Flying Drones in Imperial Beach

Know Before You Fly

Imperial Beach is a class D controlled airspace due to the Imperial Beach Navy Outlying Field (NOLF) Airfield (Ream Field). The flying of drones in Imperial Beach is prohibited unless the pilot obtains authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In some regions, this authorization is near-instantaneous via several mobile apps utilizing low altitude authorization and notification system (LAANC). Imperial Beach NOLF Airfield does not currently have LAANC capabilities, meaning the only way for a pilot to obtain authorization is by submitting a request via the FAADroneZone website. This authorization, if approved, can take anywhere from a week to several months. In order to legally and safely fly a drone in Imperial Beach, the pilot must have the approved FAA authorization, drone registration, and if applicable, FAA waivers available for inspection by FAA officials or law enforcement. The drone must also be marked with the unique FAA registration number.

  • Once authorization is received, you will need to submit a filming application to the Events & Filming Office if used for filming purposes. 
  • Pilots should be reviewing the FAA B4UFLY mobile app prior to flight. The app provides pilots with up-to-date information and restrictions on the intended flight area.
  • If the drone operation is for a business purpose or for monetary gain, the pilot must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA and a City of Imperial Beach business license.

Drones are prohibited from the following unless an FAA waiver is obtained:

  • Flying at night
  • Flying over people
  • Flying over moving vehicles
  • Flying without a visual line of sight 
  • Flight over 400 feet above ground level
  • Flight over any military installation

Drones are always prohibited from the following:

  • Flying while intoxicated
  • Interfering with emergency operations (402(A) PC)
  • Invasion of privacy (647(J) PC)
  • Reckless flight

Failure for drone pilots to obtain required approval and/or follow the flight rules can lead to criminal and civil penalties. Local law enforcement may report drone violations to the FAA for further investigation. There are FAA Special Agents that investigate these matters.

Additional Drone Flying Information:

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has partnered with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Academy of Model Aeronautics to launch the "Know Before You Fly" educational campaign. This campaign is designed to inform recreational and commercial users of safe and responsible use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), otherwise oftentimes referred to drones.

Drone Registration

The Federal Aviation Administration requires all owners of model aircraft, small unmanned aircraft or drones, or other RC aircraft weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds to register online before taking to the skies. The registration fee is 5 and is valid for three years.

The online registration system will require drone owners 13 years and older to submit their name, email and home address to receive a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership. This will include a unique identification number owners must affix to any drone they own and operate exclusively for recreation.

Safety Guidelines for Drone Users:

  • Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible.
  • Keep your UAS in eyesight at all times, and use an observer to assist if needed.
  • Remain clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations.
  • Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.
  • Do not fly in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility.
  • Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, and government facilities.
  • Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.
  • Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission.

Stay informed

Additional information regarding drone operation, best practices, safety regulations, and registration is provided on the Know Before You Fly website.