There is understandably some confusion about whether or not you can fly a drone in Sedona. The beautiful red rocks make the area feel sacred (after all, there are vortexes there… maybe?)
Do a quick Google search and you’ll find some conflicting information. Is the area around the airport actually restricted? What about flying in the Red Rock State Park? Are there other areas to avoid, or should I just nix Sedona altogether to be on the safe side?
Our blog is set out to answer these questions, along with the most common one among drone enthusiasts when it comes to this naturally beautiful town: Can you fly a drone in Sedona?
Can You Fly a Drone in Sedona?
The answer is yes, with a few caveats. You cannot fly in state parks or wilderness areas, and you cannot fly in areas that have Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR). You can search the FAA’s website for current TFRs, so you can easily check on the day you take flight for the most up-to-date information.
Besides that, flying a drone in Sedona is largely fair game!
Rules Around the Sedona Airport
Airports can be somewhat confusing when it comes to determining whether you’re permitted to fly your drone in close proximity to them, and if so, within what airspace range. In Sedona, you’re allowed to fly within 5 miles of the Sedona Airport (SEZ) and must remain under 400′ from the ground.
The Sedona Airport doesn’t have an air traffic control tower, so no notification is needed directly to them. This hopefully goes without saying, but you should also always be courteous and cautious to other pilots you might see in the area.
“No Fly Areas” aren’t actually enforceable
If you’ve been to Sedona, chances are you might have seen a sign saying something along the lines of “No Drone Zone”. This is one of the main reasons why there’s a decent amount of confusion around flying drones in Sedona. These signs are usually close to the Sedona Airport so they bank on that common confusion around airports and drones.
While these signs might look legitimate and intimidating, they aren’t actually enforceable. The United States Forest Service, municipal, county, or airport governments do not have legal authority to regulate airspace. That’s solely the FAA’s job, and they do not restrict drones by the Sedona Airport.
Don’t lose sight of your drone
It’s legally required to maintain line of sight on your drone at all times. This is especially important around airports to ensure you’re not putting other aircrafts in danger. Always have an eye on your drone, regardless of whether or not you’re by an airport.
Understand and Know Where Wilderness Areas Are Located
Wilderness areas are valued natural spaces with the highest level of protection in the country. The designation exists to protect these areas in their natural form, untouched or tarnished by humans. There are a total of 803 wilderness areas in the US, with two of them being in Sedona.
The two wilderness areas in Sedona are the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness Area north of Sedona, and the Munds Mountain Wilderness Area east of the city.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or referred to as UAS, are considered by the United States Forest Service to be both ‘motorized equipment’ and ‘mechanical transport’. Both of these designations prohibit a UAS from taking off from, landing in, or operating from designated wilderness areas.
To be on the safe side, avoid flying your drone in designated wilderness areas completely. The only exception to this would be if you were to obtain a permit from the local state government, which is sparingly granted for extraordinary circumstances, such as large-scale video production.
Familiarize Yourself with the Drone Laws in Arizona
No matter if you’re flying your drone in Sedona or another city within Arizona, being familiar with the local laws is paramount. The drone laws in Arizona default to the FAA rules and regulations. This includes:
- Registering your drone with the FAA.
- Passing your remote pilot certification and renewing it every two years if you want to fly for commercial purposes.
There are some “common sense” drone laws that are beneficial to point out as a reminder.
- Do not interfere with police, firefighters, or manned aircrafts.
- Flying a drone in “dangerous proximity” to a person or property is defined as Disorderly Conduct. This is important to note for Sedona, since it is a heavily trafficked tourist destination.
- Do not fly within 500 feet horizontally or 250 feet vertically of any critical facility. For example, like water treatment facilities, power plants, courthouses, military installations, and hospitals.
Unfortunately for some drone hobbyists, Arizona has prohibited recreational drone use in state parks. Commercial drone use in state parks is reviewed on a case by case basis, and mainly approved for news and publicity purposes.
Scenic Areas to Fly Your Drone in Sedona
Sedona is a decently populated area for the size of the city, with that population swelling significantly during tourist season. As such, many residents and tourists alike can become disgruntled by the prevalence of drones. If you’re looking to fly a drone in Sedona, abide by some common courtesy, like not flying over private property and not flying in close proximity to people.
There are many scenic areas in Sedona that are a good distance from residential areas and the main tourist drag, so you’ll hopefully have little issue with complaints. We recommend double checking any area you wish to fly in against a wilderness area map and against state park boundaries, to ensure you’re allowed to film there.
Be Confident With How to Operate Your Drone
One of the biggest tips to flying a drone in Sedona is making sure you’re confident in not only your abilities to fly it, but also have confidence in your drone. If your drone is showing signs of old age or questionable maneuverability, like not responding to inputs, it’s high time to upgrade it to a new one. Ensuring your drone is safe and capable for use is one of the first steps to trusting your abilities to fly it.
If you haven’t flown your drone before, be sure to get in some practice before venturing out to Sedona. You should know how to confidently take off and land smoothly, along with knowing how to control it without it dropping sharply or crashing. Being able to capture smooth videos is also a good skill to practice to cut down on your video editing and correcting.
Operating your drone safely and in accordance with state and federal laws will help lower the amount of complaints—if any—you receive when you fly your drone in Sedona.
How to Get the Best Sedona Drone Footage Possible
If you’re venturing out to Sedona to gather some drone footage, chances are you’re hoping to capture stunning photos and videos of the famous red rocks. Sedona is a scenic place, so it’s not too difficult to gather your own beautiful photos and videos, but we’re sure you want your photos and videos to stand out from other photographers.
We have a whole article on how to get the best drone footage possible, but we’ll review the highlights of it here.
- Invest in a quality drone like the DJI Mavic 3
- Become an FAA certified drone pilot for non-recreational purposes
- Practice flying and shooting with your drone
- Outsource your drone videography and photography needs if necessary
Flying a drone comes with both a time and money investment. After the upfront cost of purchasing your drone and potentially getting FAA certified, you’ll also have to invest time in practicing and actually going out and capturing the photos and videos you want. Many people find this too time consuming and look to outsource this to professional drone photographers.
Some sites to check out are ones like Craigslist and Thumbtack. Many marketing agencies are also offering drone services now. So if going to Sedona yourself isn’t in the cards, you can look for a local drone videographer. At Jack & Bean, we have FAA certified drone pilots and offer different levels of drone services to suit any need. Contact us today to see how we can help grow your business through drone work.