Drone pilots in the U.S. have to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration’s rules so airspace stays safe. These federal rules for commercial drone flights, known as Part 107, apply to all the airspace in the U.S. But additional state and local drone laws may also apply to drone operations. They’re in place to increase privacy, improve safety, and generally discourage misuse of drones.
Drone management software like Skyward helps pilots follow Part 107 rules. But unlike federal regulations, there’s no single source of truth for regional drone laws. Even advanced aviation tools like VFR sectional charts typically don’t reflect local drone rules.
There are some interesting efforts to compile these regulations into a single database. For example, Skyward is the first FAA-Approved UAS Service Supplier to partner with the Virginia Department of Aviation to test the Virginia Flight Information Exchange (VA-FIX). This system will allow state and local government agencies in the commonwealth to publish and share drone advisory information with anyone who needs it.
Today, though, no map shows all the local regulations across the country. So how can you keep up with it all and know if you’re free to fly? Here are a few resources to help.
Resources for local drone laws
Another source, provided by the National Conference of State Legislatures, lists the most recent local drones laws passed. This is a little more technical and isn’t organized by region, but it’s good for keeping up to date with new laws.
Why is it important to check local drone regulations? Because they vary greatly from state to state, and even city to city. Most of these rules focus on three general themes: public safety, protecting privacy, and preserving areas reserved for wildlife or quiet recreation.
Here’s just a sampling of these regional laws:
- Minnesota requires commercial operators to carry drone insurance.
- Calabasas, Calif. specifies how close you may fly to schools.
- Raleigh, N.C. forbids drone pilots from taking off or landing in cemeteries or over lakes.
- Permits are required by some states if you want to take real estate pictures or film movies with drones.
- A slew of states prohibit dropping anything from a drone into an open-air event or flying near correctional facilities.
- The California Department of Parks & Recreation prohibits the use of drones within state park wilderness areas and cultural and nature preserves. And the rules even vary between different park units.
Bottom line: Always check local laws before you fly. Even if you’re following all Part 107 rules, regional regulations may apply.
Does Part 107 allow you to fly a drone over private property?
This is a common question — and it’s a good one. Part 107 does not specifically require permission for flights over private land. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re free to do so, either. Ordinances such as noise abatement or trespassing statutes may apply. Many states also spell out prohibitions against aerial stalking, harassment, or intentionally photographing people without their consent.
Ultimately, the responsibility is on the drone pilot to use good judgement when it comes to flying over private property. To provide some best practices, the President of the United States directed the NTIA and other stakeholders to create these voluntary guidelines for neighborly drone use. They’re an excellent starting point.
What about temporary flight restrictions?
A region of airspace may be fine to fly over sometimes, but prohibited at other times. For example, stadiums and sporting events are usually off-limits from one hour before an event’s start time until one hour after its conclusion.
Skyward’s drone airspace map includes these temporary flight restrictions (TFRs). TFRs are usually scheduled in advance. For example, you can often see current and future TFRs for major VIP movement. However, TFRs can also pop up quickly, especially in areas impacted by natural disasters where firefighting or rescue operations may be taking place.
Checking an airspace map for TFRs should be part of your standard preflight procedures.
Flying drones in National Parks and recreation areas
Most areas managed by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) require special permission for drone flights within their borders. That includes the National Parks along with many historic sites, monuments, walking trails, and wilderness areas. Without permission from the NPS, drones are restricted from taking off, landing, or operating from these areas.
This restriction is a federal policy that carries strict consequences. Skyward’s airspace intelligence map shows National Parks and other NPS areas requiring a special use permit. It’s one more tool to help pilots understand where they’re allowed to fly.
Stay within the rules and use good judgment
New state laws governing drones come out every year, and federal drone regulations are developing quickly to keep pace with a fast-moving industry. Pilots can rely on a digital airspace map to simplify complex Part 107 regulations and see where they’re allowed to fly. But they need to go further to discover any local laws that could affect a flight. And they should, whenever possible, apply “good neighbor” principles in their operations.
For a closer look at the federal drone rules, download our Guide: Navigating Part 107.