The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (link is external) has regulatory authority over all airspace, including recreational use of airspace by model aircraft (See FAA Advisory Circular 91-57) (link is external). The U.S. Forest Service does not have the authority to establish any additional regulations regarding where UAS can or can’t be flown.
Individuals and organizations that fly UAS on National Forest System lands must follow FAA guidance (link is external) – FAA guidance stipulates that UAS not interfere with manned aircraft, be flown within sight of the operator and be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The FAA also requires model aircraft operators flying UAS within five miles of an airport to notify the airport operator and air traffic control tower. The FAA’s model aircraft provision apply only to hobby or recreation operations and do not authorize the use of model aircraft for commercial operations. For more information, watch the “Know Before You Fly” video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF5Q9JvBhxM&feature=youtu.be (link is external) and visit the Know Before You Fly Website at http://www.knowbeforeyoufly.org/ (link is external)
Individuals and organizations that fly UAS for hobby or recreational purposes may not operate them in areas of National Forest System lands that have Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) (link is external) in place, such as wildfires, without prior approval from the U.S. Forest Service.
The FAA provides guidance (link is external) on “Flights Over Charted U.S. Wildlife Refuges, Parks, and Forest Service Areas”. Per this guidance, federal laws prohibit certain types of flight activity and/or provide altitude restrictions over “designated Forest Service Areas.” UAS are considered to be “mechanized” equipment and cannot take off and land in designated Wilderness Areas on National Forest System lands.
Individuals or organizations that do not comply with FAA guidance in flying UAS on National Forest System lands will be reported to the FAA.