Drone Laws in Virginia

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the State of Virginia

Federal Aviation Administration

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


UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in Virginia

Drone operation in the State of Virginia 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 Virginia legislature has enacted several supplemental rules specific to Virginia drone operations. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details go to the links above and search for unmanned aircraft

Are drones allowed in Virginia?

Drones are allowed in Virginia 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 Virginia State legislature

Definitions:

Unmanned aircraft” means an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of human intervention from within or on the aircraft.

Unmanned aircraft system” means an unmanned aircraft and associated elements, including communication links, sensing devices, and the components that control the unmanned aircraft.

Statutes/Bills:

5.1-5. Registration of aircraft.

Any owner of an unmanned aircraft as defined in § 19.2-60.1 shall not be required to register such aircraft.

15.2-926.3. Local regulation of certain aircraft.

No locality political subdivision may regulate the use of a privately owned, unmanned aircraft system as defined in § 19.2-60.1 within its boundaries. Nothing in this section shall permit a person to go or enter upon land owned by a political subdivision solely because he is in possession of an unmanned aircraft system if he would not otherwise be permitted entry upon such land.

19.2-60.1. Use of unmanned aircraft systems by public bodies; search warrant required.

A. As used in this section, unless the context requires a different meaning:

“Unmanned aircraft” means an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of human intervention from within or on the aircraft.

“Unmanned aircraft system” means an unmanned aircraft and associated elements, including communication links, sensing devices, and the components that control the unmanned aircraft.

B. No state or local government department, agency, or instrumentality having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations, including but not limited to the Department of State Police, and no department of law enforcement as defined in § 15.2-836 of any county, city, or town shall utilize an unmanned aircraft system except during the execution of a search warrant issued pursuant to this chapter or an administrative or inspection warrant issued pursuant to law.

C. Notwithstanding the prohibition in this section, an unmanned aircraft system may be deployed without a warrant (i) when an Amber Alert is activated pursuant to § 52-34.3; (ii) when a Senior Alert is activated pursuant to § 52-34.6; (iii) when a Blue Alert is activated pursuant to § 52-34.9; (iv) where use of an unmanned aircraft system is determined to be necessary to alleviate an immediate danger to any person; (v) by a law-enforcement officer following an accident where a report is required pursuant to §46.2-373, to survey the scene of such accident for the purpose of crash reconstruction and record the scene by photographic or video images; (vi) by the Department of Transportation when assisting a law-enforcement officer to prepare a report pursuant to § 46.2-373; (vii) for training exercises related to such uses; (viii) if a person with legal authority consents to the warrantless search; or (ix) by a law-enforcement officer to (a) aerially survey a primary residence of the subject of the arrest warrant to formulate a plan to execute an existing arrest warrant or capias for a felony offense or (b) locate a person sought for arrest when such person has fled from a law-enforcement officer and a law-enforcement officer remains in hot pursuit of such person.

D. The warrant requirements of this section shall not apply when such systems are utilized to support the Commonwealth or any locality for purposes other than law enforcement, including damage assessment, traffic assessment, flood stage assessment, and wildfire assessment. Nothing herein shall prohibit use of unmanned aircraft systems for private, commercial, or recreational use or solely for research and development purposes by institutions of higher education and other research organizations or institutions.

E. Evidence obtained through the utilization of an unmanned aircraft system in violation of this section is not admissible in any criminal or civil proceeding.

F. In no case may a weaponized unmanned aircraft system be deployed in the Commonwealth or its use facilitated in the Commonwealth by a state or local government department, agency, or instrumentality or department of law enforcement in the Commonwealth except in operations at the Space Port and Naval/Aegis facilities at Wallops Island.

G. Nothing herein shall apply to the Armed Forces of the United States or the Virginia National Guard while utilizing unmanned aircraft systems during training required to maintain readiness for its federal mission or when facilitating training for other U.S. Department of Defense units.

HB 2350 Peeping or spying into a dwelling or occupied building by an electronic device; penalty.

Makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to use UAS to trespass upon the property of another for the purpose of secretly or furtively peeping, spying, or attempting to peep or spy into a dwelling or occupied building located on such property. 

SB 873 Authority of a fire chief over unmanned aircraft at a fire, explosion, or other hazardous situation.

Specifies that the fire chief or other officer in charge of a fire department has authority to maintain order at an emergency incident including the immediate airspace. Individuals who don’t obey the orders of the officer in charge are guilty of a class 4 misdemeanor.

HB 683 Trespass; use of an unmanned aircraft system, penalty

1. That §15.2-926.3 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted and that the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 18.2-121.3 and by adding in Article 8 of Chapter 7 of Title 18.2 a section numbered 18.2-324.2 as follows:

18.2-121.3Trespass with an unmanned aircraft system; penalty.

A. Any person who knowingly and intentionally causes an unmanned aircraft system to (i) enter the property of another and come within 50 feet of a dwelling house (a) to coerce, intimidate, or harass another person or (b) after having been given actual notice to desist, for any other reason, or (ii) take off or land in violation of current Federal Aviation Administration Special Security Instructions or UAS Security Sensitive Airspace Restrictions is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. This section shall not apply to any person who causes an unmanned aircraft system to enter the property as set forth in subsection A if (i) consent is given to the entry by any person with legal authority to consent or by any person who is lawfully present on such property or (ii) such person is authorized by federal regulations to operate an unmanned aircraft system and is operating such system in an otherwise lawful manner and consistent with federal regulations.

18.2-324.2Use of unmanned aircraft system for certain purposes; penalty.

A. It is unlawful for any person who is required to register pursuant to §9.1-901 to use or operate an unmanned aircraft system to knowingly and intentionally (i) follow or contact another person without the permission of such person or (ii) capture the images of another person without the permission of such person when such images render the person recognizable by his face, likeness, or other distinguishing characteristics.

B. It is unlawful for a respondent of a protective order issued pursuant to §16.1-279.1 or 19.2-152.10 to knowingly and intentionally use or operate an unmanned aircraft system to follow, contact, or capture images of the petitioner of the protective order or any other individual named in the protective order.

C. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

2. That the second enactment of Chapter 451 of the Acts of Assembly of 2016 is repealed.

3. That the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, in consultation with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, shall study the impact of this act on unmanned aircraft research, innovation, and economic development in Virginia and report to the Governor and General Assembly no later than November 1, 2019.

UAS in State Parks

All Fairfax County Parks in Northern Virginia currently allow UAV/UAS/drone flying within their parks. But they do state that all FAA drone rules apply while flying in any park.

Northern Virginia: Fairfax County Parks where flying UAS/UAV/drones is permitted in Northern Virginia:
• Burke Lake Park
• Fountainhead Regional Park

All Virginia State Parks do not currently allow any UAS/UAV/drone flying within their parks.

All National Parks located in the state of Virginia does not currently allow any UAS/UAV/drone flying within their parks.

Specific additional UAV laws by local governments within Virginia State

Many cities or towns within the state of Virginia have specific restrictions within their jurisdictions. We recommend checking the local jurisdiction for the latest regulations.

Specific additional laws in Jurisdictions within Virginia

Many cities or towns within the state of Virginia 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 Virginia

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 Virginia 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.

  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.

Hobbyist rules in Parks, Recreation and Cultural Preserves

Virginia State Parks recommends that recreational drone users check with their local State Park District before operating a UAS within a State Park. Each park unit may have its own posted orders. Even absent a posted order on drones, it is within the discretion of park staff to contact drone operators when drones threaten visitors, property, wildlife, or privacy. If a drone operator continues to fly in a dangerous or reckless manner, they may be asked to stop flying and remove the drone from park boundaries.

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 operating Commercial Drone Services in Virginia

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 Virginia State 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 Drone License (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 Drone License or 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.

Useful published information on flying drones in Virginia

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 Virginia 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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The content on this site (The latest Drone Laws/Drone Regulations) 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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