Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in Tennessee
Federal Aviation Administration
FAA Drone Website: https://www.faa.gov/uas/
Tennessee State Laws – Tennessee State Code 2019
UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in TN
Drone operation in Tennessee 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 Tennessee State legislature has enacted several supplemental rules specific to Tennessee drone operations. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details go to the links above and search for unmanned aircraft.
Are drones allowed in Tennessee?
Drones are allowed in Tennessee 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 Tennessee State legislature
Tennessee Statute Definition of Unmanned Aerial System (UAS)
The Tennessee Freedom from Unwanted Surveillance Act defines a “drone” as “a powered, aerial vehicle” that:
- does not carry a human operator and cannot be operated by a human from within or on the aircraft;
- uses aerodynamic forces for lift;
- can be piloted remotely or fly autonomously;
- can be recoverable or expendable.
“Law enforcement agency” refers to an agency that is responsible for preventing and detecting crime, for enforcing local government code, and for enforcing “penal, traffic, regulatory, game, or controlled substance laws.”
“Critical infrastructure facility” means:
- An electrical power generation system; electrical transmission system, either as a wholesystem or any individual component of the transmission system; or electrical distributionsubstation;
- A petroleum refinery;
- A manufacturing facility that utilizes any hazardous substance, as defined in §68-131-102, either in storage or in the process of manufacturing;
- A chemical or rubber manufacturing facility;
- A petroleum or chemical storage facility;
- A water or wastewater treatment facility;
- Any facility, equipment, or pipeline infrastructure utilized in the storage, transmission, ordistribution of natural gas or propane; and
- Railroad yards and facilities not open to the general public;
This law prohibits flying UAVs to conduct surveillance, i.e., to unlawfully gather evidence, or collect information, within 250ft of Tennessee’s critical infrastructure facilities. Critical infrastructure facilities include petroleum refineries, electrical power generation systems, certain chemical manufacturing and or storage facilities, and rubber manufacturing plants, etc.
The statute generally prohibits drone use by a law enforcement agency to gather evidence or other information. Following the general prohibition, the statute prescribes exceptions by which drone use is permissible.
The statute allows the use of a drone in these circumstances:
- to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if theUnited States secretary of homeland security determines that credible intelligenceindicates that there is such a risk;
- if the law enforcement agency first obtains a search warrant signed by a judgeauthorizing its use;
- if the law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particularcircumstances, swift action is needed to prevent imminent danger to life;
- to provide continuous aerial coverage when law enforcement is searching for a fugitiveor escapee or is monitoring a hostage situation; or
- to provide more expansive aerial coverage when deployed for the purpose of searchingfor a missing person.
In 2014, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted a chapter concerning “Surveillance by Unmanned Aircraft” as part of the Tennessee Code’s Criminal Offenses Title. It first defines “images” broadly, including “any capturing of sound waves, thermal, infrared, ultraviolet, visible light, or other electromagnetic waves, odor, or other conditions existing on or about real property in this state or an individual located on that property.” The definition of “unmanned aircraft” is broad, including any “airborne device that is operated without an individual in or on the device.”
This amended law rewords Section 39-13-902(a)(1). It now states that it’s permissible for persons to operate unmanned aerial systems (UAS) on behalf of public and private higher education institutions.
Drone and UAS operators cannot fly and film over firework displays and open-air events without the owner’s prior consent. This law applies to gatherings of—or the potential to accommodate—more than 100 persons.
Under this law, private entities cannot exploit drones to conduct video surveillance of private citizens lawfully engaged in hunting and fishing activities without their consent. Failure to comply with this rule is considered a class C misdemeanor.
It’s a class C misdemeanor to use an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for unlawful surveillance of persons or property. Furthermore, it’s considered a criminal act to possess, distribute, or use captured images for any purpose without consent; the latter being a Class B Misdemeanor.
Law enforcement agencies are authorized to use drones in certain operations with an official search warrant. That includes situations where swift action is vital to thwart imminent danger to life or counteract high-risk terror attacks. Any evidence gathered in violation of this law is inadmissible in Tennessee State prosecution cases.
The Tennessee Hunter Protection Act 70-4-301 to 303.
The Tennessee Hunter Protection Act concerns the use of drones to interfere with a lawful exercise of taking wildlife. The statute creates a Class C misdemeanor for using a drone with the intent to conduct video surveillance of private citizens who are lawfully hunting or fishing without obtaining the written consent of the persons being surveilled prior to conducting the surveillance.
39-13-902. - Lawful capture of images – Use for lawful purposes.
It is legal to capture an image using a drone in any of the following circumstances:
- for purposes of professional or scholarly research and development by a person actingon behalf of an institution of higher education;
- in airspace designated as a test site or range authorized by the Federal AviationAdministration for the purpose of integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the nationalairspace;
- as part of an operation, exercise, or mission of any branch of the United States military,as long as it complies with the United States Constitution;
- if the image is captured by a satellite for the purposes of mapping;
- if the image is captured by or for an electric or natural gas utility for one of several listedpurposes;
- with the consent of the individual who owns or lawfully occupies the real propertycaptured in the image;
- “for law enforcement purposes,” as defined by another statute, (see Tenn. Code39-13-609);
- if the image is captured by state law enforcement authorities, or a person who is under contract with or otherwise acting under the direction or on behalf of state authorities to survey a catastrophe or determine whether a state of emergency should be declared, to preserve public safety or protect property or survey damage or contamination during a lawfully declared state of emergency, or to conduct routine air quality sampling and monitoring;
- at the scene of a spill, or a suspected spill, of hazardous materials;
- for the purpose of fire suppression;
- for the purpose of rescuing a person whose life or well-being is in imminent danger;
- if the image is captured by a Tennessee licensed real estate broker in connection withthe marketing, sale, or financing of real property, provided no individual can be identifiedin the image;
- if the image is of real property or a person on that property;
- if the image is captured by the owner or operator of an oil, gas, water, or other pipelinefor the purpose of inspecting, maintaining, or repairing pipelines or other related facilities, and is captured without the intent to conduct surveillance on an individual or real property located in Tennessee;
- in connection with oil and gas pipeline and well safety and protection;
- in connection with port authority surveillance and security;
- as authorized or permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration for use in a motionpicture, television or similar production where the filming is authorized by the propertyowner and a state or local film permit agency, if necessary;
- as a part of a commercial service that has received authorization from the federalaviation administration to use unmanned aircraft or an unmanned aircraft operating under regulations promulgated by the federal aviation administration for commercial use of unmanned aircraft; (19) when an image is “captured by a state or local government agency, or by a person who is under contract with or otherwise acting under the direction or on behalf of such agency, [it] shall be handled in accordance with § 39-13-609 and shall not be used for any purpose other than the lawful purpose for which the image was captured as permitted by this section.” A recent amendment to the statute provides that it is legal to use drones to capture images in land surveying; by the department of transportation; or photogrammetric mapping.
39-13-903. Unlawful capture of an image with intent to conduct surveillance a misdemeanor offense -Defense.
If drones are used to capture images in any of the following ways, actions result in a Class C misdemeanor:
- uses an unmanned aircraft to capture an image of an individual or privately owned real property in Tennessee with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image;
- knowingly uses an image captured for law enforcement purposes by a state or local law enforcement agency, or by a person who is under contract with or otherwise acting under the direction of or on behalf of such agency;
- uses an unmanned aircraft to intentionally capture an image of an individual or event at an open-air event venue wherein more than one hundred individuals are gathered for a ticketed event, provided there is no consent from the venue owner or operator;
- knowingly uses an unmanned aircraft within or over a designated fireworks discharge site, fireworks display site, or fireworks fallout area during an event, subject to provided definitions of “discharge site,” “display site,” and “fallout area”; or
- knowingly uses an unmanned aircraft over the grounds of a correctional facility;
- knowingly uses an unmanned aircraft within two hundred fifty feet of the perimeter of anycritical infrastructure facility without the business operator’s written consent for the purpose of conducting surveillance of, gathering evidence or collecting information about, or photographically or electronically recording, critical infrastructure data.
39-13-904. – Possession or distribution and use of unlawfully captured images – Misdemeanor offenses – Separate images constitute separate offenses – Defenses.
The statutes create a Class C misdemeanor offense when a person possesses an image in violation of the law, and, a Class B misdemeanor when one “discloses, displays, distributes, or otherwise uses that image.” Each image creates a separate offense.
The section concludes by listing two separate defenses to these charges:
- that one destroyed the image as soon as he or she had knowledge it was capturedillegally, or
- that one “stopped disclosing, displaying, distributing, or otherwise using the image” assoon as he or she had knowledge it was captured illegally.
Specific additional UAV laws by local governments within Tennessee
Metro Government of Nashville & Davidson | County Ordinance 13.24.400
This local law prohibits the use of any flying machine (including drones) in Davidson County park.
UAS in State Parks
Tennessee State Parks Drone/UAV Policy
Drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Tennessee State Parks are subject to the same rules governing the use of aircraft and require written park manager approval before the flight is allowed. Information about the operation of aircraft in Tennessee State Parks, and the process for gaining approval to do so, please click here. Pilots should adhere to all applicable FAA requirements and regulations. Those wishing to film for commercial purposes will need permission from the Film Commission in addition to other applicable requirements. Visit TN Entertainment’s website for more information.
Please check with Tennessee State Parks Department for the latest regulations.
What you must know about Tennessee No Fly Zones or No Drone Zones
You need to know if you can operate your drone, under what limitations, whether authorizations are required, and how to get those authorizations.
We encourage you to read our explainer for more details on this topic here: Explainer – What You Must Know About No Fly Zones or No Drone Zones
How do I check for no-fly zones, no-drone zones, and uncontrolled or controlled airspace in Tennessee?
The FAA has partnered with Aloft to develop the B4UFLY mobile app, which can tell you if there are any airspace restrictions where you want to fly.
If you are looking for a drone no fly zone map then B4UFLY is a good place to start.
The app provides situational awareness to recreational flyers and other drone users. However, it does not allow users to obtain airspace authorizations to fly in controlled airspace, only available through the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC).
The B4UFLY app is available to download for free:
B4UFLY at the App Store for iOS: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/b4ufly-drone-airspace-safety/id992427109
B4UFLY at the Google Play store for Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gov.faa.b4ufly2&hl=en_US&gl=US
B4UFLY is also available as a desktop version for preflight planning and research. https://b4ufly.aloft.ai/ (“B4UFLY App | Federal Aviation Administration”)
How do I get authorization to fly in controlled airspace in Tennessee?
Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), which is run by the FAA, is the only way to get permission to fly in controlled airspace.
LAANC is available to pilots operating under the Small UAS Rule Part 107 or under the exception for Recreational Flyers.
You can get access through one of the FAA Approved LAANC UAS Service Suppliers. Some providers have apps that can be used to apply for approval in near-real time.
There are two ways to use LAANC:
- Submit a near real-time authorization request for operations under 400 feet in controlled airspace around airports (available to Part 107 Pilots and Recreational Flyers).
- Submit a “further coordination request” if you need to fly above the designated altitude ceiling in a UASFacility Map, up to 400 feet.
- You can apply up to 90 days before a flight, and the approval is coordinated manually through the FAA (available to Part 107 pilots only).
LAANC is available at 726 airports. If you want to fly in controlled airspace near airports not offering LAANC, you can use the manual process to apply for authorization.
Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in Tennessee
If you have a small drone of less than 55 pounds, you can fly recreationally by following Drone Laws in the USA defined by 49 USC 44809.
In Tennessee, recreational UAS operations (i.e., flying for recreational purposes) are approved under law, specifically 49 USC 44809. Please check the specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.
Following these rules will keep you and your drone safe and help keep the airspace available to everyone.
The law requires that all recreational flyers pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test and provide proof of passage if asked by law enforcement or FAA personnel. The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) was developed to meet this requirement.
TRUST provides education and testing on important safety and regulatory information. If you fly your drone recreationally under the Exception for Recreational Flyers, you must pass the test before you fly.
Note: If your drone weighs more than .55 pounds (lbs), you must register your drone through the FAA‘s Drone Zone.
For a complete discussion on drone registration, see our Drone Registration Explainer.
To fly your drone as a recreational flyer, it’s as easy as 1-2-3
- Understand recreational flying requirements
- Note: Non-recreational drone flying includes things like taking photos to help sell a property or service, doing roof inspections, or taking pictures of a high school football game for the school’s website. Goodwill can also be considered non-recreational. This would include volunteering to use your drone to survey coastlines on behalf of a non-profit organization. If you’re unsure which rules apply to your flight, fly under Part 107 (See below).
- Visit the Recreational Flyers page to learn about the rules for recreational flyers.
- Download the FAA’s B4UFLY mobile app for more recreational drone flying resources.
- Take TRUST
- You may take the free online test through any of the FAA-approved test administrators.
- All FAA-approved TRUST test administrators offer the test free.
- All test questions are correctable to 100% prior to issuing your completion certificate.
- After completing TRUST, you’ll need to download, save or print your completion certificate.
- If you lose your certificate, you will need to retake TRUST.
- View a list of TRUST Test Administrators
- Receive your certificate
- After you pass the test, you will receive a certificate from the test administrator you selected.
- Test administrators will not keep a record of your certificate. If law enforcement officers ask, you must present a copy of your certificate.
General Rules for Recreational Flyers
The Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft (USC 44809) is the law that describes how, when, and where you can fly drones for recreational purposes. Following these rules helps keep people, your drone, and our airspace safe:
- Fly only for recreational purposes (personal enjoyment).
- Follow the safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community-Based Organization (CBO).
For more information on how to become an FAA-recognized CBO, read Advisory Circular 91-57C.
- Keep your drone within the visual line of sight, or use a visual observer who is co-located (physically next to) and in direct communication with you.
- Give way to and do not interfere with other aircraft.
- Fly at or below FAA-authorized altitudes in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and surface Class E designated for an airport) only with prior FAA authorization by using LAANC or DroneZone.
- Fly at or below 400 feet in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace.
Note: Flying drones in restricted airspace is not allowed. Drone pilots should always check for airspace restrictions prior to flight on our B4UFLY app or the UAS Facility Maps webpage.
- Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage when flying.
- Have a current FAA registration, mark (PDF) your drones on the outside with the registration number, and carry proof of registration when flying.
Note: Beginning September 16, 2023, if your drone requires an FAA registration number, it will also be required to broadcast Remote ID information.
- Do not operate your drone in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system.
Recreational drone pilots should know that if they violate these safety requirements and/or operate their drone flight carelessly or recklessly, they could be liable for criminal and/or civil penalties.
You do not need a drone license if your drone use is recreational and falls within the scope of 44809. However, to fly your drone commercially or under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107), you must first obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate (RPC), also known as a drone license or a Part 107 certificate. You may want to get your drone license for the flexibility it allows in your drone flights.
For more details on drone licensing, please see our Drone License Explainer.
Notes for operating Commercial Drone Services in TN
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 Tennessee are approved under the FAA Part 107. Please check the specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.
For a complete review of the FAA Part 107 regulation please see our comprehensive FAA 107 Explainer.
Note: The Operations Over People rule became effective on April 21, 2021. Drone pilots operating under Part 107 may fly at night, over people and moving vehicles without a waiver as long as they meet the requirements defined in the rule. Airspace authorizations are still required for night operations in controlled airspace under 400 feet.
If you have a small drone of fewer than 55 pounds, you can fly for work or business by following the Part 107 guidelines. To fly under Part 107 rules, there are three main steps.
Step 1: Learn the Rules
Ensure you understand what is and is not allowed under Part 107 rules.
If you are unsure if Part 107 rules work for you and your intended operation, check our user identification tool.
Some operations will require a waiver. Here are the regulations specified in §107.205 that are subject to waiver:
- Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft – §107.25
- Operation at Night – §107.29(a)(2) and (b)
- 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 human beings – §107.39
- Operation in certain airspace – §107.41
- Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft – §107.51
- Operations Over Moving Vehicles – §107.145
Learn more about Part 107 Waivers.
Drone operators should avoid flying near airports because it is difficult for crewed aircraft to see and avoid a drone while flying. Remember that the drone operator must avoid manned aircraft and are responsible for any safety hazard their drone creates in an airport environment.
Step 2: Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by Passing the Knowledge Test
For more details on drone licensing, please see our Drone License Explainer.
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
Study for the Knowledge Test
- Review Knowledge Test Suggested Study Materials provided by the FAA.
Obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN)
- Create an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile before registering for the knowledge test.
Schedule an Appointment
- Take the Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.
Complete FAA Form 8710-13
- Once you’ve passed your test for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application), log in to the FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA)* to complete FAA form 8710-13.
- Review the entire process to get your Remote Pilot Certificate.
Step 3: Register your Drone with the FAA
For a complete discussion on drone registration, see our Drone Registration Explainer.
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 in order to register. Learn more about registering your drone.
- Create an account and register your drone at FAADroneZone. Select “Fly sUAS under Part 107.”
- Once you’ve registered, mark your drone (PDF) with your registration number in case it gets lost or stolen.
Useful published information on flying drones in Tennessee
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 Tennessee 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, remote-controlled, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.
Find out why we think you must use a Drone Preflight Checklist and a Drone Post-flight checklist
Free Drone Flight Checklist PDF
This Drone Flight Checklists is better than others.
It includes both the preflight checklist and post-flight checklist
It’s an easy to use printable pdf that covers all your bases.
Traveling with a Drone?
Click here to read our Comprehensive Guide For Traveling With A Drone.
NOW ITS YOUR TURN
12 thoughts on “Drone Laws in Tennessee”
Are you aware of SB0776 recently introduced to the TN legislature that would ban the use of DJI UAVs by law enforcement agencies? Most (all) current agencies are heavily invested in DJI products. This would eliminate many law enforcement UAV programs. What can you find out about this?
DJI UAVs have already been banned/restricted in Federal programs.
There is a typo in this page that says “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.”
It also later says the same thing about flying commercially. The issue is that it says the limit is 55 pounds, when it should say 0.55 pounds
Cameron, you can fly drones under 55 pounds using the rules on the page. Drones under 0.55 pounds are generally exempt from registration but must follow the rules above. Special rules apply for drones above 55 pounds.
Drones under 0.55 are exempt from “registration” NOT “regulations”. Any drone, at any weight, has to follow the rules. ALL drone operators must have either a Part 107 certificate or a T.R.U.S.T. card to operate a drone in the United States.
Thanks, David. That is correct. We should have been more precise in our response. Edited.
Thank you for this great information. I am visiting from Maryland and always have at least one of my drones with me . I am a 107 license holder, but I have learned over the years flying UAV’s its always good to check when visiting a new area to check for any local rules or restrictions. It seems as though you have it all laid out really eell here. Again thanks and clear skys.
Thanks Jason. Safe travels. Please come back and tell us if we miss anything
How can a person find out wat agency is flying drones is there a web site tht can tell you And how far can they fly. I’m interested cause it’s like a. New thing Next they will b Flyin cars
Lynn, there is no regulation requiring this information be made public. The drone could be flown by government agencies, but can also be flown by commercial drone operations, or personal drone flyers.
I was a State Employee for 30 years have since Retired. I have about 10 to 28 Drones hovering over my house,every nite flies as low as my windows scares my kids to death. Is there anything I can do or your agency can do to keep these drones from hovering over my house I live at 2019 Milky Way Drive Murfreesboro Tn Thanks Jeff Joyce ph 615 890 4354
Jeff, we are not an agency regulating the use of drones. We are a group of volunteers who are sharing the latest information on what regulations exist.
We recommend that you get in touch with local law enforcement regarding any invasion of your privacy or nuisance impact of drones in your location.