As the capital of the United States of America, Washington DC has many amazing spots that would look great in drone footage. But are you allowed to fly a drone in Washington DC?
The area around Washington DC is heavily restricted. The National Capital Region is controlled by an SFRA (Special Flight Rules Area) covering a radius of 30 miles of the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. But flying a drone in Washington is possible as long as you follow FAA guidelines.
Flying a drone in Washington DC is possible, keep reading to find out more about flying a drone in Washington DC.
What Are The Washington D.C SFRA And Drone Laws?
Flying a drone in the State of Washington is not impossible to do as a recreational pilot, but it is definitely the most problematic State to try and fly a drone in.
What Are The Washington State Drone Laws?
Each and every State in the United States has its own rules and regulations based on previous events or conditions in the State. They include the following:
- Your unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. This includes any attachments that are on the drone such as the camera.
- The drone must be registered and marked with the registration number.
- You must always fly your drone under 400 ft.
- When flying your drone, always keep it within visual line-of-sight.
- When flying, always make sure that the weather conditions are clear.
- Never fly near other aircraft.
If you break the drone flying rules around the area of Washington DC, you will face stiff fines and even criminal penalties.
The main reason it is so difficult (but not impossible) to fly a drone in Washington, D.C, is that an SFRA controls it.
What is a SFRA?
The National Capital Region is governed by an SFRA(Special Flight Rules Area), which is a region in the United States where the normal rules and regulations of flight do not apply.
The typical regulations of flight may be completely different in this area or partly different, depending on the location.
The regulations that tend to change are the airspace classification, altitude, course, and speed restrictions.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the airspace around Washington DC had some changes made, which was designed to restrict the flight around the city.
The SFRA is divided into different rings, the first ring is a 15-mile radius, and the second ring is a 30-mile radius. This has made it very difficult for drone pilots to fly within Washington, D.C.
When the SFRA was introduced, many drone clubs in the area of the radius were forced to shut down.
What Does This Mean For Recreational Pilots?
Firstly, here are two important things you need to know in order to fly within the DC SFRA. It is very important that pilots follow these steps and pay attention to their location.
- Flying a drone within the first 15- mile radius inner ring is illegal without the proper FAA authorization.
- A TSA/FAA waiver as well as an SGI/COA is required before you are able to fly.
These are the conditions recreational pilots need to meet so they can fly their drones within the 15 and 30-mile radius of Washington DC.
Can You Fly a Drone Over The White House?
In the United States, drone flying rules are stricter than other places. So naturally, after the events of 9/11, historical and political buildings are out of the question.
This is why flying drones in and around Washington, D.C, is so tricky, and naturally, trying to fly a drone over the White House is definitely not allowed.
The Federal Aviation Administration has implemented some harsh rules regarding the unmanned aerial vehicles that hobbyists enjoy using so much.
The FAA has deemed military bases and other areas such as the White House as restricted and no pilots. Whether you are flying recreational or commercial, you are not allowed to fly over the white house.
You are however allowed to fly outside the 15 and 30-mile radius and all you are required to do is follow the regular FAA drone rules and regulations.
If you want to fly withing the radius, you will need FAA authorization, and you will be required to follow more rules and regulations that I listed earlier in this article.
5 Best Places to Fly a Drone Near Washington, D.C
1. Fountainhead Regional Park
This location is not only beautiful and will look good in your drone footage, but it is also located in class G airspace, which means that it is in uncontrolled airspace.
It is on the border of the Potomac River, and is 2,000 acres, giving you plenty of room to fly your drone uninterrupted.
The location has:
- Various different trails.
- A mini-golf course.
- Fishing pond.
The vasts amounts of water and open space make it great for drone flights.
2. Sandy Point State Park
This is another location that is located outside of the 30-mile radius in class G airspace. The Park is located on the western end of the Chesapeake Bay, which is home to Sandy Point Farmhouse as well as the Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse.
The entire park is 786 acres, and there are some fantastic views of the bay and the bridge that will provide you with the perfect drone footage.
3. Kings Landing Park
Kings Landing Park is sitting right on the Patuxent River and is located in Huntingtown, Maryland.
It has a public picnic pavilion and equestrian facility, this location also has a pier that extends out into a river that you can walk onto and provides easy access for various recreational activities.
The views are absolutely stunning and great for drone footage and scenic photography.
Kings Landing Park is located in Class G airspace, which is uncontrolled. Therefore you can fly as you please as long as you follow the FAA rules and regulations.
4. Liberty Reservoir
Liberty Reservoir was originally known as Oakland Mill, and is located to the west of Baltimore, Maryland, and is over a surface area of 3,100 acres.
The town and area surrounding it were destroyed in 1947 to make way for the creation of this reservoir. The primary source of water to the area is the Patapsco River.
The Reservoir is located in Class G airspace, so you can feel free to fly your drone as you please as long as you follow the FAAs rules and regulations.
There’s plenty of water to fly over, as well as tree coverage to play around within your drone shots. There is also wildlife roaming around the reservoir that will make excellent focal points for your cinematic shots.
5. Patuxent Aeromodelors AMA Field
As you can probably tell, the only great places to fly a drone in Washington, D.C are all located outside of the 30-mile radius from the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Patuxent Aeromodelors AMA Field is another one of the locations that are brilliant to fly your drone over but also located outside of the radius in Class G airspace.
The field is located within the Greenwell State Park in Hollywood, Maryland. The airfield sits on the Patuxent River and is covered with dense trees and farmland.
The only issue with flying your drone here is that if you wish to use the airfield, you need to have a current AMA membership. You will also need to keep your membership on hand when you visit the airfield.
The airfield has two runways, one is a synthetic runway, and the other is a grass runway.
The water from the river and the open field will make your drone footage fantastic!