Are drones allowed on Mackinac Island?

Published on February 2nd, 2022

Last updated on November 28th, 2022

Some of the most striking photographs of Mackinac Island’s gorgeous landscape have been taken from above, by a drone. So, yes, drones are allowed on Mackinac Island, technically.

But only with special permission.

Whether you just received your first drone for a birthday gift and want to try it out in one of the world’s most beautiful places or you’re a professional videographer who incorporates aerial footage into your work, you can’t just send a drone up into the air on Mackinac Island. You first must apply for a permit, either from the Mackinac Island State Park Commission or the City of Mackinac Island, depending on where you’d like to operate your drone.

If you would like to get approval for flying a drone on Mackinac Island, please first call the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau at 906-847-3783. Just know that permission is rarely granted. And violators will be fined.

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A public service announcement about horses being startled by drones, which require a permit to use on Mackinac Island.Why is a permit required, you might ask? Well…

…There are two primary reasons that Mackinac Island wants to be careful about the use of drones:

  • You may know that there are no cars or other non-emergency motor vehicles on Mackinac Island. It’s been that way for over 100 years! As a result, people and goods move around on foot, on bicycle or by horse. And guess what tends to startle horses? That’s right, drones! Horses on Mackinac Island are gentle giants, but they can become unpredictable when frightened. So, it’s a matter of public safety that drones be used only in controlled situations in designated areas with proper permits. Funny thing is, that’s the same reason horseless carriages (also known as cars) were banned from Mackinac Island in the first place!


  • If you’ve been to Mackinac Island, you know the historic vibe that flows through town. And if you haven’t ever visited, well, just imagine a place where the whir of automobiles is replaced by the quiet clip-clop of horse hooves and the friendly ding of a bicycle bell. Add the extraordinary Victorian architecture on Mackinac Island and the many historic attractions, and you feel like you’re stepping back in time when you visit. But if you add several noisy drones to the sky, you risk losing some of that historic character. So, restricting the use of drones is a way of preserving the charming atmosphere that makes Mackinac Island so special.Special permission is needed to operate a drone on Mackinac Island, which is beautiful to see from above.

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If you see a drone on Mackinac Island, it’s likely being operated by one of four professional groups spelled out in the city rules: a news organization, an insurance company for purposes of assessing damages, a public utility that’s performing maintenance or law enforcement. It also could be a photographer or videographer documenting the incredible natural splendor of Mackinac Island from above.

But in every case, a permit is needed before flying a drone. And violators will be fined. So, please keep that in mind when visiting and seek permission in advance by calling the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau at 906-847-3783.