Where Can I Fly My Model Rockets?

A little boy and his dad about to launch a model rocket.

Model rockets are launched straight up in the sky, going up and up until they finally start falling, coming down gracefully with a parachute, almost right where you launched it. Well, not really. 

Sometimes, the launching pad might sit at a slight angle and will make your rocket go a little too far to the right or left.

To avoid your rocket landing in trees, on buildings, or in someone’s yard, you have to be careful about where you launch it.

Where can I fly my model rockets? Model rockets should only be flown in open areas with plenty of space. Keep in mind that rockets might land away from the launch site because of wind or the angle at which it was launched. You should seek permission to launch rockets before you do so, especially if you have a group of people with you.

When launching model rockets, you, of course, want to ensure the safety of everyone involved, but you also want to be certain to remain within the law.

Let’s go over the places you can launch your rocket, safety guidelines, and helpful resources that can provide more information.

Laws, Regulations, and Safety Guidelines

Before you find a site to launch model rockets, you need to have an idea of the safety guidelines, laws, and regulations surrounding model rocketry.

Many of the guidelines pertain to location and weather conditions, which will greatly affect where you choose to launch.

The Model Rocketry Safety Code

The National Association of Rocketry (NAR) has a Model Rocket Safety Code that has been in effect since August 2012.

The code has several rules about proper materials and motors, how to handle misfires, launch safety, and the launch site.

The safety code includes a table of launch site dimensions that should be followed.

The code states that rockets should only be launched outside in an area that is at least as big as what is recommended in the table.

If you’re flying a rocket with a C-class motor, you should have at least 400 feet (121 meters) of space available. 

The area shouldn’t have any dry grass near where you are going to launch the rocket because grass fires can be started.

You should also avoid launching on a windy day. If an area has dry grass and high winds, it could quickly become a dangerous situation if a fire is started. 

Age Restrictions

There are no age restrictions for buying and launching model rockets. However, some states do have age restrictions on who can purchase rocket motors.

Restrictions are generally for motor classes D and above. Most manufacturers recommend adult supervision for kids 12 and under, although there is not a law that specifically states that this is a requirement.

Safety should always be top priority, especially when children are involved.

Certification

You don’t need certification to fly low-power model rockets. However, if you want to fly high-power rockets, you will need certification.

You will be able to take a beginner rocket out and launch it with kids and not be asked for proof of certification. 

Requirements for Launch Site

You must have permission from the owner of the launch site to launch a rocket.

If you find an empty field, you need to learn who owns the property and ask them for permission. If you don’t have permission, launching a rocket on the site will probably be illegal.

How do you get permission? Ask the owner of the site directly.

Maybe you know someone (who knows someone) who knows the owner of the site that can connect you with them so you can discuss using the property as a launch site. 

If you don’t know the owner of the ideal piece of land, the county will usually allow you to obtain records to find out who owns it.

If it’s a single person, just have a conversation. If it’s a company or government organization, you will probably have to present a sales pitch to convince them to let you use their land.

In some instances, you might have to pay to use their land. If the owner offers to let you use it for free, you should show your thanks through a monetary donation, gift, or by inviting them to your launching event.

If the property has neighbors, consider inviting them to the event too, since your group and rockets might cause a disturbance from all the noise. 

Make sure the potential launch site does not have the following:

  • Power lines.
  • Dry grass.
  • Buildings.
  • Trees.

It’s okay if the area has roads. You mainly just need to avoid areas with obstructions that will cause hazardous situations like fire or damage.

Some states might require permission from a fire marshal to engage in launching model rockets. Other states might simply require that you alert the fire marshal rather than seek permission.

Airspace

The airspace is controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Class 1 Model Rockets do not require FAA approval as long as they aren’t a threat to aircraft, people, or other property.

You will need permission and certification if you want to launch a high-power rocket, however.

Be sure to read my article on model rocket altitude to learn how high models featuring various engines can actually go.

Can I Fly a Model Rocket in a Park?

You might be able to fly a model rocket in a park if the park meets the safety requirements that are stated in the NAR’s safety code and laws and regulations as listed above. 

You should be able to fly a model rocket in a park if you complete the following tasks:

  • Make sure the park is big enough based on the table provided in the NAR’s safety code.
  • Receive permission from the landowner to launch a rocket. (In this case, you will probably need to contact your city’s Parks and Recreation department.)
  • Make sure there are no obstructions or dry grass where you will launch the rocket.
  • Be certain that there is enough space between the launch site and observers.
  • You will need to alert everyone in the park that a rocket will be launched before you do so, so make sure you have a way to project the countdown so everyone can hear it.

With a low-power model rocket, you will not need to obtain certification to launch it or to occupy airspace.

The most important aspects of launching a rocket are safety and permission.

It’s illegal to fly a model rocket on someone’s property without obtaining permission first. If an accident occurs and someone gets hurt, this could end up being a serious liability issue. 

You might not be able to fly a rocket in a small neighborhood park due to a lack of sufficient space.

The park itself might be big enough, but neighborhood parks are usually comprised of jogging trails, playground equipment, and scattered benches.

It might be difficult to get far enough away from everyone to launch it.

Since it’s a neighborhood park, getting far away enough from everyone in the park might cause you to be too close to houses, which is a major safety violation.

Are There Model Rocket Groups?

Yes! The NAR has local chartered sections in various cities across the United States. If you have any apprehension about finding a site to launch a rocket, consider joining a club near you. 

The clubs are a great way to connect with fellow rocketeers, plus, they’ll allow you to attend launching events, competitions, and many more activities.

The NAR has a club locator that will help you find all of the clubs in your state. If you don’t have a club in your city, you can start up your own

Clubs can receive grants from the NAR to help purchase launch and safety equipment and can even help the club gain some publicity.

Club officers will receive guidance with running the club and how to handle FAA waivers and other regulatory paperwork.

Conclusion

You can fly model rockets in large open areas. These areas shouldn’t have any dry grass or shrubs, powerlines, buildings, or anything else that could be hazardous.

Sometimes, an accident can cause a model rocket to start a fire or damage windows. If the parachute fails to deploy, falling rockets can break windows or injure bystanders.

If you find the perfect space to launch, you must obtain permission to do so before launching. Contact the owner of the land to ask for permission.