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Before You Take Your Drone Hiking...

Posted by Erika Haugen-Goodman at Jan 25, 2016 02:55 PM |
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If you're the proud owner of a new drone, check out these tips and regulations before taking it on a test flight.

Drone by Michael Khor
Drones weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds must now be registered. Photo copyright Michael Khor/Flickr.

It may not come as a surprise, but drones were extremely popular gifts this year for the holidays. With their ability to take photos and videos from unique angles and the enjoyment of flying them, it’s easy to see why they’re on a lot of wishlists.

Whether you've picked one up for yourself or unwrapped one over the holidays, here are a few things you need to know before taking it with you on a hike or into Washington's wild spaces.

Register your drone

  • As of Dec. 21, 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration is requiring all owners of unmanned aircraft, drones, models and RC aircraft weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds to register online before flying. Get more info and register today.
  • Registrations cost $5.

Know where you can fly

NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary
Olympic Coast National Marine sanctuary. Map by NOAA
It might be tempting to fly your drone over that amazing alpine lake, but doing so might come with a fine. Here is a list of areas where drones are prohibited in Washington:
  • Designated wilderness areas (Tip: wilderness areas in Washington cross both National Forest land and National Parks.)
  • National parks (Olympic, Mount Rainier and North Cascades are the largest ones in Washington state.)
  • Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, which covers land and air along a large portion of the Olympic coastline. (See map).
  • If you do more urban hiking, drones are prohibited near airports, stadiums, etc. Get more info on where to avoid here.

Drone etiquette

While drone etiquette is still developing, here are a few things to keep in mind when flying:

  • Remember that other hikers may be there to enjoy the outdoors without distraction. Avoid flying near others so everyone can enjoy the wild spaces of Washington in their own way.
  • Don't approach wildlife with drones. Drones can stress wildlife and disrupt their natural habitat and behaviors. (Read about a recent study on drones and wildlife via National Geographic.)
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles
  • Only fly it where you can legally and easily recover it.
  • Avoid flying near fire crews or above ongoing blazes. This not only can be distracting for the crews, but can interfere with operations, potentially creating dangerous conditions and enabling the fire to worsen.

More reading:

Get more tips and guidelines before taking flight.


Erika on Before You Take Your Drone Hiking...

So any tips on great places they CAN be flown? This seems to imply that prettymuch everywhere worth flying/shooting is off limits.

Posted by:

Erika on Jul 19, 2017 12:03 PM

deedub2u on Before You Take Your Drone Hiking...

Washington State Parks are off limits as well, unless a specific permit is obtained through application.

National Forests, do not have additional restrictions beyond "follow FAA guidance", except for the Wilderness areas mentioned above.

Posted by:

deedub2u on Jul 20, 2017 01:34 PM

NateWTA on Before You Take Your Drone Hiking...

Of the places worth hiking and filming, it seems that it's primarily National Forests, not Nat'l/State **Parks**, which are not inside designated Wilderness areas.

A good reference is to use the USFS online Interactive Map, which clearly shows these boundaries:

(best viewed on computer, not smartphone)

Posted by:

NateWTA on May 24, 2018 05:02 PM