san francisco drone aerial

So what airspace CAN I fly in while using a drone in San Francisco?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about finding where you can legally fly your drone — specifically in San Francisco. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m going to San Francisco for a wedding at the end of May. I wanted to bring my drone and capture some shots of such a beautiful city. However, it seems like just about everything is restricted. Can you recommend some good safe places to fly out there? I’d hate to bring it all the way out there just to find out I can’t fly it anywhere.

-Dan

Hey Dan,

Welcome in advance to San Francisco, and I’m thrilled to hear you want to take pictures of the beautiful city that I live in.

You are right — a LOT of places that our totally incredible also fall in restricted airspace. Most of the beach area on the western side of the city is part of a National Park, as well as the Presidio and Alcatraz. Then, you’ve got the airport down in the southern part of the city which prevents you from flying, as well as Oakland airport on the opposite side of the bay should you want to fly there.

My first piece of advice is to check Airmap, which can tell you whether or not the place you are flying in is restricted airspace. Simply plug in the coordinates of where you are flying, and check the box for either hobbyist or commercial flight as well as the other boxes such as National Parks, and it will let you know if you’re in the clear or not.

So of the places that are legal to fly over, what are some of the best spots? I would highly recommend Golden Gate Park. There are some really cool spots there — the Japanese Tea Garden, the carousel, and the promenade between the Cal Academy and the DeYoung museum are all awesome. I also tested out my Mavic in front of the Conservatory of Flowers and got some epic aerials of the flowers in front!

I also love Treasure Island. It’s extremely sparsely populated, making it a safe spot to fly, while getting a great view of the city’s downtown area. And there are some awesome wineries there to visit — after you drone of course.

Besides that, there are great, iconic spots in the city — City Hall, Coit Tower and the Ferry Building. While you can fly there, be wary of GPS (buildings may affect your drone’s ability to hold its position) and flying over people — you’re in a city of course.

For your inspiration, here are some great examples of images from my friend and one of San Francisco’s best drone photographers, Kara Murphy:

Blue Monday.

A post shared by Kara Murphy (@karaemurphy) on

Perfect night, perfect light.

A post shared by Kara Murphy (@karaemurphy) on

Another favorite shot from last night’s flight.

A post shared by Kara Murphy (@karaemurphy) on

San Franciscans, where would you recommend Dan fly? Leave your ideas in the comments below!

 

5 thoughts on “So what airspace CAN I fly in while using a drone in San Francisco?”

  1. You should mention how most of SF becomes a no fly zone any time there’s a Giants game in town. The MLB issues TFRs, called “stadium TFR”, which cover not only game time but also several hours before and after each game.

  2. Wonderful article as I’m looking to come up to SF from Australia and I’m bringing my Mavic to do some shots. I’ve found your article and https://blog.hivemapper.com/top-10-places-to-fly-a-drone-in-the-san-francisco-bay-area-2cda9eeea8ac as two that help.

    Question – If I wanted to do group photo (or pull out video) at somewhere like Google (as an example – of course each business can say no) … you know the sort, 10 of us in front of their logo & I do a small pull out and up to say 30/40mtrs … is this legal even if it’s in restricted space? (ie: stay low – tree height)

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