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Can I fly my drone where I live?

Best answer: AirMap for Drones can help your quickly see if your location is outside any permanent restrictions and temporary restrictions that pop up around special events or around travelling dignitaries. It can also tell you which airport operator or air traffic controller to report flight plans to if you want to fly within certain range of private or minucipal airports.

Google Play: AirMap for Drones (Free)

iTunes: AirMap for Drones (Free)

What to look for when reading AirMap

When you're reading airspace restriction maps, it can look a bit like a splatter painting, especially in more crowded metropolitan areas with lots of helipads, private airports, and major events that facilitate TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions) that crop up around large outdoor events like MLB and NFL games or major political rallies. Not all flight restrictions are the same, and not all flight restrictions completely prohibit you from flying a drone inside of them.

There are a few things to look for when tapping on a circle or location on the map — either in the AirMap for Drones app or the Know Before You Fly website's airspace map powered by AirMap.

Do I need to tell someone before I fly?

If the words REQUIRES NOTIFICATION appear when you tap on a circle/location, then you can't just take a drone outside and power it up: you have to tell anyone listed in the Selected Advisories section that you will be flying there. Larger airports may accept a digital notice, but the rest you'll have to call at the number listed in their advisories.

Is there a limit to how high I can fly?

Inside the 5-mile radius of many airports, there are restrictions on how high you can fly a drone before you're in hazardous airspace AKA, in the possible path of incoming flights. If you see a grid pattern inside an airport's circle, that means that the height limit differs within each of those boxes, from a complete no-fly closest to the airport to a 50-300 ft height restriction.

Do I need to tell the heliports, too?

You don't have to call every heliport the way you do every airport you're within a 5-mile radius of, but they have numbers listed with them because it never hurts to check. You do need to be mindful of heliports and the helicopters that may or may not be flying near them, especially if the heliports near you are for a hospital that can have higher numbers of unexpected and emergent flights.

Are there any major events nearby?

Temporary Flight Restrictions are issued for NFL, MLB, Division One NCAA Football games, and major NASCAR races. TFRs surrounding sporting events specifically ban drone flights within three nautical miles (3.45 regular miles) of the event's venue. TFRs are also issued around disaster areas — you can't fly drones near wildfires since they can get in the way of rescue and firefighting efforts — and around the travel movements of VIPs like the Pope.

TFRs can also pop up just about anywhere for a First Responder Emergency, and while these TFRs tend to be small, they are a very good reminder that you should check the map each and every time you're about to pull out the drone for a flight.

What about these red/blue areas?

I live in Central Texas, where there are two areas that are absolute no-fly zones for civilian drones: the military installations at Ft. Hood, and Prohibited Special Use Airspace P-49: President George W. Bush's ranch in Crawford. Security-Restricted Airspaces are usually marked in AirMap as blue areas, and when you tap them it will tell you who controls it AKA who will be coming to arrest you if your drone wanders into its area.

Red areas in AirMap are Restricted areas, which come in two flavors: the TFRs we mentioned before, and permanent Restricted Areas. You cannot launch, fly, or land a drone in a National Parks property, including most national landmarks and some state landmarks. Most of Washington, DC sits under a 30-mile No-Drone Zone with its own rules.

Good to fly? Our favorite drones under $300 are ready for takeoff!

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

7 Comments
  • Ara, As an FAA certified Remote Pilot I'm concerned about what you wrote. I would like to clear up some things incorrect about this story thatt could endager the public. In short if you are not a certified pilot you CAN NOT FLY within 5 miles of an airport. Period. In Airmap "Fly for Fun" is the guidlines consomers are supposed to use. Only if you're a Part 107 certified pilot should you select "Part 107 rules" as we have proven to the FAA that we understand how airspace works and how we should operate within it among other things. As for height consumers are not allowed to fly higher than 400 feet. Certified pilots have different regulations. Your article has some good points but generally speaking could cause injury or death if people follow your information. Please read FAA Part 107 regulations before posting an article like this. Misinformed operators give commercial drone pilots a bad rap when they make mistakes. That's not to say that we're free of mistakes but certified pilots are knowledgeable in this area and there's a reason certification exists. Please make corrections to this article before someone goes to jail or gets someone killed by flying where they shouldn't.
  • Wrong. Part 107 can fly over 400' without waiver so long as they are within 400' radius of an obstacle (example - radio tower, skyscraper, etc). And hobbyists under Section 336 / Part 101 do not have a ceiling except by CBO safety guidelines. No CBO that I'm aware of has a ceiling. AMA (world's largest CBO) requires notifying ATC of flight over 400' if within 3 miles of the airport within their safety guidelines. But did clarify with the FAA that no ceiling is in place for hobbyists: https://amablog.modelaircraft.org/amagov/files/2016/07/FAA-400feet.pdf
  • enzonix, You are so very wrong on so many things that you should really do some research prior to any further posting. Hobbyists can indeed fly within 5 miles of an airport. Period. Want proof? See Part 101 CFR, AC 91-57A and every CBO set of safety standards. And hobbyists can elect to follow Part 107 regulations - they are actually more stringent than Part 101 Subpart E restrictions. Likewise, both hobbyists and Part 107 operators can fly above 400' as Ezeriah correctly points out as well. Your comment points out that some Part 107 operators feel that they know how drones should operate within the NAS but are in fact actually clueless about all of the regulations. And in many of these cases the Part 107 operators feel that their certificate gives them special abilities over hobbyists who've provided the industry with the best safety record of any type of aircraft in the NAS for the past 8 decades. It doesn't, and you've just proven that with the flagrant mistakes littered throughout your comments.
  • Actually, hobbyists can fly within 5 miles of an airport if they notify the tower. See the FAA website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/model_aircraft/
  • The article really should mention that this is for USA only.
  • Better answer.... AirMap is no friend of the drone operator or drone industry. The company has been a vocal advocate for state and local control over the NAS that would create a patchwork of regulations that the FAA themselves has slammed as an idea that would endanger rather than protect the NAS. Should AirMap get their way the airspace for UAS would likely become a pay to play type of environment and be detrimental to both the industry and the safety of our public airspace. There are several other applications that provide up to the minute airspace restrictions for the location you are flying / planning to fly that are even more accurate than what AirMap is providing. Simply.......ditch AirMap.
  • The only true app is the one put out by the FAA - B4U Fly app