A drone, also known as a crewless aerial vehicle, or UAV, is a quadcopter that a pilot from the ground controls. The device has four rotors and can reach altitudes of hundreds of feet and speeds of over 30 miles per hour. Making it an exciting and flexible way to explore different sites in San Diego, California.
But for that, it is important that you know what the best places to fly a drone in San Diego are. If you are a photographer or videographer, no matter where you are in the world, it is important to know the right place to fly the drone.
This not only helps you in enjoying your flight but enables your photography drones to capture some high-end shots. Therefore, if you’re in the San Diego area and want to fly your drone, there are a few locations you can take it. Keep in mind, however, that all drone flying requires FAA approval.
In addition, there are some laws to be aware of before you fly your drone near the city. Including where you can and cannot fly your drone in San Diego, what areas are restricted from drone flights, and how high you can fly your drone from the ground in San Diego.
With that being said, we have picked and reviewed some of the best places to fly a drone in San Diego that you should visit as the view there will not leave you disappointed.
Are Drones Legal In San Diego?
The FAA has set guidelines for drone owners. So it’s smart to brush up on San Diego drone laws before you take your unit out for its first flight. The main rule of thumb is to fly at or below 400 feet and stay at least 5 miles away from an airport.
You can only operate drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and have certain camera requirements. If you want to know more about what’s legal where you live, it’s best to contact your local authorities for specific information on San Diego drone laws.
In general, however, San Diego is one of the more drone-friendly areas. So there are plenty of awesome places you can go within city limits. It is a great place for photographers and videographers, and you can try several different places to capture some top-notch shots.
Drone Laws in San Diego
Every state has its drone laws, with varying degrees of restrictions on where and when you can fly. In San Diego, drone laws are relatively relaxed. You can pretty much take off from anywhere as long as you give yourself some space from other buildings and people and have your drone’s license with you.
You’ll need to be aware of local ordinances, but those don’t have many specifics at all. With those beings said, if you are a beginner, the best place you can visit there is Balboa Park. Nevertheless, if you are a pro, Torrey Pines State Reserve is the best place for you.
Things To Know Before Flying a Drone in San Diego As drones become increasingly mainstream (with even Amazon announcing plans to use them). There is going to be an increased need for rules that govern how we use them, who’s responsible if something goes wrong, and how they fit into our daily lives.
We’re still not sure what these rules will look like, which makes it important that we begin thinking about them now so that we end up creating smart policies rather than overly restrictive ones. Here are some things to consider before flying your drone in SD… Be respectful.
Yes, recreational drone usage is legal here. But that doesn’t mean you should fly anywhere you want or ignore any rules regarding the safe operation or prohibited areas.
San Diego may have some of the best drone-flying weather in California. The city’s diverse climate means you can get started with your drone almost any time of year. Though early spring and late fall tend to be best with no heavy wind or rainfall.
And just about any open space is fair game for flying, as long as you stay away from busy public parks and heavily populated neighborhoods. Flying near airports is also banned (duh), so don’t go over San Diego International Airport or Lindbergh Field at all while using a drone.
You might want to steer clear of US Naval Air Station North Island and other military areas too. But apart from that, the world is your oyster. You can launch your drone anywhere you want, and you will not get in trouble until and unless you are being disrespectful and bothering others with your drone flight.
San Diego Drone Tours and How To Apply For It
The San Diego Drone Zone is one of 3 drone-designated areas in California, with 22 designated areas total. You’ll need to apply for an FAA UAS Certificate of Authorization (COA) to visit each site. It costs $112 per year and can be applied online.
Before applying, make sure you have a valid credit card and your email address on file with EOIR. If you plan on flying commercially, you’ll also need a current copy of your FAA Private Pilot Certificate (or higher) as well as an Airman Medical Certificate signed by an AME.
This certificate only needs to be updated every 24 months. There are three different types of COAs: public, safety, and law enforcement/security services. You might notice that there aren’t many drone sites compared to other states.
That’s because most filming or photography done via drone must take place at 500′ AGL or below…not exactly ideal for aerial shots! However, if your project doesn’t require a flight above 200′, you’re golden!
Where Can I Legally Fly A Drone In San Diego?
San Diego drone regulations are complex and change often. Make sure you understand San Diego drone laws before taking your drone out for its maiden flight in San Diego. The San Diego Drone Zone is an aerial operation map and directory that lists everything from drone repair shops local businesses, and regulations.
Their goal is to make flying easy while staying safe within San Diego city limits and nearby communities where drones maybe not be allowed. To help with these regulations, they have compiled a list of FAA-approved operations within cities.
We suggest consulting your city or county website first for drone policy updates. Here’s how to stay legal: Understand drone policies and restrictions—research airspace rules in San Diego. Use Drone Zone Map or download the app today! That way, you can enjoy flying without legal hiccups!
Best places to fly a drone in San Diego
1. The Pacific Beach pier
This iconic building is one of those ideal spots you can’t miss if you’re visiting San Diego. The pedestrian-only beachfront walkway extends about 500 feet out into the ocean, with an outdoor café and plenty of touristy shops.
Though, unlike most California shorelines, there isn’t much sand here (just water). Either way, it provides great photo opportunities and makes for an awesome place to bring your selfie stick or find a good bird’s eye view of one of America’s finest beaches.
And after visiting just once, you’ll be singing Don’t Worry, Be Happy for days! Just make sure your drone operator is licensed! This place gives you a great opportunity to take some impressive shots and videos while enjoying all along.
2. Westin Hotel Balboa Park
With more than 300 days of sunshine and perfect weather year-round. It’s no wonder why San Diego is one of America’s most popular travel destinations. And while travelers will want to take full advantage of all that Southern California has to offer.
They should also keep their eyes skyward because there’s just as much beauty above ground level as there is below. Balboa Park, home to several museums and galleries, is easily accessible via car or mass transit from almost anywhere in town.
And on top of everything else, it happens to be a great place for flying drones! Plus, because so many folks flock here during tourist season (especially over Labor Day weekend), you’re bound to find other photographers who share your love for taking gorgeous aerial photos.
Therefore, if you are an aerial photographer, you can meet some fantastic people here that can help you and guide you on the right path for the best shots. So, pack your best traveling drone as your companion and visit this one of the best places to fly a drone in San Diego. And We assure you that you will not leave this place disappointed.
3. Ocean Beach Pier
What makes Ocean Beach Pier great for drones is that it’s out in the open, without many people around. Yet still offers up some cool views of both Mission Bay and Downtown. You can also usually find parking nearby and use it as a base camp.
It’s also popular with surfers, so you may catch some excellent aerial shots while they enjoy their waves. This place is probably one of your best bets if you’re just getting started with flying drones. With not many obstacles in your flight path, it is also a safe place for beginners to try some outdoor photography using their beginner’s drones.
4. La Jolla Cove
Tucked into some of San Diego’s most beautiful coastline, La Jolla Cove is one of Southern California’s premier spots for whale watching and scuba diving. But you don’t have to be an expert diver or whale enthusiast to enjoy it.
With calm waters, gorgeous views, and sea caves just offshore, La Jolla Cove is a popular destination for snorkelers and amateur photographers too. Getting there: It’s located along Coast Boulevard (just north of Pacific Beach). But don’t just drop anchor; boats are not allowed in the cove itself.
Instead, approach from either side and check in with lifeguards on duty before parking. It is an amazing place to visit if you are a tourist or a traveler and you move around capturing the world’s beauty. With great sightseeing chances, you can capture some mind-blowing masterpieces at this place using your drone.
5. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
No permits are required, but drones aren’t allowed within 500 feet of any building or person. You can find sunrise and sunset here. As well as beautiful cliffs, lots of privacy, and views of La Jolla below.
Can I fly a drone at Torrey Pines?
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is home to some of the rarest plants and animals in North America, making it an important area for conservation. There is a long list of rules and regulations governing what visitors can and cannot do there.
Because of that, flying a drone near Torrey Pines may be a little more complicated than normal. The easiest way to check on whether you’re allowed to fly your drone there or not is by checking with Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve directly.
Still, you should also check with other local government agencies that could affect flying near Torrey Pines. However, it is a great place and can help you capture some amazing shots. But that is if you are allowed to take your drone on a flight there. Nevertheless, if you get permission, fly within their altitude limit and follow their laws to stay out of any trouble.
There are a ton of best places to fly a drone in San Diego. There’s Balboa Park, which is huge and allows you to take cool shots of all its attractions. Mission Bay Park is another good option, as it’s not as busy as Cabrillo or Balboa and has lots of interesting bridges and buildings to capture on film.
There’s also Point Loma, which is great for photos that have sweeping views of Downtown and Coronado Island. That said, I love flying my drone at Liberty Station because there’s so much open space without any tall buildings (or people) nearby. You can get some cool videos taken from above there; it always looks like something out of a science fiction movie!