Just like cell phones and the Internet -- which began as military communication tools -- unmanned aerial systems (UAS), or drones, are no longer limited to military or government use. In fact, drones equipped with video cameras have quickly become popular with hobbyists and can be found in most toy stores. Commercial interests and research entities have found novel new ways to use these small, pilotless vehicles as well.
In addition to federal drone regulations, states also have passed laws regulating the use of drones by individuals, businesses, law enforcement, and other interests. Below are summaries of drone laws by state. Find your state to learn more about its regulation of drones.
Act 293: Prohibits the use of drones to commit video voyeurism (invasion of privacy). Class B misdemeanor; Class A misdemeanor if images were distributed or transmitted to another party, or posted to the Internet.
Act 1019: Prohibits the use of drones for surveillance and/or the gathering of information on "critical infrastructure" (oil refinery, chemical manufacturing facility, power plant, etc.) without written consent.
|California||Civil Code Section 1708.8: Prohibits the use of drones to capture video and/or a sound recording of another person without their consent (invasion of privacy). Violators are liable for up to three times the amount of damages related to the violation, and a civil fine of between $5,000 and $50,000.|
|District of Columbia||None|
|Florida||Criminal Code Section 934.50: Drones may not be used for surveillance in violation of another party's reasonable expectation of privacy; this includes law enforcement. However, police may use drones with a valid search warrant. Violators may be ordered to pay legal fees and compensatory damages; victims may seek injunctive relief.|
|Hawaii||Act 208: Establishes a drone test site advisory board and creates the position of chief operating officer to oversee the test site.|
|Illinois||20 ILCS 5065: This act creates the Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Task Force Act, which is tasked with the regulation of both commercial and private use of drones. These will include considerations of landowner rights, privacy rights, and rules for safe and lawful operation of drones.|
|Louisiana||La. Revised Statutes, section 3:41, et seq.: This law regulates the use of drones for agricultural purposes (monitoring, etc.); operators must be licensed and registered (renewal every three years).|
|Maine||Sec. 1. 25 MRSA Pt. 12: Requires law enforcement agencies to obtain approval prior to acquiring drones, in addition to other rules for police use (including the requirement for a warrant when using a drone for criminal investigations).|
|Maryland||Section 14-301: This statute establishes the state's authority to enact laws that regulate the operation of drones, preempting local authorities.|
Mich. Compiled Laws Section 324.40112: Prohibits the use of drones to harass or interfere with a hunter (charged as a misdemeanor; up to 93 days incarceration and/or up to $1,000 fine per offense).
Mich. Compiled Laws Section 324.40111c: Prohibits the use of drones to take game or fish (i.e., locating, hunting, catching, or trapping animals).
Minn. Statutes, Chapter 360, Section 360.13: Although not specifically addressing "drones" or "unmanned aerial systems," this statute defines "aircraft" broadly as "any contrivance now known or hereafter invented, used, or designed for navigation of or flight in the air, but excluding parachutes."
Minn. Statutes, Chapter 360, Section 360.075: Prohibiting the use of aircraft "in such a manner as to indicate either a willful or a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property," among other criminal acts.
Minn. Statutes, Chapter 360, Section 360.59: Exempting certain tax requirements for specific aircraft, to include "recreational aircraft" with a base price of $10,000 or less and which are "owned and operated solely for recreational purposes." (see Section 360.55)
|Mississippi||Miss. Code Section 97-29-61: Prohibits the use of drones to peep into a building for the "lewd, licentious and indecent purpose" of spying on another party (charged as a felony, up to five years prison; up to 10 years prison if the person spied on is a child 16 or younger).|
|Nevada||Amendments 362, 640, and 746: Officially defines drones as "aircraft," regulating the operators of drones. The law also prohibits the use of weapons on drones and the use of drones within a specified distance of airports and other "critical" facilities, while limiting the use of drones by law enforcement.|
|New Hampshire||RSA 207:57: Prohibits the use of drones to interfere with lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping activities.|
|North Carolina||Section 7.16(e) of S.L. 2013-360: Gives the state's Chief Information Officer authority to approve (or disapprove) the operation of drones by state agencies, requires a test for the operation of drones, establishes permitting process for the commercial use of drones, conforms to federal FAA guidelines.|
|North Dakota||North Dakota Code Sec. 29-29.4-01: Limits the use of drones for surveillance, crime investigation, and other uses by law enforcement (creates the requirement of a warrant, etc.).|
|Oregon||State Fish and Wildlife Commission: Law prohibits the use of drones for fishing, hunting, or trapping, including the use of drones to locate game or to interfere with the lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping of another party.|
|Tennessee||Tenn. Code Section 39-13-903(a): Prohibits the use of drones to capture images at open-air events where 100 or more people are gathered for a ticketed event (statute specifically refers to fireworks events). The law also prohibits the use of drones over prison grounds.|
Gov. Code Section 411.062: Creates the role of a director to adopt rules for the use of drones in the Capitol Complex; violation of those rules is charged as a Class B misdemeanor.
Gov. Code Section 423.002(a): Clarifies the legality of using drones to capture images by certain professionals (such as photographers), with the requirement that individuals are not identifiable in images unless they have given express permission.
Gov. Code Section 423.0045: Prohibits the use of drones over a "critical infrastructure facility," such as a chemical plant, power plant, or dam; violations are charged as a Class B misdemeanor.
|Utah||Utah Code Title 63G, Chapter 18: Authorizes police to use drones for data collection at testing sites and to find missing persons in areas where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.|
Virginia Code Section 19.2-60.1: Requires that police obtain a warrant prior to using a drone for criminal investigations or surveillance (unless it for an Amber Alert, Senior Alert, or Blue Alert).
Executive Order No. 43: Creates a commission to regulate the procurement and use of drones within the state.
|West Virginia||West Va. Code Section 20-2-5: Prohibits the use of drones for hunting, killing, or otherwise taking a wild animal.|
Need Help Understanding the Drone Laws in Your State?
Laws regulating the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are constantly changing as the technology develops and gains broader adoption among consumers. If you're unsure about the laws in your state or have a particular legal need with respect to drones, consider meeting with an attorney licensed to practice in your state.