Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the State of Pennsylvania
FAA Drone Website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/
UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in Pennsylvania
Drone operation in the State of Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania legislature has enacted several supplemental rules specific to Pennsylvania drone operations. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details go to the links above.
Are drones allowed in Pennsylvania?
Drones are allowed in Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania State legislature
Amending Titles 18 (Crimes and Offenses) and 53 (Municipalities Generally) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in burglary and other criminal intrusions, defining the offense of unlawful use of unmanned aircraft; and, in preemptions, prohibiting local regulation of unmanned aircraft.
Section 1. Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes is amended by adding a section to read:
§ 3505. Unlawful use of unmanned aircraft.
- Offense defined.–A person commits the offense of unlawful use of unmanned aircraft if the person uses an unmanned aircraft intentionally or knowingly to:
- Conduct surveillance of another person in a private place.
- Operate in a manner which places another person in reasonable fear of bodilyinjury.
- Deliver, provide, transmit or furnish contraband in violation of section 5123(relating to contraband) or 61 Pa.C.S. § 5902 (relating to contraband prohibited).
- Grading.–The offense of unlawful use of unmanned aircraft shall be graded as follows:
- An offense under subsection (a)(1) or (2) is a summary offense punishable by afine of up to $300.
- An offense under subsection (a)(3) is a felony of the second degree.
- Exceptions for law enforcement officers.–Subsection (a) shall not apply if the conduct proscribed under subsection (a) is committed by any of the following:
- Law enforcement officers engaged in the performance of their official law enforcement duties.
- Personnel of the Department of Corrections, local correctional facility, prison or jail engaged in the performance of their official duties.
- Other exceptions.–Subsection (a)(1) and (2) shall not apply if the conduct proscribed under subsection (a)(1) or (2) is committed by any of the following:
- Firefighters, as defined in section 2 of the act of December 16, 1998 (P.L.980, No.129), known as the Police Officer, Firefighter, Correction Employee and National Guard Member Child Beneficiary Education Act, or special fire police, as provided for in 35 Pa.C.S. Ch. 74 Subch. D (relating to special fire police), engaged in the performance of their official firefighting or fire police duties.
- Emergency medical responders, as defined in 35 Pa.C.S. § 8103 (relating to definitions), engaged in the performance of their official duties.
- An employee or agent of an electric, water, natural gas or other utility while engaged in the performance of the employee’s or agent’s official duties.
- An employee or agent of a government agency while engaged in the performance of the employee’s or agent’s official duties.
- Aerial data collection.–Subsection (a)(1) shall not apply if the conduct proscribed is committed by a person engaged in aerial data collection if:
- the person utilized the unmanned aircraft in a manner which complies with Federal Aviation Administration regulations or the unmanned aircraft is authorized by an exemption that is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration; and
- the person did not knowingly or intentionally conduct surveillance of another person in a private place.
- Definitions.–As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
- “Bodily injury.” As defined in section 2301 (relating to definitions).
“Law enforcement officer.” An officer of the United States, of another state or subdivision thereof, or of the Commonwealth or political subdivision thereof, who is empowered by law to conduct investigations of or to make arrests for offenses enumerated in this title or an equivalent crime in another jurisdiction and an attorney authorized by law to prosecute or participate in the prosecution of the offense.
- “Private place.” A place where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. “Surveillance.” Using or causing to be used an unmanned aircraft to observe, record or invade the privacy of another.
- “Unmanned aircraft.” An aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.
- “Bodily injury.” As defined in section 2301 (relating to definitions).
Section 2. Title 53 is amended by adding a section to read: § 305. Local regulation of unmanned aircraft prohibited.
- Preemption.–The provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. § 3505 (relating to unlawful use of unmanned aircraft) shall preempt and supersede any ordinance, resolution, rule or other enactment of a municipality regulating the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft. As of the effective date of this section, a municipality shall not regulate the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft unless expressly authorized by statute.
- Municipal use.–Nothing under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3505 shall prohibit a municipality from using unmanned aircraft within the boundaries of the municipality for municipal purposes and regulating that use.
- Definition.–As used in this section, the term “municipality” shall include a county, city, borough, incorporated town or township or home rule, optional plan or optional charter municipality, any other general purpose unit of government established by the General Assembly, a municipal authority and any entity formed pursuant to Ch. 23 Subch. A (relating to intergovernmental cooperation).
UAS operation rules in Parks, Recreation and Cultural Preserves
The Bureau of State Parks executed a new management policy. These rules exist to balance privacy concerns, public safety, view-shed and sound-shed protection, and FAA regulations.
Recreational drone operations—along with other unmanned aerial systems (UAS)— are restricted to designated flying sites in the six parks below.
- Beltzville State Park
- Benjamin Rush State Park
- Hillman State Park
- Lackawanna State Park
- Prompton State Park
- Tuscarora State Park
Drone and other UAS operators should contact the park office for each flying site in advance. This is to ensure they’re familiar with all the updated rules and regulations before flying. All other state parks are off-limits to recreational model pilots.
Specific additional UAV laws by local governments within Pennsylvania
There are no local drone laws in Pennsylvania at the current time.
Specific additional laws in Jurisdictions within Pennsylvania
Many cities or towns within the state of Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania
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 Pennsylvania are approved under FAA law, specifically 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.
- Fly only for recreational purposes (enjoyment).
- 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.
- 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.
- Give way to and do not interfere with crewed aircraft.
- Fly at or below 400′ in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) with prior authorization by using LAANC or DroneZone.
- 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.
- Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage.
- Have a current registration, mark (PDF) your drones on the outside with the registration number, and carry proof of registration with you.
- 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.
It is recommended that recreational drone operators consult the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules and regulations on the proper use of recreational drones and use common sense when operating these devices around crowded public areas, wildlife, or historic resources.
Notes for Commercial Drone Services operations in Pennsylvania
If you have a small drone 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 Pennsylvania 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Review the entire process to get your Remote Pilot Certificate.
- Study for the Knowledge Test by reviewing the Test Prep materials provided by the FAA.
- Obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) by creating an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile before registering for a knowledge test.
- Schedule an appointment to take the Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.
- 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)*
- 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.
Useful published information on flying drones in Pennsylvania
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 Pennsylvania 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.
Traveling with a Drone?
Click here to read our Comprehensive Guide For Traveling With A Drone
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