Drone Laws in Illinois

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the State of Illinois

Federal Aviation Administration

FAA Drone Website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/

Illinois Legislature Drone Laws


UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in Illinois

Drone operation in the State of Illinois is broadly governed by The Federal USA agency responsible for drone safety, the FAA. Click here for details on FAA USA Drone Laws.

In addition, the Illinois State legislature has enacted several supplemental rules specific to Illinois drone operations. The highlights are enumerated below.

Are drones allowed in Illinois?

Drones are allowed in Illinois for recreational and commercial use, subject to FAA regulations and flight controls put in place by local governments. Read on for details.

Specific additional drone use laws by Illinois legislature

725 ILCS 167/ ​- ​Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act

Sec. 10. ​Prohibited use of drones​. Except as provided in Section 15, a law enforcement agency may not use a drone to gather information.

Sec. 15. ​Exceptions​. This Act does not prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency:

  1. To counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States Secretary of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is that risk.
  2. If a law enforcement agency first obtains a search warrant based on probable cause issued under Section 108-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963. The warrant must be limited to a period of 45 days, renewable by the judge upon a showing of good cause for subsequent periods of 45 days.
  3. If a law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent imminent harm to life, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence. The use of a drone under this paragraph (3) is limited to a period of 48 hours. Within 24 hours of the initiation of the use of a drone under this paragraph (3), the chief executive officer of the law enforcement agency must report in writing the use of a drone to the local State’s Attorney.
  4. If a law enforcement agency is attempting to locate a missing person, and is not also undertaking a criminal investigation.
  5. If a law enforcement agency is using a drone solely for crime scene and traffic crash scene photography. Crime scene and traffic crash photography must be conducted in a geographically confined and time-limited manner to document specific occurrences. The use of a drone under this paragraph (5) on private property requires either a search warrant based on probable cause under Section 108-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 or lawful consent to search. The use of a drone under this paragraph (5) on lands, highways, roadways, or areas belonging to this State or political subdivisions of this State does not require a search warrant or consent to search. Any law enforcement agency operating a drone under this paragraph (5) shall make every reasonable attempt to only photograph the crime scene or traffic crash scene and avoid other areas.
  6. If a law enforcement agency is using a drone during a disaster or public health emergency, as defined by Section 4 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act. The use of a drone under this paragraph (6) does not require an official declaration of a disaster or public health emergency prior to use. A law enforcement agency may use a drone under this paragraph (6) to obtain information necessary for the determination of whether or not a disaster or public health emergency should be declared, to monitor weather or emergency conditions, to survey damage, or to otherwise coordinate response and recovery efforts. The use of a drone under this paragraph (6) is permissible during the disaster or public health emergency and during subsequent response and recovery efforts.

Sec. 20. ​Information retention​. If a law enforcement agency uses a drone under Section 15 of this Act, the agency within 30 days shall destroy all information gathered by the drone, except that a supervisor at that agency may retain particular information if:

  1. there is reasonable suspicion that the information contains evidence of criminal activity, or
  2. the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation or pending criminal trial.

Sec. 25. ​Information disclosure​. If a law enforcement agency uses a drone under Section 15 of this Act, the agency shall not disclose any information gathered by the drone, except that a supervisor of that agency may disclose particular information to another government agency, if:

  1. there is reasonable suspicion that the information contains evidence of criminal activity, or
  2. the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation or pending criminal trial.

Sec. 30. ​Admissibility​. If the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a law enforcement agency used a drone to gather information in violation of the information gathering limits in Sections 10 and 15 of this Act, then the information shall be presumed to be inadmissible in any judicial or administrative proceeding.

Sec. 35. ​Reporting​.

  • If a law enforcement agency owns one or more drones, then subsequent to the effective date of this Act, it shall report in writing annually by April 1 to the Authority the number of drones that it owns.
  • On July 1 of each year, the Authority shall publish on its publicly available website a concise report that lists every law enforcement agency that owns a drone, and for each of those agencies, the number of drones that it owns.

Sec. 40. ​Law enforcement use of private drones​.

  • Except as provided in Section 15, a law enforcement agency may not acquire information from or direct the acquisition of information through the use of a drone owned by a private third party. In the event that law enforcement acquires information from or directs the acquisition of information through the use of a privately owned drone under Section 15 of this Act, any information so acquired is subject to Sections 20 and 25 of this Act.
  • Nothing in this Act prohibits private third parties from voluntarily submitting information acquired by a privately owned drone to law enforcement. In the event that law enforcement acquires information from the voluntary submission of that information, whether under a request or on a private drone owner’s initiative, the information is subject to Sections 20 and 25 of this Act.

720 ILCS 5/48-3 Criminal Code of 2012.​ – ​Hunter or fisherman interference

A person commits the crime of “hunter or fisherman interference” when they use a drone to interfere with someone’s lawful hunting or fishing or animals. The statute does not apply to law enforcement personnel, officers of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and employees of the Department of Natural Resources, as long as their actions are authorized by law and necessary for the performance of their duties.

Specific additional UAV laws by local governments within Illinois

The city of Evanston | Municipal Law (2016)

This ordinance places a cessation on drone operations in the City of Evanston until the enactment of reasonable Federal and State regulations come into place.

McHenry County Conservation District | County Ordinance

SECTION 3: ENGINE POWERED MODELS OR TOYS:

This county ordinance bans drones from operating over, across, or on district property unless operated by the district. District Property refers to the first 100ft of airspace above ground level (AGL). The only exception is with prior written permission from the Executive Director.

Village of Schaumburg | Municipal Law (2016)

This city ordinance bans drones from within a 100ft perimeter of village property, including village right-of-way during local events.

UAS operation rules in Parks, Recreation and Cultural Preserves

Crystal Lake Park District | Park Ordinance (2015)

This park ordinance bans all drone operations within Park District properties outside of designated areas. The only exception is during officially permitted Park District programs.

Specific additional UAV laws laws in Jurisdictions within Illinois

Counties or towns within Illinois may have specific restrictions within their jurisdictions. We recommend checking the local jurisdiction for the latest regulations.


Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in Illinois

If you have a small drone that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly recreationally by following the Drone Laws in the USA defined by FAA Part 107 guidelines.

Recreational UAS operations (i.e., flying for recreational purposes) in Illinois are approved under Federal law, specifically the FAA Part 107. Please check the specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.

Following these rules will keep you and your drone safe and will help keep the airspace available to everyone.

  1. Fly only for recreational purposes (enjoyment). 
  2. Follow the safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community Based Organization (CBO). Note: We have not yet begun officially recognizing CBOs. Recreational flyers should follow the safety guidelines of existing aeromodelling organizations or use the FAA-provided safety guidelines per Advisory Circular 91-57B.
  3. Keep your drone within the visual line of sight or use a co-located visual observer (physically next to) and in direct communication with you.
  4. Give way to and do not interfere with crewed aircraft.
  5. Fly at or below 400′ in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) with prior authorization by using LAANC or DroneZone.
  6. Fly at or below 400 feet in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace. Note: Drone flights may be prohibited in certain airspace or may require FAA authorization. A drone pilot can find navigable airspace, other Classes of airspace, and flying restrictions on our B4UFLY app or the UAS Facility Maps webpage.
  7. Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage.
  8. Have a current registrationmark (PDF) your drones on the outside with the registration number, and carry proof of registration with you.
  9. Do not dangerously operate your drone. For example:
    • Do not interfere with emergency response or law enforcement activities.
    • Do not fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
    • Avoid flying near or over critical infrastructure.

Recreational drone pilots should know that if they intentionally violate any of these safety requirements and/or operate their drone flight carelessly or recklessly, they could be liable for criminal and/or civil penalties.


Notes for Commercial Drone Services operations in Illinois

If you have a small unmanned aircraft that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly for work or business by following the Drone Laws in the USA defined by FAA Part 107 guidelines.

Commercial drone operations in Illinois are approved under the FAA Part 107. Please check the specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.

There are three main steps drone owners must follow To fly under Part 107 rules:

Step 1: Learn the Rules

  1. Make sure you understand what is and is not allowed under Part 107 rules. Review a summary of the Part 107 rules (PDF). Still unsure if Part 107 rules work for you and your intended UAS operation? Check the FAA user identification tool.
  2. Some operations are not covered by Part 107 and will require a waiver. Here are some common examples of Part 107 sections that are subject to waiver:
    • Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft (§ 107.25) *
    • Daylight operation (§ 107.29)
    • Visual line of sight aircraft operation (§ 107.31) *
    • Visual observer (§ 107.33)
    • Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems (§ 107.35)
    • Yielding the right of way (§ 107.37(a))
    • Operation over people (§ 107.39)
    • Operation in certain airspace (§ 107.41)
    • Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft (§ 107.51) 
    • *The FAA will not waive this section to allow the carriage of property of another by aircraft for compensation or hire.
    • If your operation will require a waiver, read about the Part 107 Waiver application process.
  3. Commercial Drone Pilots should avoid flying near airports because it is difficult for manned aircraft to see and avoid a drone while flying. Remember that the UAS operator must avoid crewed aircraft and are responsible for any safety hazard their drone creates in an airport environment. Read more about flying near airports.

Step 2: Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by Passing the Knowledge Test

  1. To be eligible to get your Remote Pilot Certificate, you must be:
    • At least 16 years old
    • Able to read, write, speak, and understand English
    • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a UAS
  2. Review the entire process to get your Remote Pilot Certificate.
  3. Study for the Knowledge Test by reviewing the Test Prep materials provided by the FAA.
  4. Obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) by creating an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile before registering for a knowledge test.
  5. Schedule an appointment to take the Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.
  6. Once you’ve passed your test, complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA)*
  7. You are now eligible to operate as a commercial drone pilot

Step 3: Register your drone with the FAA

  • Registration costs $5 and is valid for three years. You’ll need a credit or debit card and the make and model of your drone handy to register.
  • Visit dronezone.faa.gov and select “Fly sUAS under Part 107” to create an account and register your drone.
  • Once you’ve registered, mark your drone (PDF) with your registration number if it gets lost or stolen.

Commercial rules in Parks, Recreation and Cultural reserves

We suggest you contact the local parks agencies and check for specific permissions required.


Useful published information on flying drones in Illinois

We have partnered with the FAA and other drone enthusiasts in supporting an internet educational campaign called Know Before You Fly. The tips, pointers, and resources apply to Illinois Drone Users also. Please visit the site for additional information: Know Before You Fly

Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International – Mostly for commercial drone service providers and users.

Academy of Model Aeronautics – Mostly for hobbyists

NOTE: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS), Small UAS, Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and drone are interchangeable terms unless specified. Model aircraft, toy aircraft, Remote controlled aircraft, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.


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Click here to read our Comprehensive Guide For Traveling With A Drone



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IMPORTANT NOTE

The content on this site is collated by volunteers from public general information. This material is not presented as legal advice of any kind, and we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Do not substitute the information you find here for legal advice from a licensed attorney who is authorized to practice in the jurisdiction. When in doubt, contact the local aviation authority responsible for drone safety, utilize a licensed drone service operator, and/or consult a qualified attorney.

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