Is there a more tantalizing sight in Las Vegas than the Strip? The glittering casinos and towering architecture are all here for you to behold. You want to do more than behold these views but capture them with your drone.
Can you fly a drone on the Las Vegas Strip?
The Las Vegas Strip as a whole is considered a no-fly zone. You’d need express permission to be there. The Strip is in very close proximity to an airport (about one nautical mile away), which further makes it off-limits. Operating your drone here anyway can result in a misdemeanor charge.
Ahead, we’ll talk further about flying your drone anywhere near the Las Vegas Strip and suggest where else you can fly without incurring hefty fines, possible imprisonment, and charges to your permanent record.
Can you fly a drone on the Las Vegas Strip?
Imagine flying over the Las Vegas Strip and capturing aerial footage of the casinos, shops, and restaurants here.
Unfortunately, imagining is all you can do. Flying anywhere near the Strip is very much illegal, so be sure to keep your UAV away from Las Vegas Boulevard.
If you ever see drone footage of the Strip posted to YouTube or elsewhere on social media, the footage was either taken illegally (huge mistake) or the pilot might have had a permit.
In limited circumstances, commercial pilots might be able to obtain a flight permit, but don’t hold your breath.
There are plenty of reasons why using a drone on the Las Vegas Strip is such an ill-conceived idea.
Proximity to Harry Reid International Airport
Once known as McCarran Airport, today, the Newton Boulevard airport in Las Vegas is called the Harry Reid International Airport. While its name might have changed, its location has not.
Harry Reid International Airport is only five miles from downtown Vegas and one nautical mile from the Las Vegas Strip. As you can imagine, its ultra-convenient location makes it a very popular place for tourists to fly into when visiting Vegas.
Pilots are supposed to give airports a wide berth to prevent potential interruptions or collisions with manned aircraft. Usually, the prescribed distance is five miles. Since the airport and the Vegas Strip are so close, that’s not possible.
It’s no wonder why the Las Vegas Strip disallows drone pilots.
Huge tourist attraction
As a drone enthusiast, surely, you’re familiar with the FAA’s Operations Over People law. Under that law, unless you have a lightweight toy drone, you’re not supposed to fly over people’s heads unless they agree to it.
Many states make flying over large crowds outright illegal because it’s unsafe for the general populace.
Tens of thousands of tourists and residents converge on the Las Vegas Strip daily. According to a late 2019 article from News 3, that year, the Strip attracted 50,000 pedestrians. The number has surely only gone up since.
That’s why you see footbridges aplenty at places such as Veer Towers, Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas Boulevard, and the Park MGM and T-Mobile Arena Park.
With so much pedestrian traffic on any given day, and considering the Operations Over People law, it’s simply not safe for drones to share the busy walkways of the Las Vegas Strip with the crowds.
Many opportunities for property damage
What can’t you find on the Vegas Strip? It’s the home of venues like the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the Las Vegas Festival Grounds, and Allegiant Stadium.
The Strip offers more than 40,000 square feet of shopping areas, and it also includes sports arenas, amusement parks, and casinos galore.
All this is to say that the Vegas Strip has no shortage of architectural marvels, from high-rises to water fountains and Ferris wheels.
Your inclination might be to fly high to avoid the crowds, but that can cause you to possibly collide with a building, a power line, or another obstacle.
If not, then you could lose your drone if it flies too high.
What happens if you fly a drone on the Las Vegas Strip?
If all the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas distracted you and you ended up using your drone too close to the Strip, what consequences would befall you?
Legal resource Las Vegas Defense Group mentions NRS 493.109, a Nevada state law that makes it illegal to operate a drone within five miles of any airport unless you have the airport operator’s permission or an FAA waiver.
The crime is a misdemeanor charge that can lead to penalties such as six months’ imprisonment or $1,000 in fines. You could incur both punishments.
Due to the proximity of Harry Reid International Airport, it’s hard to avoid the airport when using your drone on the Las Vegas Strip. You’re likely to violate NRS 493.109 even without meaning to.
5 Las Vegas destinations to legally fly a drone instead
Although you’ll have to bid adieu to the endless luxury of the Las Vegas Strip, that doesn’t mean your trip to Nevada has to be a bust. If you’re willing to choose more rural locations, you can have a blast with your drone!
Here are some spots in Vegas to add to your flight itinerary.
1. Potosi Mountain
In the Spring Mountains, Potosi Mountain is 30 miles from Vegas in Clark County. It’s far from the hustle and bustle of city life and features limestone bedrock and a max elevation of 8,517 feet.
You’ll fly fancy-free here with open airspace and far fewer crowds than on the Vegas Strip!
2. Cornerstone Park
The 31-acre Cornerstone Park is scenic with sports courts, lighted paths, and mountainous views as far as the eye can see. While maybe not the greenest park (you are in the desert, after all), Cornerstone Park is still a great place to spend an afternoon with or without a drone.
3. Lake Las Vegas
In nearby Henderson is Lake Las Vegas, which is part of 3,592 acres of land. The lake itself is a reservoir that spans 320 acres.
Enjoy it while you can, folks, as a handful of development companies have their hands in the area, so there might not be much if any natural beauty left in the years to come.
4. Seven Magic Mountains
While you’re in Clark County, take some time to see Seven Magic Mountains. This tourist attraction/art installation features seven piles of boulders stacked up in a totem formation. Each is painted an assortment of Day-Glo colors.
The tallest of the rock formations is 35 feet!
Take some overhead shots if you wish but be respectful of the art installation so everyone can continue to enjoy it.
5. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Although a spot like Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area might seem like it’d be off-limits to drone pilots, you are welcome here. Situated in the Mojave Desert, the conservation area features the Keystone Thrust Fault and sandstone peaks.
It’s a dazzling area to be afforded flight freedom!
The Las Vegas Strip is one of the most instantly recognizable locations in the world. Since it’s very crowded and the buildings are densely packed, drone pilots are prohibited from flying on the Strip.
You’re also within a nautical mile of the Harry Reid International Airport, which only complicates matters.
Flying your drone here would be too much of a risk to manned aircraft and pedestrians. You’d also get slapped with a misdemeanor charge for your first offense and more severe charges for repeat crimes.
If you really want to see what Vegas offers, venture off the beaten path, ditch all the pedestrian traffic, and try flying in such beloved locations as the:
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
- Seven Magic Mountains
- Cornerstone Park
- Potosi Mountain
Once you see breathtaking sights like these, you won’t even miss the Vegas Strip!
1. News 3 (link)
2. Las Vegas Defense Group (link)