In light of the increasing popularity of recreational drones, the U.S. Forest Service has released specific guidelines for recreational unmanned aircraft use over public lands:
– Avoid flying over federally-designated wilderness or primitive areas.
– As drones are considered both "motorized equipment" and "mechanical transport," they cannot take off from, land in, or be operated from federally-designated wilderness areas.
– Avoid flying over noise-sensitive areas or populated sites, including rivers, campgrounds, trail heads and visitor centers.
– A drone may not be used to disturb or harass wildlife.
– No interference with official aerial activities over national forests, such as wildfire detection and suppression.
– Drone pilots must obey state privacy laws.
These guidelines only apply to hobby or recreation operations. Commercial operations include filming, still photography, survey, or any other endeavor for profit that involves use of a drone. These ventures may be allowable through a special use permit issued by the Forest Service.
Unmanned aircraft systems are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, which also controls private and ocmmercial aircraft. Complete regulations for their use can be found here.