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Tacoma, Wash., Allows Drones, Requires Permission in Parks

Recreational drone flights are, generally, legal in the Pacific Northwest city. However, hobbyists looking to fly in city parks must secure permission from the city parks director. Much the same is true in Pierce County, which includes Tacoma.

(TNS) — You have probably heard buzzing noises occasionally and looked up to find a drone flying overhead.

As technology advances, drones become more affordable, making them more accessible and increasingly popular in recent years.

Many people use drones for surveillance, aerial photography and videography.

When does the use of drones go from being harmless to invading someone's privacy? Do Tacoma or Pierce County have codes in place that outlaw flying drones over private property?

Here are what Tacoma and Pierce County laws say.

The use of drones in Tacoma is allowed but only for recreational purposes. The law does not exclude flying drones over private property.

According to the City of Tacoma website, drones can be used for activities such as drone racing and photography as long as drone operators follow safety rules that are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA).

The Tacoma City Council passed Resolution 40658 which supports "responsible drone ownership through safe operation, and directing the City Manager to develop an education strategy to help connect residents to information on drone regulation and policies in Tacoma."

Basic Rules for drone usage in Tacoma per FAA

1. Register your drone

2. Fly only for recreational purposes.

3. Don't fly over a person or moving vehicle.

4. Do not interfere with emergency response activities.

5. Fly your drone at a maximum height of 400 feet.

6. Keep drone within sight.

7. Only fly at night if your drone has lighting that allows for it.

8. Do not interfere with an aircraft that is being flown by a person.

9. Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Many over-the-counter medications have side effects that could impact your ability to safely operate your drone.

10. Do not operate your drone in a careless or reckless manner.


According to the FAA, a "no drone zone" is a term used to help drone operators identify areas where they cannot operate a drone.

No-drone zones include the following, according to the FAA:

  • Restricted Airspace: The FAA prohibits drone flight in certain airspace.

  • Local Restrictions: Drone takeoff and landing locations that are restricted by state, local territorial or tribal government agencies. The FAA has designed a no-drone sign for government agencies to use to identify flight restrictions.

  • Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs): An area of airspace that is temporarily restricted. Airspace restrictions can be found on FAA approved websites and mobile applications.

The FAA has approved four companies to provide through desktop and mobile applications information about where recreational drone users can and cannot fly.

According to the City of Tacoma website and in accordance with city ordinance, drones are not allowed to be flown in a park managed by Metro Parks without first receiving permission from the parks director. To apply for a permit, email

The city ordinance was amended in 2019 to prohibit the use of drones in parks managed by Metro Parks in order to address "public safety issues impacting the quality of life in public parks."

According to an interactive map by Airspace Link, one of the four approved companies, there are flight restrictions above Joint Base Lewis-McChord and air spaces used as military routes.


In Pierce County, there are certain regulations that hobbyists and county agencies must follow when using drones.

Recreational drone use is legal throughout Pierce County, except in parks.

According to Pierce County code, the use of drones in any parks within the county is prohibited without first obtaining a permit from the director or a designee.

Pierce County agencies are allowed to use drone for aerial photography, videography or other remote sensing techniques in support of government missions, according to protocols set by the county. Although the county is allowed to use drones for those specific circumstances, the usage still involves privacy considerations.

According to Pierce County Code, county agencies are not allowed to use drones to "to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute, ordinance, regulation or rule, except as authorized by state and federal law."

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