State Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) | 2018 Legislation

3/10/2020

Woman flying drone.

Introduction 

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly known as drones, are typically defined as unmanned aircraft moving, shifting and swaying in the air.

In 2018, at least 19 states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin—enacted 31 UAS bills. 

 States with UAS legislation in 2018

US map showing states with UAS legislation in 2018.

  • Nine states—California, Kentucky, Michigan, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and West Virginia—prohibited UAS flying over property, including correctional and other facilities for utilities, defense and railroads.
  • Four states—Delaware, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia—prohibited UAS harassing people.
  • Four states—Arizona, Colorado, Michigan and Virginia—addressed emergency management, including to allow UAS for such operations and specifying liability claims.  
  • Three states—Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia—prohibited equipping UAS with deadly payloads.
  • Two states—Kansas and New Jersey—approved resolutions supporting a federal test site program. 
2018 Unmanned Aircraft Legislation

State

Session Law

Summary

Arizona

2018 Ariz. Laws, Ch. 116

  • Specifies that the state is not liable for claims based on UAS while engaged in emergency management operations.

California

2018 Cal. Stats., Ch. 333

  • Imposes a $500 fine for knowingly operating UAS above the grounds of a correctional facility.
  • Provides that the provisions do not apply to personnel acting within the scope of employment or a person with prior approval.

Colorado

2018 Colo., Sess. Laws, Ch. 385

  • The act states, as used in the existing criminal offense of obstructing a peace officer, firefighter, emergency medical service provider, rescue specialist or volunteer, the term “obstacle” includes UAS.
  • It also states that the offense does not apply to UAS operators who meet certain requirements.
  • Creates an offense for using or threatening to use UAS in order to obstruct public safety personnel and related operations.

  • States that the offense does not apply if prior permission is given and the operator complies with any instructions concerning UAS.  

Delaware

2018 Del. Laws, Ch. 264

  • Makes it a crime to operate UAS to harass another person on private property, invade the privacy of another person or violate a domestic violence protective order.

Kansas

2018 Kansas SR 1759

  • A resolution urging the Federal Aviation Administration to select the state for its Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration Pilot Program.
  • Specific topics include reducing the risk to public safety, commerce, precision agriculture and infrastructure inspections.

Kentucky

2018 Ky. Acts,

Ch. 26

  • Defines “unmanned aircraft system.”
  • Prohibits UAS being equipped with lethal payloads.
  • Allows a business entity doing business within the state to use UAS for business purposes.
  • Allows an institution of higher education, or school district, to use UAS for educational, research or testing purposes.
  • Specifies certain circumstances in which evidence may be collected by UAS for judicial proceedings.
 

2018 Ky. Acts,

Ch. 168

  • Makes it a trespass offense for operating UAS over “key infrastructure assets,” defined as petroleum refineries, chemical manufacturing or storage facility, railroad yards and tunnels, drinking water facility, military facilities and wireless communication facilities.

Louisiana

La. Acts 2018, 630

  • Prohibits UAS from observing, viewing, photographing, filming or videotaping a person in a place where such person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • Specifies that this shall not apply to any news or public interest broadcast, website, video, report or event and shall not be construed to affect the rights of any news-gathering organization.

Michigan

2018 Mich. Pub. Acts, Act 444

  • A person is guilty of an offense committed with the aid of UAS if the UAS is under the person’s control and the activity performed would have given rise to criminal liability if performed directly without the aid of UAS.
  • Specifies that solely operating UAS through navigable airspace in accordance with federal law does not give rise to criminal liability.
  2018 Mich. Pub. Acts, Act 445
  • Prohibits UAS over a correctional facility.
  2018 Mich. Pub. Acts, Act 468
  • Prohibits UAS to interfere with the official duties of the following:
    • Law enforcement.
    • Emergency medical services.
    • Search and rescue.
    • State and local correctional officers.
  2018 Mich. Pub. Acts, Act 469
  • Outlines felony offenses for using UAS to interfere with certain facilities or causing UAS to hover over a facility designated on the federal registry.

New Jersey

2018 N.J. AR 29

  • Urges Congress and the President to fund the Federal Aviation Administration’s Drone Test Site Program so that test sites more effectively support drone integration into the national airspace system and ensure that the United States becomes a world leader in civil and commercial drone technology.

Oregon

2018 Or. Laws, Ch. 120

  • Prohibits UAS specifically designed or modified to cause, and is presently capable of causing, serious physical injury.

Pennsylvania

2018 Pa. Laws, Act 78

  • Outlines unlawful UAS uses, including:
    • Conducting surveillance.
    • Placing another person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.
    • Delivering contraband.

South Carolina

2018 S.C. Acts, Act 184

  • Prohibits UAS within a horizontal distance of 500 feet or a vertical distance of 250 feet from any Department of Corrections facility without written approval.
  • Requires the Department of Corrections and local detention facilities to provide the state Aeronautics Commission (Commission) a list of sites or facilities in electronic format.
  • Requires the Commission to make available such information on its website.

South Dakota

2018 S.D. Sess. Laws, Ch. 269

  • Defines terms related to UAS, including “drone” and “small unmanned aircraft systems.”
  • States that a national aeronautical information manual, published by the Federal Aviation Administration, is the official guide to state aviation and flight activity.

Tennessee

2018 Tenn. Pub. Acts, Ch. 970

  • Allows UAS to be used to assess the presence of obstructions for the purpose of maintaining clearances of utility easements.

Utah

2018 Utah Laws, Ch. 40

  • Prohibits UAS over a correctional facility.
  • Exempts UAS operating in a mosquito abatement district during the scope of its work.

Vermont

2018 Vt. Acts, Act 101

  • Prohibits UAS over a correctional facility.

Virginia

2018 Va. Acts,

Ch. 2

  • Appropriates $1 million to support UAS companies and development of UAS industries.
  • An additional appropriation of $1 million is also provided to establish an Unmanned Aerial Systems Commercial Center of Excellence and business accelerator.
  2018 Va. Acts, Ch. 419
  • Specifies that search warrant requirements shall not apply to local governments when UAS are used to support the Commonwealth or any locality for purposes other than law enforcement, including damage assessment, traffic assessment, flood stage assessment and wildfire assessment.
  2018 Va. Acts, Ch. 546
  • Allows UAS to be used by a law enforcement officer following an accident to survey the scene for the purpose of crash reconstruction and record the scene by photographic or video images.
  2018 Va. Acts, Ch. 617
  • Directs the Department of Aviation to convene a workgroup with representation from the aviation industry, UAS industry and other interested parties to explore issues related to UAS, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.
  2018 Va. Acts, Ch. 654
  • Creates an exemption for a “search warrant” following an accident where a report is required to survey the scene of an accident for the purpose of crash reconstruction and record the scene by photographic or video images.
  2018 Va. Acts, Ch. 851
  • Directs the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, in consultation with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, to study UAS, as well as innovation and economic development.
  • Requires a report to the Governor and General Assembly by Nov. 2, 2019.

West Virginia

2018 W.Va. Acts, Ch. 61

  • Establishes a regulatory UAS framework.
  • Makes it a misdemeanor offense for certain prohibited conduct, such as violating a court order, recording through a window without permission or disregarding the safety of persons or property.
  • Makes it a felony offense to operate UAS with lethal weaponry, as well as intentionally disrupting the flight of a manned aircraft with UAS.
  2018 W.Va. Acts, Ch. 168
  • Prohibits UAS to wound, harass or transport wildlife or to drive or herd wildlife.
  2018 W.Va. Acts, Ch. 175
  • Allows UAS for recreational use in state parks, state forests and rail trails.
  • Clarifies a person operating a UAS assumes full responsibility and liability.
  • Requires a person who intends to operate UAS to register with the area superintendent’s office prior to operating.

Wisconsin

2018 Wis. Laws, Act 322

  • Makes it unlawful to operate UAS at such a low altitude as to intentionally interfere with the existing use to which the land or water, or the space over the land or water, is put by the owner.

Additional Resources