UAV State Laws and Legislation

The following state legislation information on UAV use was taken from the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) website.

Beginning in the 2013 legislative session, state lawmakers have frequently considered many pieces of legislation addressing UAS. To learn more about state UAS laws, bills and resolutions, please follow the link covering measures from a specific session below.

2016 Legislation

At least 41 states have considered legislation related to UAS in the 2016 legislative session. Fourteen states–Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin–have passed 26 pieces of legislation.

Alaska adopted a resolution supporting the aviation industry and urging the governor to make state land available for use in the development of UAS technology. Delaware adopted a resolution expressing support for the development of many facets of UAS and the increased economic and training opportunities available within the FAA regulatory framework.

Alaska HB 256 requests the Department of Fish & Game evaluate the use of UAS for aerial survey work and report findings related to safety and cost-savings compared to manned aircraft.

Arizona SB 1449 prohibits certain operation of UAS, including operation in violation of FAA regulations and operation that interferes with first responders. The law prohibits operating near, or using UAS to take images of, a critical facility. It also preempts any locality from regulating UAS.

Idaho SB 1213 prohibits the use of UAS for hunting, molesting or locating game animals, game birds and furbearing animals.

Indiana HB 1013 allows the use of UAS to photograph or take video of a traffic crash site. HB 1246 prohibits the use of UAS to scout game during hunting season.

Kansas SB 319 expands the definition of harassment in the Protection from Stalking Act to include certain uses of UAS. SB 249 appropriates funds that can be used to focus on research and development efforts related to UAS by state educational institutions. The law specifies a number of focuses for the research, including the use UAS for inspection and surveillance by the department of transportation, highway patrol and state bureau of investigation. It requires that the director of UAS make recommendations regarding state laws and rules that balance privacy concerns and the need for “robust UAS economic development” in the state.

Louisiana SB 73 adds intentionally crossing a police cordon using a drone to the crime of obstructing an officer. Allows law enforcement or fire department personnel to disable the UAS if it endangers the public or an officer's safety. HB 19 prohibits using a drone to conduct surveillance of, gather evidence or collect information about, or take photo or video of a school, school premises, or correctional facilities. Establishes a penalty of a fine of up to $2,000 and up to six months in jail. HB 335 authorizes the establishment of registration and licensing fees for UAS, with a limit of $100. HB 635 adds the use of UAS to the crimes of voyeurism, video voyeurism and peeping tom. SB 141specifies that surveillance by an unmanned aircraft constitutes criminal trespass under certain circumstances.

Oklahoma HB 2599 prohibits the operation of UAS within 400 feet of a critical infrastructure facility, as defined in the law.

Oregon HB 4066 modifies definitions related UAS and makes it a class A misdemeanor to operate a weaponized UAS. It also creates the offense of reckless interference with an aircraft through certain uses of UAS. The law regulates the use of drones by public bodies, including requiring policies and procedures for the retention of data. It also prohibits the use of UAS near critical infrastructure, including correctional facilities. SB 5702 specifies the fees for registration of public UAS.

Rhode Island HB 7511/SB 3099 gives exclusive regulatory authority over UAS to the state of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, subject to federal law.

Tennessee SB 2106 creates the crime of using a drone to fly within 250 feet of a critical infrastructure facility for the purpose of conducting surveillance or gathering information about the facility. HB 2376 clarifies that it is permissible for a person to use UAS on behalf of either a public or private institution of higher education, rather than just public insitutions.

Utah HB 126 makes it a class B misdemeanor to operate a UAS within a certain distance of a wildfire. It becomes a class A misdemeanor if the UAS causes an aircraft fighting the wildfire to drop a payload in the wrong location or to land without dropping the payload. It is a third degree felony if the UAS crashes into a manned aircraft and a second degree if that causes the manned aircraft to crash.

Vermont SB 155 regulates the use of drones by law enforcement and requires law enforcement to annually report on the use of drones by the department. It also prohibits the weaponization of drones.

Virginia HB 412 prohibits the regulation of UAS by localities. HB 29 and HB 30 appropriate funds to Virginia Tech for UAS research and development.

Wisconsin SB 338 prohibits using a drone to interfere with hunting, fishing or trapping. AB 670 prohibits the operation of UAS over correctional facilities.

2015 Legislation

In 2015, 45 states considered 168 bills related to drones. Twenty states–Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia–passed 26 pieces of legislation. Five other states–Alaska, Georgia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island–adopted resolutions related to drones. Georgia’s resolution established a House study committee on the use of drones and New Mexico adopted memorials in the house and senate requiring a study on protecting wildlife from drones. Pennsylvania's resolution directs the Joint State Government Commission to conduct a study on the use of UAS by state and local agencies. Rhode Island's resolution created a legislative commission to study and review regulation of UAS. Additionally, Virginia's governor signed an executive order establishing a commission on unmanned systems.

Arkansas HB 1349 prohibits the use of UAS to commit voyeurism. HB 1770 prohibits the use of UAS to collect information about or photographically or electronically record information about critical infrastructure without consent.

California AB 856 prohibits entering the airspace of an individual in order to capture an image or recording of that individual engaging in a private, personal, or familial activity without permission. This legislation is a response to the use of UAS by the paparazzi.

Florida SB 766 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.

Hawaii SB 661 creates a chief operating officer position for the Hawaii unmanned aerial systems test site. It also establishes an unmanned aerial systems test site advisory board to plan and oversee test site development and appropriates funds to establish the test site.

Illinois SB 44 creates a UAS Oversight Task Force which is tasked with considering commercial and private use of UAS, landowner and privacy rights and general rules and regulations for the safe operation of UAS. The task force will prepare recommendations for the use of UAS in the state.

Louisiana SB 183 regulates the use of UAS in agricultural commercial operations.

Maine LD 25 requires law enforcement agencies receive approval before acquiring UAS. The bill also specifies that the use of UAS by law enforcement comply with all FAA requirements and guidelines. Requires a warrant to use UAS for criminal investigations except in certain circumstances and sets out standards for the operation of UAS by law enforcement.

Maryland SB 370 specifies that only the state can enact laws to prohibit, restrict, or regulate the testing or operation of unmanned aircraft systems. This preempts county and municipal authority. The bill also requires a study on specified benefits.

Michigan SB 54 prohibits using UAS to interfere with or harass an individual who is hunting. SB 55 prohibits using UAS to take game.

Mississippi SB 2022 specifies that using a drone to commit "peeping tom" activities is a felony.

Nevada AB 239 includes UAS in the definition of aircraft and regulates the operators of UAS. It also prohibits the weaponization of UAS and prohibits the use of UAS within a certain distance of critical facilities and airports without permission. The bill specifies certain restrictions on the use of UAS by law enforcement and public agencies and requires the creation of a registry of all UAS operated by public agencies in the state.

New Hampshire SB 222 prohibits the use of UAS for hunting, fishing, or trapping.

North Carolina SB 446 expands the authority of the state's Chief Information Officer to approve the purchase and operation of UAS by the state and modifies the state regulation of UAS to conform to FAA guidelines.

North Dakota HB 1328 provides limitations for the use of UAS for surveillance.

Oregon HB 2534 requires the development of rules prohibiting the use of UAS for angling, hunting, trapping, or interfering with a person who is lawfully angling, trapping, or hunting. HB 2354 changes the term "drone" to "unmanned aircraft system" in statute.

Tennessee HB 153 prohibits using a drone to capture an image over certain open-air events and fireworks displays. It also prohibits the use of UAS over the grounds of a correctional facility.

Texas HB 3628 permits the creation of rules governing the use of UAS in the Capitol Complex and provides that a violation of those rules is a Class B misdemeanor. HB 2167 permits individuals in certain professions to capture images used in those professions using UAS as long as no individual is identifiable in the image. HB 1481 makes it a Class B misdemeanor to operate UAS over a critical infrastructure facility if the UAS is not more than 400 feet off the ground.

Utah HB 296 allows a law enforcement agency to use an unmanned aircraft system to collect data at a testing site and to locate a lost or missing person in an area in which a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy. It also institutes testing requirements for a law enforcement agency's use of an unmanned aircraft system.

Virginia HB 2125 and SB 1301 require that a law enforcement agency obtain a warrant before using a drone for any purpose, except in limited circumstances. Virginia's governor also issued an executive order establishing a commission on unmanned systems.

West Virginia HB 2515 prohibits hunting with UAS.

Federal UAS Regulation

On June 21, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the first operational rules (PDF) for routine non-hobby use of small UAS. The new rule, which takes effect in late August, offers safety regulations for unmanned aircraft drones weighing less than 55 pounds that are conducting non-hobbyist operations.

The final rule requires drone pilots to keep an unmanned aircraft within visual line of sight and operations are only allowed during daylight and during twilight if the drone is equipped with “anti-collision lights.” The new regulation also establishes height and speed restrictions and other operational limits, such as prohibiting flights over unprotected people on the ground who aren’t directly participating in the UAS operation. There is a process through which users can apply to have some of these restrictions waived, while those users currently operating under section 333 exemptions (which allowed commercial use to take place prior to the new rule) are still able to operate based upon the conditions of their exemption. Further, the operator actually operating a drone must be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate. To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, an individual must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate.

For more information on the rule, please review NCSL’s info alert.

On Dec. 14, 2015, the FAA unveiled an interim final rule for drone registration that would require consumers that own drones between .55 lbs and 55 lbs to register their crafts by Feb. 19, 2016. Drones purchased after Dec. 21, 2015 must be registered before its first outdoor flight. Everyone will be able to register online at the registration website. Consumers can register as many drones as they like, but each will be required to have the owner’s contact information and unique registration number visible on the craft. Registrations, which are valid for three years, will have a fee of $5 per individual owner. The FAA waived the registration fee for the first 30 days of the program to encourage early registration. Under the proposal the FAA can impose a civil penalty of up to $27,500 or criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and three years in prison for noncompliance.

On Dec. 17, 2015, the FAA released a fact sheet on state and local regulation of UAS. The fact sheet includes examples of regulations that the FAA believes are within the authority of the states, including requirements for police to obtain a warrant prior to using a UAS for surveillance, specifying that UAS may not be used for voyeurism, prohibiting using UAS for hunting or fishing, or to interfere with or harass an individual who is hunting or fishing, and prohibiting attaching firearms or similar weapons to UAS.

The Government Accountability Office released a report entitled "Unmanned Aerial Systems: FAA Continues Progress toward Integration into the National Airspace" in July 2015.

More information about the FAA's work with UAS can be found here.

The 2012 Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act required the FAA to integrate UAS into civilian airspace by 2015. To complete this task, the law also charges the FAA with establishing six test sites where operating standards for UAS can be researched and developed by collecting information to determine the best way to integrate UAS into the existing aviation system. These test sites are located in six states: Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.