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Drone Laws.. Do You Need To Follow Them?

Drone Laws.. Do You Need To Follow Them?

Drones are remarkable pieces of technology. For hobby pilots, flying a small unmanned aircraft at high speeds is better with the incredible video capture to record your flight. For the entrepreneurial pilot, drones have become a way to photograph structures, events and even wash windows. It should be no surprise that there will be laws and regulations involved when talking about high-speed aircraft. Understanding the laws surrounding drone operation is key to staying safe and reducing the chances of ending up with a fine. We are covering federal regulations and a few state regulations. Contact local law enforcement agencies for more information about your state or municipality. No harm ever came from a call.

All drones over 250 grams or just over half a pound must be registered with the FAA (The Federal Aviation Administration), regardless of their use. To differentiate some of the laws surrounding drones, there are two categories: recreational and commercial. As you will see, most drone laws are based on safety and ensuring responsible users are piloting drones.

Drone Laws | GearPro guide

Recreational Laws

In layman’s terms, recreational drone use is anything for your enjoyment. Flying your drone for fun or taking pictures of the beach for your enjoyment are examples of recreational drone use.

Register and label your drone

As stated earlier, owners must register any drone over half a pound. Registration costs five dollars and is valid for three years. Once registration is complete, you can label the drone with the registration number. Having the ID on the drone allows someone to return it if found or contact the owner if there is a crash. You will need a copy of the registration while piloting the drone; this also extends to anyone else who may borrow your drone. Recently, the FAA changed this rule to require all drones to have a remote ID, not just a simple label strip. Remote IDs are transmitters either attached or, in many cases, just updated software that broadcasts the drone’s information to other parties. Information transmitted includes its flight path, model number, altitude, and speed. Anyone who has watched a flight tracker can visualize the information displayed.

Pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST)

Like taking your driving test, all drone pilots must take the The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST. The test is separated into four parts. These descriptions are taken directly from the FAA website.


What it means to fly recreationally, types of airspace, restrictions, and authorizations.


Pre-flight activities, weather, obstacles, distractions, and flight path.


Community-Based Organizations, visual line of sight, first-person view (FPV), and obstacle avoidance.


Knowing your UAS, connection/signal strength, automated features, and practice flights.


Just like registration, you will need a copy of your TRUST certification while piloting your drone.

Drone Laws | GearPro guide

Fly only for recreational purposes

Tempting as it may be, you can’t use your drone for work. This includes “goodwill” or volunteer work like taking a picture of a football game to put on the local high school’s website. Yes, it is annoying but think about the liability involved. Without proper insurance, a drone crash could lead to serious legal trouble for all parties involved.

Keep your drone within your visual line of sight.

This one shouldn’t be a surprise. Keeping your drone within eyesight allows for better control and a better chance of recovery if something goes wrong.

Give way and do not interfere with any manned aircraft

It should be obvious why this is a law. The right of way is granted to manned aircraft before unmanned aircraft. Failing to give way to aircraft could result in a collision, and no one wants to end up in hot water from hitting a plane.

Fly at or below 400′ in uncontrolled airspace

Following closely with the rule to maintain visual contact with your drone, the maximum elevation for recreational drone flight is 400 feet. While there are probably some reasons why a pilot would want to fly above this ceiling, a majority of pilots will not find this a challenge.

Fly at or below 400′ in controlled airspace and only with prior authorization

While still the same height as the maximum flight limits, it is important to know you can fly in controlled airspace. It is the responsibility of the pilot to get authorization to do so, but you can fly in areas that are flight paths. Remember to follow all rules regarding airspace and yielding to manned aircraft.

Comply with all airspace restrictions

It seems redundant at this point, but anyone who has looked at laws regarding anything can attest to overlapping laws. The only bonus we, as drone pilots have, is that since this technology is relatively new, we can help influence the laws regarding them.

Drone Laws | GearPro guide


Commercial use, in this case, is any use that can is exchanged for goods or services. So surveying, photography, and even racing when prizes are included. While not the end all for regulations, the commercial application is summed up as the “part 107” rule.

Part 107 from the FAA allows pilots to operate drones up to 55 pounds in places that recreational pilots cannot. Places and situations include over people, at night, and over 400 feet off the ground. Additional waivers may be applied to extend the scope of operation, like piloting from a moving vehicle.

To apply for a Part 107, pilots must pass the Part 107 Knowledge Test and obtain their Remote Pilot Certificate. This is similar to the TRUST but more detailed because of the scope of what commercial pilots can do.

State laws

If we were to list all 50 states with their drone laws, we would 1: be here all day, and 2: see a lot of the same laws over again. Rather than make you scroll through, we are going to highlight two very different states in terms of population and geography so we can get examples. There may be more laws in place than we have mentioned here.


Florida Administrative Code 5I-4.003 // 2016

This state code prohibits drones on managed lands, including Florida state parks and forests, except at a runway or a heliport and only with authorization from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Authorization shall be based upon a determination that the takeoff or landing will not endanger the health, safety or welfare of any person; potentially damage the forest resources; or interfere with management objectives of that forest as provided in that forest’s management plan. Authorization from the Service is not required in an emergency or for Service official business.

In short, this keeps folks from piloting drones in parks and wildlife refuges. For those looking to capture some pictures of the Florida everglades from a pelican eye view, make sure you get cleared by the state.

SB 766 // 2015

This law prohibits the use of a drone to capture an image of privately owned property or the owner, tenant, or occupant of such property without consent if a reasonable expectation of privacy exists.

Invasion of privacy has been a concern for many homeowners. Luckily your property and privacy are protected under SB 766. While we aren’t legal scholars, it’s pretty easy to see that this law protects both parties, don’t snoop, and you from the overzealous homeowner.

Drone Laws | GearPro guide

Washington State

Flying Drones in State Parks—WAC 352-32-130

Washington also has a law requiring drone pilots to obtain written permission from the state before flying. This law is a bit more detailed than Florida’s, requiring flight time and paths to be predetermined.


Register your Commercial Drone

Starting April 1, 2022, commercially operated drones in Washington state are required by law to register with the Aviation Division. Registration is necessary for drone owners who operate their systems under 14 CFR Part 107 rules for compensation or hire, or engage in advertising.

In addition to a federal registration to operate a drone commercially Washington requires pilots to register with the state.


Drones are a rapidly evolving group of machines. As advances in battery life, top speeds, and attachments continue to give drones new niches to explore; laws will no doubt follow. For example, after the advent of dropping baits by use of a drone, Hawaii has banned the possession of a drone while engaged in the act of fishing. As a drone pilot, you must stay well versed in the regulations surrounding drones. Understanding the laws about drones keeps others safe and you from being fined. Perhaps as important as staying above the law with drone use is that by doing so, we set a positive example for the general public, who, despite our best efforts, are the ones who influence the law. Stay safe and have fun.

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