Ultimate Guide to Drone Laws (from a Lawyer & Pilot).


Interested in drone laws? It can be a pain to try and figure out what is applicable. That is why I created this page! 🙂

Where NOT to Look

Here is a tip, stay away from Facebook or anyone else who is a newbie to aviation. They tend to waste your time and provide bad guidance. Seriously, you should be very careful where you get information from – not everyone is qualified to give you information. You don’t install random pieces of software you find on the internet onto your computer, why would you do that for the laws and legal advice?

For example, I was reading a book by someone very popular on the internet which was just completely – flat out – totally- 100% wrong. I think this person just hired a copywriter to write the book which resulted in utter garbage. If you were to rely on that bad advice, you could get in trouble and be on the receiving end of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution.

You should vet everyone before you give them your time. Here, vet me by looking at my bio.

Where to look for info.

You should look at resources in this order:

  1. The actual law (Part 107, Part 101, Part 47, Part 48, etc.)
  2. The FAA’s website.
  3. My website! You can even use the search feature.
  4. Other competent drone lawyers or consultants (read the two articles below on how to find out as there are some really bad people out there).
  5. Your local Flight Standards District Office Aviation Safety Inspector, any FAA email on their website, etc.

 

I. United States Drone Laws

There are different levels of governmental authority in the U.S. We have a federated system where we are governed on certain things by the U.S. Federal Government and the state governments with those areas not enumerated to the U.S. government.

Additionally, the states have passed laws allowing counties, cities, and towns to regulate individuals.  At any given moment, a person can 3 or 4 levels of laws applying to them. For example, your drone operations could have the federal aviation laws, state drone laws, county drone laws, city or town laws, and maybe even HOA rules all applying to them.

Whether or not the states, counties, and cities can regulation drones is another big issue way outside of the scope of this article. As time goes on, things will shake out as to how much the states, counties, cities, and towns can regulate.

A. Federal Drone Laws

1. Federal Aviation Regulations (Enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration)

We immediately think of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) when it comes to drones. The FAA enforces the Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”) which apply to all sorts of things such as student training, airports, maintenance, flying, aircraft certification, rocket launches, etc.

The two parts of the FARs that apply to drone operators are Part 107 (for non-recreational operations) and Part 101 (for recreational operations). But that is NOT all!

All non-recreational drones are required to be registered under Part 47 or Part 48. All recreational drones weighing more than 250 grams are required to be registered also by either Part 47 or Part 48.

I have created many articles on the federal aviation regulations. I have listed below the most popular ones.

drone-laws-FAA-TSA-DOT-FCC-ITAR-EAR2. Other Federal Agencies

The FAA is not the only agency that regulates drones. There are also others!

If you crash your drone, you are required to report to the National Transportation Safety Board! Additionally, you might need to file an aviation safety reporting system form which is administered by NASA! See my article on What are you required to do after a drone crash?

The Transportation Safety Administration administers the alien flight student program (governed by the alien flight student regulations). All FAA certificated flight instructors know this and have to be careful regarding providing training as well as doing security awareness training. As I read it, I think the TSA could assert jurisdiction over flight instructors training alien flight students.

The Department of Transportation has regulations regarding the transportation of hazardous material (i.e. drone medical delivery).

The Federal Communications Commission regulations radio transmitters, the frequencies they transmit on, and the power of the transmitter. Many people don’t even pay attention to that sticker that is on the back of your controller. Take a chance to read it over some time.

The Department of Justice enforces the Federal Aviation Statutes in Title 49 of the United States Code.  The DOJ attorneys have been involved at least twice with drone operators: (1) the Skypan case which was originally started in the federal district court in Chicago and (2) in the federal district court in Connecticut with the Haughwout case (the kid who attached a gun and later a flamethrower to a drone).

You also have the Department of Commerce with the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) and the State Department with the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”). Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone published an article detailing multiple prosecutions under ITAR.

B. State Drone Laws

All 50! I created a state drone law directory of all 50 states.  I also included some additional resources that would be helpful from the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC), National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National League of Cities. There is also a link to a model state drone legislation from ALEC.

US Drone Laws (2017) – Drone Laws by State

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II. International Drone Laws

There is no good reliable database of drone laws. I might create one as time goes on.

Below are the resources I have found on the internet that can assist you in finding the laws in a particular country.  I do not know how updated they are or accurate.  Use at your own risk.

Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.