Despite their widespread rise in popularity, drones are still a fairly new addition to society – and as with any new form of technology, of course, regulation is slow to catch up. But catch up it will, and that means there are plenty of moving parts when it comes to drone laws in the US.
Regulatory change on a federal level is managed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but you’ll also have to watch out for state-wide and local drone laws in your city or county. While things may move at a predictable snail’s pace on the federal side, both state and local laws can be enacted quite quickly. So even though we aim to keep things as up to date as possible, make sure to regularly check for new laws in your area to make sure you stay on top of things.
Here’s an expansive up-to-date guide on everything you need to know about drone laws and regulations in the US.
Federal Drone Regulations in the US
As mentioned above, federal drone regulations in the US are under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the agency which presides over most aircraft-related laws in the country.
The agency has grouped drone operators into two classifications: people who fly for fun (recreational fliers), and people who use drones in some sort of business capacity (commercial fliers). Drones have also been categorized into three definitions:
- Small UAS: These unmanned aerial systems (UAS) weigh more than 0.55 lbs. and less than 55 lbs. including any attachments or loads.
- UAS: These UAS weigh more than 55 lbs.
- Actively-Tethered UAS: These (uncommon) drones are attached to the ground via a tether. They weigh less than 4.4 lbs. including any attachments or loads.
The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 covers the registration requirements for drone owners as well as most of the rules recreational fliers have to comply with. Drone registration is dependent on drone weight. Only drones that weigh more than 0.55 lbs but less than 0.55 lbs (while carrying a load or with anything attached) have to be registered with the FAA. Registration is online via the FAA’s DroneZone website.
Drones that weigh more than 0.55 lbs still have to be registered, but under the UAS rule instead of the small UAS rule.
The registration process and requirements differ somewhat between recreational and commercial drone fliers, so make sure you know which category you fall into and what is required of you before applying.
Recreational fliers need to be at least 13 years of age and simply have to register and mark their drone with their registration number.* Registration costs $5 at the time of writing and a drone pilot’s license has to be renewed every 3 years.
Commercial fliers have to be at least 16 years of age, register and mark their drone with their registration number, and pass an aeronautical knowledge test to obtain a drone pilots certificate. Taking the test costs about $150 and the certificate stays valid for 2 years, after which the test has to be taken again.
*The FAA is in the process of implementing the aeronautics knowledge test for recreational fliers, so this will be a requirement for hobbyists in the near future as well.
Class G Airspace and Controlled Airspace
All airspace in the US has a classification and the only airspace that drone operators are allowed to fly in without special permission is class G airspace. This airspace is uncontrolled and goes from the ground up to 1,200 feet, after which it becomes class E airspace.
You also aren’t allowed to fly within 5 miles of or above airports, as this airspace is considered controlled too. The reason for this rule is so that drone operators don’t interfere with manned aircraft operations.
It’s possible to get permits to fly in controlled airspace, such as within 5 miles of an airport, by applying for a waiver from the FAA via the agency’s LAANC application.
Recreational Drone Operators Rules
Previously, recreational drone owners had to comply with the rules set out in the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, which has now been replaced with the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. However, much of the guidelines are still the same as those set out in the Special Rules for Model Aircraft (section 336).
These rules include:
- Flying is only permitted for hobby reasons, no commercial-related practices are allowed (as in anything that you earn money from).
- Give right of way to other aircraft, and don’t fly in a way that interferes with other aircraft.
- Keep the UAS within the visual line of sight when flying.
- Don’t fly near or interfere with emergency workers, first responders, or law enforcement in any way.
- Don’t fly in any way that can be seen as dangerous or reckless.
- Don’t fly while under the influence of any substance.
While these are some of the main rules hobbyist UAS fliers need to look out for, they aren’t necessarily the only rules that apply. The FAA also recognizes state and local laws, as well as many of the rules set out by drone flying organizations. So it’s essential that you become familiar with all of the rules that apply to you wherever you choose to fly.
Commercial Drone Operators: Part 107
Anyone that wants to use their drone as part of a way to earn money (directly or indirectly) has to register as a commercial operator under the Part 107 rules. These rules cover a lot of different elements with regards to drone flying, so make sure to take a look through the whole list as, for the sake of keeping things brief, it won’t be covered in full here.
That said, here are some of the more important rules listed in Part 107 that every commercial flier has to adhere to (seeing as some rules only apply to specific fliers and circumstances):
- For Part 107 to apply, the UAS must weigh less than 55lbs with a payload. If the UAS weighs more than that, then it cannot be registered as a commercial drone under the small UAS rule (see above for more information).
- The UAS has to be registered. Only persons over the age of 16 that comply with the registration requirements will be allowed to register.
- Drones are not allowed to exceed an altitude of 400 feet above ground level without special permission. The rule does make an exception for drones flying higher than 400 feet above ground level, but remain within 400 feet of a structure.
- Drones may not exceed speeds of 100 mph.
- The drone has to remain in the visual line of sight of the operator or an accompanying visual observer at all times without the aid of devices like binoculars.
- Flying is only allowed during daylight and civil twilight hours (with adequate lighting). Although there is an upcoming amendment to this rule – see below for more information.
- Give right of way to other aircraft and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations.
- Do not fly directly over people without their consent.
- A drone cannot be operated from a moving vehicle unless the operation is in an area where there are few people.
Some of these rules, like the visual observer rule, can be very restrictive, but there is legislative change on the horizon. Already some of the rules listed above are being changed to favor fliers, such as the upcoming changes to the flights over people and night flights rules as described below. So there is hope that someday the visual observer rule will be changed or eased somewhat too. Also, these aren’t the only rules that apply to commercial drone pilots. There are state and local laws to look out for as well. Plus it’s a good idea to take a look at the rules set out for recreational fliers as well as those set out by local drone organizations, as they may legally apply too.
New 2021 Drone Rules
The FAA will be implementing new drone laws in 2021, that amends Part 107 in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Here’s a quick breakdown of these new rules that start taking effect from 21 April 2021, so plan accordingly. All drone operators have to be compliant with these rules from 30 months after the rules were introduced.
The Remote ID rule
Except for those who do not have to register, all drone pilots in the US will need to implement a means of remote identification in line with the specifications set out by the FAA.
A drone’s remote ID should transmit flight information such as the identity of the drone (registration number), its location and altitude, information about the control station, and the take-off location.
Drone operators are able to meet the identification requirements of the remote ID rule in three ways:
- Use a drone with built-in remote ID broadcast capability. The following information must be transmitted during the flight from take-off to landing: drone ID, location, altitude, velocity, location and elevation of the control station (e.g. remote control), time mark, and emergency status.
- Get a remote ID broadcast module added to a drone to retrofit it with remote ID capability. The following information must be transmitted during the flight from take-off to landing: drone ID, location, altitude, velocity, take-off location and elevation, time mark. When operating a drone with a broadcast module added, you have to be able to see your drone at all times during flight.
- Drones without remote ID may only be operated within sight and on FAA-recognized identification areas (FRIA).
Flights over people and vehicles
Previously, flights over individuals, groups of people, and moving vehicles were forbidden unless under special circumstances. The FAA is easing some of these rules as well, by dividing the restrictions into various categories. The FAA has listed the conditions for every category that explains the eligibility of different drones/situations for each category. The agency then listed the permission parameters for every category:
Category 1: Small unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 0.55 lbs, including everything on board or otherwise attached, and contain no exposed rotating parts that would lacerate human skin. Sustained flight over open-air assemblies isn’t allowed unless the operation meets the requirements for standard remote identification or remote identification broadcast modules established in the Remote ID Final Rule. Sustained flight doesn’t include overflight over the crowd if the flight is not related to the gathering.
Category 2: Remote pilots are prohibited from operating a small unmanned aircraft as a Category 2 operation in sustained flight over open-air assemblies unless the operation meets the requirements for standard remote identification or remote identification broadcast modules established in the Remote ID Final Rule. This rule also requires a declaration of compliance by the applicant.
Category 3: Small unmanned aircraft are not allowed over open-air assemblies. Overflight above people is only allowed if it takes place in a closed or restricted area and the people in the area are informed of a possible overflight. It is also allowed if the drone does not maintain sustained flight, unless the person is participating in the flight or, because of their location, they are protected from a falling drone by being located in a stationary vehicle or inside a structure.
Category 4: The drone must have a certificate of airworthiness (under part 21), may fly over people or vehicles as long as it follows the operating restrictions set out in the flight manual or by the Administrator. The drone and flight also has to comply with the requirements of standard remote identification or remote identification broadcast modules established in the Remote ID Final Rule The drone must also have maintenance, preventive maintenance, alterations, or inspections performed in accordance with specific maintenance requirements detailed in the final rule.
As for flying over vehicles, specifically, it’s allowed as long as the aircraft remains within a closed or restricted area and everyone in the moving vehicles is informed that a drone could fly over them, and so long as the drone does not fly over the vehicles permanently.
So far, drones were only allowed to be flown in the US during the day, specifically, from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset. This will change come April 2021.
Night flights will also be permitted as long as the pilot has passed the updated initial knowledge test or the updated recurrent online training. The drone also has to come equipped with flashing anti-collision lighting, which can be seen from at least three miles away and are functioning correctly.
Updated Knowledge Test
As mentioned above, the remote pilot aeronautical knowledge test will be updated to include subjects about flying at night. It also does away with the need to do an in-person recurrent test every 24 calendar months and replaces it with online recurrent training, which is also free of charge.
Updated Compliance and Inspection Rules
The new rules include an update to drone inspection, testing, and demonstration of compliance. Overall, the updated rules include more stringent inspection and documentation requirements.
Updated Rules for Manufacturers
While this isn’t particularly noteworthy to most drone operators, it is still important to know that this new rule will update drone manufacturing requirements. So when you buy a new drone, make sure it is compliant with this rule – all manufacturers have to be compliant with these rules within 18 months after the rules were introduced.
A Broad Look at State Drone Laws in the US
There are plenty of state laws to contend with, not to mention a whole collection of local laws within every state. We’re not going to list every local law here, but will rather give a quick summary of the basic rules within each state. It’s important to know that some states are more restrictive than others, but new state and local drone laws can be enacted in as little as a few months. Your best bet for staying up to date with the latest local laws, however, is to check with your local news for new updates before you fly.
National State Parks Rules on Drone Flying
Before we get to each individual state, it’s crucial that drone operators know that the National Parks System announced a blanket restriction against drone flying in US National State Parks in 2014. This means the launching, landing, or operation of unmanned aircraft is not allowed over national state parks property anywhere in the US, except under certain conditions and with specific exceptions.
Although, it’s up to every park to enforce this rule as they best see fit, which means some state parks do have dedicated drone and remote control aircraft flying areas. These are subject to their own set of rules, however, that drone operators need to be aware of and comply with at all times while in the park.
If you’re unsure of whether the state park in your area allows drone flights, then be sure to contact them ahead of time – especially since some require that you get a permit to fly. Also note that while some national state parks do provide permits for drone use, many of these only apply to commercial fliers and special circumstances.
States With No Drone Laws
At the time of writing, the following states do not hold any state-wide drone laws:
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
But keep in mind that FAA rules still apply, and there may be some relevant local laws that you need to comply with as well. Always check for new drone laws in your area or any local laws that may apply to you before flying a drone in any of these states.
Anyone that wants to fly a drone in Arizona has to adhere to the rules set out in Senate Bill 1449, which states that flying a drone isn’t allowed to interfere with manned aircraft or emergency response, or law enforcement. The bill also prohibits anyone from flying a drone within 500 horizontal feet or 250 vertical feet of a critical facility (which includes various buildings like water treatment plants, government buildings, hospitals, military bases, and so on). While flying directly over people or in a way that can be conceived as dangerous is already prohibited by the FAA, the bill builds on this by making it a disorderly conduct charge. And finally, the bill mandates that every municipality in the state has to allocate at least one public park to allow drone flying.
There are currently two house bills in the state of Arkansas that apply to drone flying. House Bill 1349 states that it’s illegal to use a drone to take pictures of or record any person that has a reasonable expectation of privacy. In addition, House Bill 1770 makes it illegal to use a drone to capture any information about any critical infrastructure in the state (including recording video or taking photographs) without authorization.
California currently has three bills that deal with drone use in the state. The first, Assembly Bill 856 makes it illegal to use a drone to take photographs or recordings of someone in a way that violates their privacy. The second, Assembly Bill 1680 builds on FAA rules by making it a misdemeanor to use a drone in any way that interferes with first responders’ work. Finally, Senate Bill 807 provides immunity for any first responder that damages a UAS while it is interfering with emergency services.
Colorado doesn’t currently hold any additional drone laws for recreational or commercial fliers, but has approved a law allowing drone use in:
- Law enforcement (i.e. criminal investigations),
- Emergency services,
- Search and rescue operations.
Connecticut currently has two drone laws. Senate Bill 975 states that local municipalities cannot enact their own drone laws except to ban drone use over municipal lands and waters. The Department of Environmental Protection also released sections 23-4-1 to 23-4-35 of Title 23, which states that drones are banned from flying over state-owned land without proper authorization.
In Delaware, state laws preempt local ordinances, which means local municipalities cannot enact their own drone laws. There is currently only one state drone law in Delaware, House Bill 195. This bill makes it illegal to fly over events with 5000 people or more in attendance and also makes it illegal to fly over any critical infrastructure. This includes power plants, government buildings, water treatment facilities, military facilities, and more. Additionally, this bill states that drones are prohibited in state parks in Delaware (which the national parks system already prohibits), with the exception of special permission as decided by the director of the Division of Parks & Recreation.
Also, even though local municipalities are prohibited from creating drone ordinances, the city of Bethany does have an ordinance prohibiting drones from flying on the beach, boardwalk, or in any public area within the town limits.
Florida has a few drone laws you should be aware of before you fly anywhere in the state. These include Senate Bill 92 which restricts the use of drones by law enforcement by making it mandatory for a warrant to be acquired except in the event of a missing person or terrorist threat.
Senate Bill 766 makes it illegal to use a drone to capture photos or footage of private property or any people on private property without consent when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
House Bill 1027 makes it illegal to fly a drone over critical infrastructure as well as illegal to weaponize a drone in any way. On top of that, the bill preempts local municipalities from creating their own drone ordinances except to prohibit illegal acts of harassment, endangerment, and property damage.
Finally, Florida Administrative Code 5I-4.003 prohibits drones from being flown over managed lands except at a runway or a heliport with authorization, while Florida Administrative Code 40C-9.320 prohibits drones from taking off or landing on District lands unless authorized.
There’s only one state drone law in Georgia, House Bill 481, and it prohibits local governments from enacting their own drone laws after April 1, 2017. There are also several local drone laws that were enacted before the state law was passed. Georgia is one of the states that allow some drone use in state parks via a special permit, but only for professional commercial projects.
Currently, the only state drone law in Hawaii is House Bill 661, which created an unmanned aerial systems test site advisory board. The department of Land and Natural Resources also released a policy that reiterated that drone launching, landing, and operating is prohibited in state parks in Hawaii.
There are three state drone laws in Idaho at the time of writing. Senate Bill 1134 makes it a requirement for law enforcement to obtain a valid warrant before using a drone for surveillance. It also lists civil penalties for those who improperly use drones, including law enforcement officers. Senate Bill 1213 makes it illegal to use a drone for finding, hunting, or driving animals or birds. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game also makes it illegal to operate a drone on lands managed by the department without proper authorization.
Illinois has four state laws you should know about.
Senate Bill 1587 gives law enforcement permission to use UAS in the fight against terrorist attacks.
Senate Bill 2937 describes various ways in which law enforcement is allowed to use drones during a disaster or public health emergency and how they’re allowed to obtain and use information obtained using a drone from third parties.
Senate Bill 3291 preempts local and municipal governments from enacting their own drone laws. An exemption is made for any municipality with more than 1,000,000 residents.
House Bill 1652 prohibits drones from being used to interfere with hunters or fishermen within the state.
There are also several local drone laws in Illinois.
Anyone who wants to fly a drone in Indiana, has 5 drone laws they currently need to be aware of.
House Bill 1009 requires that law enforcement obtain a valid permit to use drones and real-time geo-location tracking devices. It also makes it a class A misdemeanor to use a drone to knowingly and intentionally take photos or video on private property without permission.
House Bill 1013 allows people to use drones to take photographs or recordings of traffic crash sites.
House Bill 1246 prohibits people from using drones to find or drive animals during hunting season.
Senate Bill 299 makes it illegal for a registered sex offender to use a drone to follow, contact, or capture photos or video recordings of another person. It also prohibits anyone from using a drone to interfere with a public safety official while they are working.
The Indiana General Assembly also passed IAC 312 8-2-8 (i), which prohibits drones from being flown over state parks or recreational lands without a proper permit obtained from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Iowa currently has only one state law, House Bill 2289 which allows law enforcement to use a drone if they obtain a valid warrant, but prohibits law enforcement officers from using drones to enforce traffic laws. Iowa also doesn’t currently have any local drone laws.
So far, Kansas has only passed one state drone law, Senate Bill 319, which added a section to the “Protection from Stalking Act” to include the use of drones. The state also has a couple of local drone laws.
The state of Kentucky implemented House Bill 540 to add additional restrictions on drones around airports. It allows commercial airports to designate certain areas where drones cannot be flown, landed, or taken off from. Although it makes an exception for commercial operators who comply with FAA rules. This law also makes it a Class A misdemeanor to fly a drone in what can be considered a reckless manner. Alternatively, it makes it a class D felony if the violation causes serious disruption to the travel of an aircraft.
Louisiana has quite a few state drone laws to contend with:
House Bill 19 prohibits anyone from using a drone to take photos or video recordings of schools, school grounds, or correctional facilities. If someone violates this law, they face a fine of up to $2000 or up to six months in jail.
House Bill 335 established a state registration system for drones and that licensing fees may not exceed $100.
House Bill 635 amended state laws on voyeurism by adding the use of drones to make it illegal to use a UAS to conduct surveillance or trespass.
House Bill 1029 creates a new crime, “unlawful use of an unmanned aircraft system” that makes it illegal to conduct surveillance of a targeted facility using a drone, without the owner’s permission. Anyone who violates this rule faces a fine of up to $500 and imprisonment for up to six months. A second offense doubles the punishment.
Senate Bill 69 preempts local governments from enacting drone laws of their own.
Senate Bill 73 amends existing laws to add drones crossing a police cordon as the crime of obstructing an officer. It also lets law enforcement officers and fire department personnel disable a UAS in any way they deem necessary if they feel it is endangering anyone’s safety.
Senate Bill 141 states that using a drone for surveillance counts as an act of criminal trespass under specific circumstances.
Senate Bill 183 regulates the use of drones in agricultural practices.
There are also a couple of local drone laws in this state, so make sure to check out if there are drone laws in your area.
Maine currently only has one state-wide law. Legislative document 25 Part 12 makes it a requirement for law enforcement agencies to get prior approval before adopting drones and provides rules of operation for drone use by law enforcement, including that a warrant needs to be obtained before evidence can be acquired using a UAS.
There are three state drone laws in Michigan at this time, including:
Senate Bill 54 prohibits anyone from using a drone to harass a hunter.
Senate Bill 992 does several things. It preempts local governments from creating their own drone laws. It also prohibits anyone from using a drone in any way that interferes with emergency personnel or in a way that harasses an individual, violates a restraining order, or to invade a person’s privacy by capturing photos or by recording video. On top of that, this law prohibits sex offenders from using a drone to follow, photograph, or contact anyone they’re prohibited from coming into contact with. Anyone who violates this law will be found guilty of a misdemeanor.
Order 5.1 from the Department of State Parks and Recreation prohibits several things, including using a UAS to interfere with the duties of a department employee, and to interfere with search and rescue operations. Drones also aren’t allowed to fly within 100 yards of a cultural or historical site/structure or over an occupied beach area, equestrian facility, restroom, open-changing court, or an area subject to an aerial right-of-way. And commercial drone operations need to get a permit before flying.
Drone owners in Minnesota need to abide by MN DOT Aeronautics Rules Chapter 8800, which states that they have to pay a $30 licensing fee to obtain a Commercial Operations License. In addition to that, Minnesota Statute 360.59 sets out specifications for drone insurance and requires that commercial drone owners in the state hold drone insurance. Plus Minnesota Statute 360.60 makes it a requirement for commercial operators to register their drone with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
The only state drone law in Mississippi is Senate Bill 2022, which amends a section of existing privacy law to add the use of drones. It is illegal for anyone to use a drone in voyeurism activities.
Montana has passed two state-wide drone laws so far. House Bill 644 prohibits anyone from using a drone to interfere with wildfire suppression efforts and makes violators responsible for an equivalent amount to the loss their interference caused. It also preempts local governments from making their own wildfire-related drone laws. The second, Senate Bill 196 states that only information gained with a drone through a legitimate search warrant can be used as evidence in prosecution, barring judicially recognized exceptions.
At the moment, Nevada just has one state-wide drone law, and one local drone law (that we could find) in Las Vegas. The state drone law is Assembly Bill 239 which prohibits anyone from modifying their drones to weaponize them. It also prevents people from flying their drones near airports and critical facilities. Finally, the law also restricts law enforcement’s UAS usage and makes it so that every public agency in the state has to add its UAS operations to a registry.
In New Hampshire, there’s just one state drone law, Senate Bill 222, which prohibits the use of drones in hunting, fishing, or trapping excursions. There are also currently no known local drone laws in the state.
New Jersey currently has one state drone law in place, as well as additional state park regulations. Senate Bill 3370 states that it’s a disorderly person’s offense if someone operates a drone in a way that endangers the life or property of another person or while under the influence of drugs or with a BAC of .08 percent. It also makes it a fourth-degree crime if a person operates a drone in a way that endangers the safety or security of a correctional facility by operating the drone on or near the premises.
This bill allows owners of critical infrastructure to apply to limit drones near their property. Under this law, it’s also a criminal offense to use a drone to interfere with a first responder’s duties, and finally, it also preempts local governments from regulating drones in any way that is contradictory with this law. There are also plenty of local drone ordinances in this state, so make sure to check up on drone laws in your area before you fly.
New Mexico only has one state-wide drone law, Senate Bill 556, which makes it illegal to use a drone for any form of surveillance. There are currently no local drone laws in the state.
This state has a number of drone regulations as well as stringent drone certification regulations that mainly affect commercial and government operators.
Senate Bill 446 gives the state’s Chief Information Officer power to approve UAS purchases and operations within the state.’
Senate Bill 744 sets out the requirements for drone certification in the state. While recreational operators don’t need to obtain a permit, commercial operators need to:
- Take and pass NCDOT’s UAS Knowledge Test and then apply for a permit.
- Provide proof of remote pilot certificate from FAA to get a permit.
- Have a valid NC UAS Commercial Operators Permit.
- Accept the terms and conditions set out by the state.
House Bill 128 prohibits anyone from flying a drone near a correctional facility unless they have permission from the warden.
House Bill 337 states that drones are allowed to be used for emergency management services.
NC Parks Rules prohibit drones from being landed or taking-off in any state park area or state park water surface, except when obtaining a special activity permit from the park.
The only state drone law in North Dakota is House Bill 1328 which limits using a drone for surveillance and prohibits anyone from modifying a drone into a weapon.
Ohio only has one state drone law, but several local drone laws you should be aware of. The state drone law, House Bill 292 creates the aerospace and aviation technology committee, which is tasked with developing aviation technology, including drones.
There is just one state-wide drone law in Oklahoma, House Bill 2559, which prohibits drones from being flown within 400 feet of any critical infrastructure facility.
Oregon has several state drone laws.
Senate Bill 5702 modifies the fees associated with registering a public drone.
House Bill 2710 allows law enforcement agencies to use drones with a valid warrant and requires that drones used by public bodies be registered with the Oregon Department of Aviation (DOA). It also makes it illegal to mount weapons on drones or trespassing anywhere using a UAS. The law states that landowners are allowed to bring action against someone who flies a drone lower than 400 feet over their property under certain circumstances.
House Bill 3047 modifies the law that prohibits weaponizing drones to make it a class C felony to fire a bullet or projectile from a UAS. It also prohibits drones from being operated over private property in a way that harasses or annoys the owner or occupant of the property.
House Bill 4066 modifies the law that prohibits weaponizing drones to make it a class A misdemeanor to operate a weaponized UAS. It also prohibits drones from being flown near correctional facilities or critical infrastructure.
In Pennsylvania, drone operators need to know about Title 18 Sec. 3505 which states that it’s illegal to use a drone to knowingly “spy” on a person when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, to operate the drone in a way that makes a person fear for their safety, and to use a drone to transport or deliver contraband. As well as Title 53 Sec. 305, which states that the previous law preempts any local ordinances that regulate unmanned aircraft, and prevents local governments from creating drone-related ordinances from October 2018.
In South Dakota, under Senate Bill 80, drone operators aren’t allowed to fly over a correctional facility or a military base, violators will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. Anyone who uses a drone to deliver contraband or drugs to a correctional facility is also guilty of a class 6 felony. The bill also modifies the law of unlawful surveillance to include using a drone to observe, photograph, or record someone in a private place with a reasonable expectation of privacy. Operators also aren’t allowed to land a drone on private property without prior consent. Violation of either is considered a class 1 misdemeanor.
This state has a few noteworthy state drone laws, including:
House Bill 153 prohibits drone flying over certain open-air events and fireworks displays.
Senate Bill 1777 makes it a class C misdemeanor to use a drone for surveillance of a person busy with hunting or fishing.
Senate Bill 1892 makes it a class C misdemeanor to use a drone for surveillance of a person or private property, as well as to possess or distribute that footage or images.
Senate Bill 2106 makes it illegal to fly within 250 feet of critical infrastructure.
There are several drone laws in Texas:
Texas Administrative Code 65 Sec. 152 makes it illegal to use a drone to hunt, drive, capture, take, count or photograph, except with the proper permits.
House Bill 912 makes it illegal to use a drone to capture images in certain situations and to possess or distribute those images.
House Bill 1424 prohibits anyone from flying a drone over sports events or correctional and detention facilities.
House Bill 1481 makes it a Class B misdemeanor to fly a drone over critical infrastructure if the drone is not more than 400 above the ground.
House Bill 1643 prevents local governments from enacting their own drone ordinances except when the drone is used by government agencies or during a special event.
House Bill 2167 lets people in specific professions capture images using a drone as part of their work, so long as no people in those images are recognizable.
Utah has a number of laws regarding drone use in the state:
House Bill 217 prohibits people from using a drone to disturb, harm, or chase livestock.
House Bill 296 allows law enforcement to use drones to search for a lost person in areas where people don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy, as well as to use at testing sites.
Senate Bill 111 preempts local governments from creating drone ordinances and sets out several rules around UAS use by law enforcement. It also makes it a class B misdemeanor to fly a UAS that is weaponized and modifies the offenses of criminal trespass and voyeurism to include drones.
There are also several more bills that regulate law enforcement’s drone usage.
In Vermont, Senate Bill 155 prohibits anyone (including law enforcement) from weaponizing drones.
Virginia currently has three state-wide drone laws:
House Bill 412 prohibits local governments from enacting their own drone laws.
House Bill 2350 makes it a class 1 misdemeanor to trespass on private property with the intention of spying using a drone.
House Bill 2125 requires that law enforcement acquire a warrant before using a drone for any purpose.
There’s currently only one state law (and several local drone laws) in Washington. Washington State Legislature says that people can operate remote-controlled aircraft in state parks so long as they have written permission from the director or designee. They have to comply with any aircraft regulations set out by the director and carry their written permit with them when they fly.
There are a few drone laws in West Virginia:
House Bill 2515 makes it illegal to use a drone while hunting.
House Bill 3005 sets out several limitations for drone operations in the state, including:
- It’s illegal to capture or take photographs, images, video, or audio of another person or their private property when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
- It’s illegal to view, follow, or contact another person without their permission when they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
- It’s illegal to use a drone to harass someone
- It’s illegal to use a drone in a way that puts someone in danger or interferes with the work of law enforcement or emergency personnel.
House Bill 4607 ensures that drone operators need to get permission from the State Park Superintendent to fly in any state parks and need to register with the superintendent.
In Wisconsin, Senate Bill 338 prohibits people from using a drone to interfere with hunting, fishing, or trapping activities. And Senate Bill 670 prohibits people from flying drones over correctional facilities.
There’s currently just one state-wide drone law in Wyoming, Act 83 which prohibits drone operators from landing a drone on the property of other people.