be the state’s beaches. You want nothing more than a gorgeous overhead shot of a Florida beach at sunrise or sunset or anytime in between, really.
Is it legal? If the beach is near an airport, then no, more than likely, you can’t legally fly your drone. A populated beach is also likely not a legal drone usage scenario.
If you can fly your drone early in the morning before even the first joggers and dogwalkers hit the boardwalk, then you should be okay. Do keep in mind though that any authority figure–from a lifeguard to a coast guard to the police–can tell you to ground your drone immediately. In that case, you should listen.
The 5 Best Places to Fly a Drone in Florida
With so many restrictions on where you can use your drone in Florida, perhaps you’re beginning to feel discouraged. There’s no need to be. There are plenty of legal, and awesome places to fly your drone in Florida. And the following 5 locales throughout Florida are all legal spots to capture amazing photos and videos on your UAV camera!
1. Cranes Roost Park
In Altamonte City, Cranes Roost Park features an amphitheater, a plaza with fountains, and a walking path along a lake. Every year, the spot attracts a million guests. If you can get there before the crowds, you should have nearly free rein to take in the sights with your drone.
2. Scout Key
Scout Key is one of the Florida Keys that was formerly known as West Summerland Key. Although the name has changed, the sights have not. Here is a chance to capture some greenery (not forests, mind you, but trees and grass) and plenty of open ocean!
3. Cherokee Point Conservation Area
In St. Cloud, the Cherokee Point Conservation Area near Lake Tohopekaliga includes Class D airspace for exploring the wetlands. While you’re flying your drone here, you might even spot some endangered birds.
4. Sugarloaf Key
Monroe County’s Sugarloaf Key is another lower Florida Keys island. As a singular island, it makes a loop, so it looks like the island is almost split in two. It’s a must-see spot, and even better, you can bring your drone.
5. SeaHawk Park
In Cape Coral, SeaHawk Park includes 13.5 acres as well as a landing strip where helicopters and radio-controlled planes often land. If you can avoid these other vehicles, then you can share the airspace.
Flying a drone in Florida is legal in most applications save for usage in state parks, forests, and other banned spaces. Before you go, get your TRUST or Part 107 license, register your drone, and brush up on the laws we provided in this guide. Most of all, have fun!