Drone Laws in Washington State

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in Washington State

Federal Aviation Administration

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


UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in the State of Washington

Drone operation in the State of Washington 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 Washington State legislature has enacted several supplemental rules specific to Washington drone operations. The highlights are enumerated below.

Are drones allowed in the State of Washington?

Drones are allowed in the State of Washington 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 the State of Washington legislature

WAC 200-250-030​ ​Drone use prohibited; State Capitol Campus
Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters within the boundaries of the state capitol campus is prohibited except for the exclusions listed under WAC 200-250-040​.

The Chief Privacy Officer of the Washington Office of Privacy and Data Protection issued guidelines for unmanned aircraft systems​ for policymakers and stakeholders as they develop policy proposals.

Specific additional UAV laws by local governments within the State of Washington

Pierce County Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance | Municipal Law (2013)

County departments and agencies cannot operate drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to gather evidence or information connected to criminal activities. The only exceptions are situations authorized by federal and state laws.

City of Seattle Film Permit Requirement // 2017

All drone operators must apply for a special permit for filming over the city-owned property. i.e., parks, streets, and sidewalks. No permit is required when operating drones exclusively from and over private property or solely over waterways.

City of Seattle | Municipal Law (2017)

This ordinance prohibits using remote-controlled drones and other UAVs for photography, aerial videography, and other recreational purposes. The reason for this city law is to protect the privacy and safety of people and parkland wildlife.

UAS operation rules in Parks, Recreation and Cultural Preserves

Flying Drones in State Parks | WAC 352-32-130

Remote-controlled aircraft—including drones—are permitted in Washington state parks with formal written permission from the Director or designee. Permission to fly unmanned aerial systems (UAS) is granted on a single (one-time) basis or for an agreed limited duration. Applications are accepted for both recreational hobby pilots and commercial users.

However, commercial, educational, filming, and stills photography requires a special permit and an RC Aircraft Permit. Interested parties should submit applications 60 days before the activity so that reviewers have ample time to process the application. Permits may also include park rules and restrictions based on the requested use.

Bellevue Parks & Rec | Acceptable Drone Flying Sites (2018)

Drone operations are not allowed at Bellevue park. Pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles (AUV) are encouraged to fly their remote-controlled aircraft at nearby Marymoor Park Airfield or the Large recreation spaces at 60 Acres Park (based on availability). Both these venues cater to recreational model aircraft hobbyists.

Snohomish County Parks & Rec | Park Code 22.16.080 (1998)

This local park code states that no person can operate drones and other unmanned aircraft outside of areas designated and posted by the parks division.

Specific additional UAV laws laws in Jurisdictions within the State of Washington

Counties or towns within Washington 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 the State of Washington

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 Washington 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 the State of Washington

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 Washington 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 Washington

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 the State of Washington 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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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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