*Disclaimer* This article should be used for educational purposes. Please consult with the FAA if you have any questions about flying drones in Minnesota.
With the rise of drones recently, both for recreational and commercial use, you’d imagine that state and local governments would be enforcing some types of rules and regulations when it comes to flying these drones. And you’d be right! Today, we’re going to talk about some of the drone laws in Minnesota, particularly those that you need to know before you take your drone out. Also, the Star Tribune ran an article last year where they address some common drone questions, so definitely take a look at that as well.
Identify How You Will Be Using the Drone
Depending on how you intend to use your drone, you will have to follow different steps for registering your UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System).
If you’re flying your drone for…
Commercial use – follow the requirements outlined in the FAA’s Part 107 Small UAS Rule (Part 107), which will entail passing an aeronautical knowledge test and getting a Remote Pilots Certificate.
Here’s a very important distinction – compensation is NOT the deciding factor as to whether the operation is commercial or not. The FAA considers it to be a commercial flight if it’s done “in the pursuance of a business” whether there is compensation for the flight or not! So – just because “you aren’t being paid to fly” is not an excuse if it benefits a business in any way.
Recreational use (as a hobbyist) – Register your drone through the FAA.
Government use (police or fire department use) – You can either operate the drone under the Part 107 rule or obtain a federal certificate of authorization.
As you can see, the way in which you use your drone will affect the registration process. Keep this in mind in case you start of using your drone recreationally, but then start doing some commercial work. You will have to make sure that you still pass knowledge test and attain your Remote Pilots Certificate.
Current Minnesota Drone Laws
According to State Drone Law, these are the laws that exist in Minnesota that revolve around drones. While there can be state laws, such as registering your drone, cities and towns can make their own regulations as well.
Anoka County – Municipal Ordinance: A drone operator will have to get a special use permit from the parks department to fly a drone over county parks and ensure the drone operates in a safe manner.
Superior National Forest – Drone Restrictions: Drones restricted in Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This is in an effort to not disturb the wildlife present in these locations.
Town of St. Bonifacius – Municipal Law: Drones banned in all city public airspace.
Department of Transportation – Registration Requirement: All commercial drone operators are required to register with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Safety Tips and Rules for Drone Flyers
To make sure that you keep yourself safe while you’re using your drone, as well as those around you, here are some helpful safety tips to follow:
- Fly no higher than is necessary. The FAA states that 400 feet should be the maximum height. Going higher will risk interference with national airspace.
- Do not interfere with manned aircrafts and avoid operating in close proximity to any airports.
- Always know where your drone is at all times and make sure you remain with the visual line of sight (VLOS). Bringing a spotter to assist you is also a good idea.
- This one is an obvious one: do not endanger persons or property. This means no intentional overflight of an moving vehicles or persons. Twenty-five feet away from persons or property at all times.
- Ensure pilot competency/proficiency and the safe operation of the aircraft.
It’s important to remember that while drones have become more common, both recreationally and commercially, you need to be smart. Avoid flying your drone when the weather isn’t favorable or when the wind is too high. You should also never compromise safety to get the shot you’re looking for and be wary of handing your drone off to someone who is not familiar with how they operate.
Most importantly, just like with any other skill, flying a drone takes practice. So, make sure you do just that, practice. The more comfortable you are flying your drone, the less likely an accident will occur.
So go forth drone flyers, and remember to be safe and have fun!