Drones are becoming more popular nowadays not only for those who love the thrill of controlling a flying object, but also for those who love to take aerial photos and videos. However, in the United States there are some rules to know about before flying a drone, and many states that have additional regulations and requirements to be aware of. With this in mind, we’ll discuss the specifics of Michigan drone laws, and then share the best places you can fly your drone in Michigan.
The best places you can fly your drone in Michigan are Bald Mountain State Recreation Area, Windmill Point Lighthouse, Hart Plaza, Roosevelt Park, and Point Huron. These are the best places we’ve found, but there are many other places to fly your drone in Michigan as long as you follow state laws.
It’s important in any state to comply with federal drone regulations, and on top of that, you need to be familiar with specific drone laws in any given state or city where you happen to want to fly your drone. We’ve done the research for you to keep you compliant with Michigan drone laws.
Drone Laws in Michigan
Drone flying has become quite popular nowadays thanks in large part to how it allows you to take aerial photos and videos. After all, who wouldn’t want to take an aerial selfie and post it online on social media? Of course, it would also be nice to take a photo of an entire city or town from an aerial perspective without having to ride a helicopter to do so.
However, because of the potential for drones to pose security and privacy risks, many states, including Michigan, have added some extra regulations on top of the standard FAA guidelines for safe drone flight, in an effort to keep all interested parties happy. The drone laws in Michigan are not particularly overbearing, and mostly follow good citizenship and common sense principles for all well-intentioned users.
So what are the pertinent drone laws in Michigan?
First of all, under state law, you must first register your drone with the FAA before you can fly a drone in the state of Michigan. Don’t worry because registration will only cost $5 and will allow you to fly your drone legally for three years. And never forget to register your drone because the fine can be quite hefty – as much as $27,500.
Michigan also has two state laws that restrict the flying of drones. Under SB 992 // 2016 and SB 54 // 2015:
- You are not allowed to use your drones for interfering with emergency personnel or law enforcement
- You cannot use a drone for harassing other people or to violate a restraining order.
- You are not allowed to use your drone to invade the privacy of other people.
- Sex offenders are specifically prohibited from using drones to follow, take photos of, or contact a person they’re been prohibited from communicating with.
- Drones may not be used to harass those who are legally hunting.
- Recreational drone users are prohibited from flying their drones for more than 400 feet in the sky.
- Restricted areas, in general, follow FAA guidelines, including:
- Stadiums and sports events
- Areas near airports
- In areas reserved for emergency response
- Military bases
- National landmarks
- Nuclear powerplants
- There are a few Michigan specific restricted areas, as follows:
- West Bloomfield – You can’t fly your drone in any town parks
- University of Michigan – You can’t fly your drone on any part of campus unless you have prior authorization
- Mt Brighton Ski Resort – Vail states that drones are prohibited for both recreational and commercial purposes.
However, in relation to the part where you are not allowed to use your drone to invade the privacy of other people, there are still some limits here. In that regard, what some people might think is an invasion of privacy isn’t necessarily an invasion of privacy under the law. For example, if you are out in your front yard mowing the lawn and your neighbors can see you, it is also acceptable for a drone to be able to see you as well without it constituting an invasion of privacy.
Can You Fly a Drone in Michigan State Parks?
Michigan state law makes it permissible for drone users to operate drones within park boundaries. This applies across the board to hobbyists; commercial drone operations must have previously applied for permission in writing.
A few restrictions apply to all drone activities within a state park. Drone flights must not:
- Interfere with staff performing their daily duties
- Be within 100 yards of any historical site or building
- Go over beaches where people are sunbathing
- Be near horse riding facilities
- Be close to restrooms or changing facilities
Some local counties have made attempts to regulate the use of drones in state parks within their area, and the state courts have blocked these attempts. This effectively protects the right of the state to regulate the use of drones above any local or municipal regulations.
Where Are the Best Places to Fly a Drone in Michigan?
You can basically fly your drone anywhere in Michigan as long as you do not fly it in any of the specific places mentioned above, or in areas that qualify as no-fly zones under FAA regulations. But here are the five best places we’ve found to fly a drone in the state of Michigan:
1. Bald Mountain State Recreation Area
Bald Mountain State Recreation Area is located in Orion Charter Township. The reason why it is a great place for you to fly your drone is the fact that it has an AMA field located in its vicinity. Run by the Skymasters RC Club of Michigan, the AMA field is obviously a spot where drones can be flown legally. There is even a new field near the lake that is completely dedicated to drone pilots.
What you are going to love about flying your drone in this place in Michigan is the fact that the topography is really beautiful and the area is so wide and open that there won’t be any obstacles other than fellow drones. And if you want to enjoy the outdoor life, the area has trails and cabins that you can also visit or stay at if you want an entire weekend of leisure and drone flying.
2. Windmill Point Lighthouse
Located in the motor city of Detroit, Windmill Point Lighthouse is a great place for RC pilots to fly their remote-controlled vehicles or their drones, primarily because of how scenic and aesthetically pleasing the view is if you want to take photos using your drone. Of course, the shores of the Detroit River are going to make a nice element for any drone photo.
Windmill Point Lighthouse can be found at the edge of Mariner Park as the park itself promises a wide space for drone flying as well as offering plenty of other recreational activities for you to do during the times when you are not flying your drone. You will also love the historical side of this spot especially when you consider that the lighthouse itself is still very much working.
3. Hart Plaza
Hart Plaza is located right smack in downtown Detroit, the largest and most populous city in all of Michigan. It sits right at the bank of the Detroit River to give you a wonderful view of the shores of the river itself. Of course, the best part of it all is the fact that flying a drone in Hart Plaza will offer you a good aerial view of the entire Detroit skyline, which promises to be a treat for those who would want to post nice photos or videos of the city of Detroit on their social media pages.
Moreover, the plaza itself offers plenty of different sites and sounds you would want to enjoy yourself or take photos with using your drone. This includes an amphitheater, the Horace E. Dodge Fountain, and the Michigan Labor Legacy Monument. Of course, the Detroit Riverwalk is a nice added touch as well.
4. Roosevelt Park
Roosevelt Park is another great place for recreational drone flying in the city of Detroit as it allows you a good view of many different iconic places in this equally iconic city in Michigan. After all, it allows you to get a good view or aerial photo of the Michigan Central Train Station, an iconic landmark in the entire state of Michigan, and is right up there with New York’s Grand Central Terminal in terms of popularity.
Other than the train station, you can also enjoy other iconic landmarks to take photos of such as the Ambassador Bridge. And if you are not up to flying your drone and taking pictures the entire day, you can actually enjoy your time at Roosevelt Park because it is still a park after all. After spending some time flying your drone, you can take the rest of the day off strolling in the park and looking at the sights and sounds with your naked eye.
5. Point Huron
Point Huron is located in Harrison Charter Township and is a peninsula that extends all the way from Lake St. Clair Metropark. If you love greenery and nature, this should be one of the best places for drone flying especially because of how taking an aerial photo or video of this place allows you to capture the captivating tree line and Point Huron.
The fact that there are also plenty of cargo ships passing by Point Huron is another factor that makes it a great place for drone flying as you can easily capture the natural flow of business of these ships using your drone. Of course, when you are not flying your drone, it doesn’t hurt to actually enjoy the outdoor vibe of Point Huron, being located afterall on the shore of this Great Lake.