Washington DC Drone Laws 2024 (Everything You Should Know)

Washington DC Drone Laws

Before you head out with your drone to explore what the state of Washington DC has in store for you, you have to be aware of the drone laws in Washington DC else you risk getting into trouble with the law.

Are drones allowed in Washington DC?

It is illegal to fly drones in the state of Washington DC because it has been designated a no-fly zone by the Federal Aircraft Administration (FAA). Drones are prohibited within a 15-mile radius of Washington DC. If you get caught flying your drone here you’re subject to civil and criminal charges.

In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about Washington DC drone laws for you to enjoy a pleasurable flight with your drone and stay clear of any legal proceedings.

Federal Drone Laws In Washington DC

The United States drone laws are the federal drone laws that apply to Washington DC and every state in the United States of America and were created by the federal government.

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

Federal Drone Laws for Recreational Flying in Washington DC

You can’t fly your drone for recreational purposes in Washington DC as a hobby without seeking monetary compensation even if you follow the FAA law (Part 107) and also check the state jurisdiction for additional licensing, permission, and clearance requirements.

The United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
The United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Below are the federal rules to follow while flying your drone for recreational purposes in Washington Dc to keep you, your drone, and everyone safe in the airspace.

  1. Fly your drone only for recreational use or as a hobby.
  2. Follow the safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community Based Organization (CBO). 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 your visual line of sight or use a co-located visual observer (physically next to) and in direct communication with you.
  4. Don’t fly close or interfere with a manned aircraft.
  5. Fly below 400 feet in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) after obtaining permission from LAANC or FAA Drone Zone.
  6. Fly below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace (Class G). Note: You can also be prohibited from flying in a Class G airspace in areas designated as prohibited areas, restricted areas, military operated areas, alert areas, etc. except given prior authorization from the FAA.
  7. Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage.
  8. Always slap your registration number on the exterior surface of your drones and always carry the proof of registration with you. As a recreational flier, you are exempted from registering and marking your drones by the FAA as long as your drone weighs less than 0.55 lbs (250 grams).
  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.

You should be aware that you could be liable for civil and/or criminal penalties if you intentionally break any of these rules and regulations listed above as a recreational drone pilot.

As a recreational drone pilot, you are obliged to learn the rules and regulations put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the proper use of drones for recreational flying.

You should also apply common sense when operating your drone in crowded public places, historic resources, and public places to keep everyone safe.

Federal Drone Laws For Commercial Drone flying in Washington DC

You can’t fly your drone for commercial purposes in Washington DC with the aim of seeking monetary compensation even if you follow the FAA law (Part 107) and also check the state jurisdiction for additional licensing, permission, and clearance requirements.

The United States Capitol can be seen from Arlington National Cemetery here on a beautiful fall day in Washington D.C.
The United States Capitol can be seen from Arlington National Cemetery here on a beautiful fall day in Washington D.C.

Below are the federal rules to follow while flying your drone for recreational purposes in Washington DC to keep you, your drone, and everyone safe in the airspace.

Step 1: Learn the Rules

  1. Read and understand the dos and don’ts as a commercial flyer the 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. You can obtain a waiver to exceed some limit put in place by the FAA that is not covered by Part 107. Below are some laws in Part 107 that are subject to a waiver.
    • Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft. *
    • Always operate your drone during the day. *
    • Keep your drone from out of the Visual line of sight from an aircraft operation *
    • Keep your drone in your Visual line of sight. *
    • Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems. *
    • Yielding the right of way. *
    • Don’t fly your drone over people. *
    • Restriction from certain airspace. *
    • Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft.
    • *The FAA will not waive this section to allow the carriage of property of another by aircraft for compensation or hire.
    • You should read about the Part 107 Waiver application process if your drone operation requires a waiver.
  3. Commercial drone operators should steer clear of flying close to airports as it might be challenging for human aircraft to spot and avoid a drone in flight. Keep in mind that the UAV operator is accountable for any safety threat their drone poses in an airport area and must avoid crewed aircraft. 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

  • Pay the registration fee of $5 with your credit card or debit card to get a valid three year license to commercially fly drones.
  • Visit dronezone.faa.gov and select “Fly UAS under Part 107” to create an account and register your drone.
  • After that, mark the exterior surface of your drone (PDF) with your registration number for identification and tracking if it were to get stolen

Always be sure to fly your drone safely and within FAA guidelines and regulations. It is up to you as a drone pilot to know the rules of the sky and where it is safe to fly. You should try the user identification tool if you aren’t sure if Part 107 is right for you and your operation

Federal Drone Laws for Public Drone Flying In Washington DC

Federal public laws are drone laws for federal, state, local, or tribal government entities, including schools and universities that use unmanned aircraft systems or drone technology for their operations.

United States Capitol and the Senate Building, Washington DC USA
United States Capitol and the Senate Building, Washington DC USA

Federal Restrictions & Requirements

  • Be a political subdivision of the United States government, a State or U.S. territory government, the District of Columbia, or an Indian Tribal Government listed in the Robert T Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. § 5122)
  • Own and operate the unmanned aircraft, or for non-federal public aircraft operators (PAO’s) have an exclusive lease on it for more than 90 days
  • Fly missions that meet the statutory criteria of a governmental function on a flight-by-flight basis.
  • Not fly for a commercial purpose or receive compensation for flight operations.

Emergency Situations

First responders and other organizations responding to natural disasters or other emergency situations may be eligible for expedited approval through our Special Governmental Interest (SGI) process. Operations that may be considered include:

  • Firefighting
  • Search and Rescue
  • Law Enforcement
  • Utility or Other Critical Infrastructure Restoration
  • Incident Awareness and Analysis
  • Damage Assessments Supporting Disaster Recovery Related Insurance Claims
  • Media Coverage Providing Crucial Information to the Public

To apply for a waiver through the SGI process, you must be an existing Part 107 Remote Pilot with a current certificate OR you must have an existing Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). To submit a waiver through this process, fill out the Emergency Operation Request Form  and send it to the FAA’s System Operations Support Center (SOSC) at 9-ator-hq-sosc@faa.gov .

If approved, the FAA will add an amendment to your existing COA or Remote Pilot Certificate that authorizes you to fly under certain conditions for the specified operation. If denied, operators should not fly outside the provisions of their existing COA or part 107. Operators have the option to amend their requests.

* This process is called the Special Government Interest (SGI) amendment process and is outlined in FAA Order JO 7200.23A

State Drone Laws In Washington DC

White marble domed building that serves as seat of American federal government legislative branches, House of Representatives and Senate with autumn trees in foreground
US Capitol building in Washington DC

DC No Drone Zone

The National Capital Region is governed by a Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) within a 30-mile radius of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, which restricts all flights in the greater DC area.

The SFRA is divided into a 15-mile radius inner ring and a 30-mile radius outer ring.

  • Flying an unmanned aircraft within the 15-mile radius inner ring is prohibited without specific FAA authorization.
  • Flying a UAS for recreational or non-recreational use between 15 and 30 miles from Washington, D.C. is allowed under these operating conditions:
    • Aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (including any attachments such as a camera)
    • Aircraft must be registered and marked (if it is not operated exclusively under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, pending NOTAM change)
    • Fly below 400 ft.
    • Fly within visual line-of-sight
    • Fly in clear weather conditions
    • Never fly near other aircraft

Flying in DC starts with Government Permission

First things first: All drone flights are guided by the TSA regulations on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). If you have official support for your project and authorization to fly, you are allowed to operate a drone near Washington, DC. However, you must be aware of three crucial facts.

1. You can’t fly in the no-drone zone

Ever since a drone crashed on the White House lawn in 2015, a 7-mile radius around DC has been set up and deemed a “no drone zone.” In general, regardless of authorization or kind of project, it is not possible to operate a commercial drone in this area. A hobby or commercial drone will not be permitted to launch in this airspace.

2. Every trip must have a government purpose

You require specific government authorization to fly a drone within the 7-mile radius of Washington, DC. All drone work within this range must be conducted on behalf of or approved by a government entity (local, state, or federal level). As a result, it is practically impossible for a drone flight that is strictly commercial to be permitted without permission.

3. Every trip has its own permission

Drones, pilots, dates, and locations are allotted special permission to fly. This implies that any instance of your project requiring numerous drone flights or the usage of multiple drones will require going through an application and license approval process. No general project approval for the long term is available.

Final Thoughts on Washington DC Drone Laws

It’s important to keep in mind that, even if you do everything right, getting a license to fly in the no-drone zone is still unlikely (or even in the general DC area). Given the importance of Washington DC on the international stage, strict rules must be implemented to protect national security.

You should also check out the best places to fly a drone near Washington DC if you want to see beautiful places that are legal to fly in various cities.

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