FAQs | Utah Back Country Pilots Association

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I allowed to fly my drone in the backcountry?

Depends. If you are in a Wilderness Area, no. The Wilderness Act of 1964 prohibits the use of mechanized equipment such as bicycles, motorized vehicles, or drones. While the designations of our public lands change, it is imperative that as drone operators you verify that your intended operations are conducted outside of these areas. Wilderness Connect is a great resource for that information. If you’re at non-wilderness airstrip, the FAA states “when flying in these areas, remote pilots and recreational flyers must be aware of and avoid traffic patterns and takeoff and landing areas. A drone must not interfere with operations at the airport must yield right-of-way to all other aircraft.” Drone regulations continue to evolve and vary based on your operation (Part 107, recreationally, etc). Be advised the FAA’s B4UFLY application does not depict wilderness areas nor contain all the rules and exceptions for operating drones. When in doubt, please do your homework before launching your drone so as to not put pilots or our access to the backcountry in jeopardy.

Is it legal to land on roads?

It depends. Currently, the Bureau of Land Management has determined aircraft to be classified as Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs). Therefore, any road that does not prohibit access or use to OHVs or other motorized vehicles would be permitted. However, the UBCP would like the BLM to not allow this clarification to justify the closure of any airstrips within their lands. If there is a road within a BLM area that you intend to operate out of, it may behoove you to contact the respective BLM office and inquire about access. Signs, fences, and other hazards such as drainage ditches may make landing on roads hazardous. Exercise extreme caution.

Can I land on gravel bars around the state?

It depends. The Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands (State Lands | Utah DNR – FFSL (Forestry, Fire and State Lands) manages many of the "previously submerged" lands of many Utah waterways. Under their direction, pilots are requested to contact them directly to inquire about motorized / off highway vehicle access. Much like other "grey areas" it may be in the best interest of pilots to avoid their use unless is expressedly approved.

Can I land on the shore of the Great Salt Lake?

No. And even if you were to attempt it, know that the ground is not firm enough in most places to keep an airplane from flipping over. Trust us.

Where's a good beginner backcountry airstrip?

Start with your home airport and work from there. Hone your precision short and soft field takeoff and landing techniques, and seek the council of a qualified flight instructor or experienced backcountry pilot local to Utah. Airstrips such as Locomotive Springs and Ibex provide opportunities without many of the challenges of other airstrips. Also, take a look at Huntington Municipal and Hanksville as they also provide dirt runways in a much more forgiving environment. Need some help finding one? Give us a call!