Alaska has a great deal to offer drone pilots; from towering mountain ranges to wide open expanses of tundra and coastline, there’s plenty of stunning scenery to be enjoyed. However, it’s important to be aware of the drone laws in Alaska before you take to the skies, as there are a few restrictions in place.
Is It Legal to Fly a Drone in Alaska?
Yes, you can legally fly a drone in Alaska. The state allows drones for recreational and commercial use, but there are limitations. For instance, you need to register your drone with the FAA, follow its regulations, and observe any flight restrictions put in place by local governments. You can also register for free by visiting the FAA Drone Website.
This article will explore FAA regulations for flying drones in Alaska and concerns for privacy rights.
Legislations Governing Drones in Alaska
Alaska stands out with its resource document; the Drone / UAS Operator Safety Guidelines and FAQs about Privacy. It summarizes the federal aviation regulations. The document also provides a few tips on avoiding privacy concerns.
While the FAA handles most airspace usage regulations in the U.S., states may impose additional limits or prohibitions on dangerous activities and flight over private property. All drone pilots should review this document before flying in this state. If you're planning to fly a drone in Alaska, this is what you need to know:
Alaska drone laws are some of the strictest in the country. The Alaska State Legislature passed one state-wide law applying to drones, which requires drone pilots to maintain a line of sight, fly below 400 feet during daylight hours and keep the drones away from manned aircraft.
- HB 255 not only defines a drone as unmanned aerial vehicles or powered aircraft that do not require human operators for flight and can be controlled remotely or autonomously.
- House Bill 255, enacted in 2014, places limits on how law enforcement may use drones in day-to-day operations. For example, law enforcers cannot use drones to gather criminal intelligence or conduct criminal investigations using images or data collected.
- It also controls to whom law enforcement can provide video footage and imagery, as well as how long they may retain it.
- The Bill includes information on whether and how images and videos from drones can be stored.
- There are restrictions on what drones can carry, such as tear gas and rubber bullets, but cameras and loudspeakers are allowed.
- Under HB 255, you don't need to surrender any video captured by a hobby drone. Yet, there's a catch: If you do share your video with law enforcement, they must save it to their records forever.
- It also requires that drone operators be 18 years of age or older, get training, pass a test, and maintain insurance.
- Although the federal government controls the airspace, a state has not ceded any of its powers under its laws to the federal government.
Additional UAV Laws in Alaska Specific to Local Governments
Drone laws in Alaska are a collection of laws and regulations enforced by multiple authorities, not based on only one set of laws. If you have plans to fly a drone in Alaska, it’s important to educate yourself on the laws and rules that can help keep you out of trouble. For example, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR) prohibits using drones and other UAS in Chugach State Park, except for authorized aircraft flying into and out of Bold Airport in Anchorage.
- Alaska State Hunting Regulations require you not to use a drone or other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to identify the game's location during hunting season.
- Hunting wildlife, fishing, or other living ocean resources with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is illegal.
- The use of wireless controlled, airborne, or remote-controlled devices for the purpose of spotting or locating game through the use of cameras or video devices is illegal.
- The law prohibits any electronic camera or another sensory device that uses wireless communication to send messages.
- It is illegal for a person to capture a specific animal with wireless communication until 3 a.m. following the day after capture with such a device.
- It is also illegal to take, carry, possess, or use any forward-looking infrared device for hunting.
- You cannot use an unmanned aerial system (UAS) or other aircraft to locate, herd or drive game animals, including fish and migratory birds, or to hunt game animals, including fish and migratory birds, from an aircraft.
- In the vicinity of game management units where a large game may be taken by bow and arrow, anyone who does not own a bow and arrow or is not accompanied by a falconer may not use artificial light or lights located on or attached to an unmanned aircraft.
If you're going to be fishing for salmon in the south-eastern regions of Alaska, you should drop your drone at home. Alaska state code 33.398 prohibits drones or other unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for scouting salmon in these regions for commercial fishing businesses or other related operations.
This law is in place to protect salmon populations and assist commercial fishing businesses in employing traditional fishing methods.
Laws Specific to Alaska and Jurisdictions Within It
In addition to the state-wide laws, local jurisdictions may also impose unique regulations for drone users. Ensure you follow the current regulations to avoid any penalties.
Flying Drones for Fun in Alaska: Some Notes for Recreational Drone Pilots
Flying a drone for a recreational or hobby purpose in Alaska? Being a pilot in charge requires you to understand and follow some fundamental laws.
In Alaska, Part 107 covers the rules for recreational operations. Please check with their specific state jurisdiction for additional permissions, licensing, or clearance requirements.
- Flying any unmanned aircraft, like a quadcopter or drone, requires you to follow the same rules that apply to model aircraft.
- Before flying your drone, learn the rules and safety guidelines. Use the safety guidelines of a community-based organization (CBO) recognized by the FAA.
- When flying for fun (recreational), it's important to fly safely and responsibly to protect your aircraft and others.
- It is unlawful to operate unmanned aircraft systems for commercial purposes in Alaska unless the FAA has granted a specific exemption to the operator and/or flight.
- For your safety and that of others, operate your unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for recreational purposes only (don't use it for business or commercial reasons) and within the limits of the law. Alaskan drone laws do not govern the flying of drones by private citizens. Suppose you want to use your drone for commercial use or work for a company, agency, or organization that plans to use a drone. In that case, you need to apply for a Section 333 grant and a certificate of authorization from the state.
- If flying above or below 400′, you must obtain prior authorization from Drone Zone or LAANC.
- When you fly your drone, make sure it's always within sight or someone nearby who can act as a spotter.
- When in uncontrolled airspace (Class G), do not fly higher than 400 feet. Please note that flying drones in certain airspaces may be prohibited, or you may need to obtain FAA authorization to operate a drone. UAS Facility Maps and B4UFLY apps can help drone pilots find navigable airspace, other airspace categories, and flying restrictions.
- Allow crewed aircraft to pass and don't impede them.
- Be careful how you use your drone. Avoid interfering with emergency response and law enforcement activities. Don't operate your drone under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and avoid flying over or near critical infrastructures like schools or hospitals.
- Register your drones, mark their exteriors with the registration number, and keep a copy of your registration.
- Recreational drone flyers do not need to register drones weighing less than 0.55 lbs (250 grams).
- You must pass the Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and bring proof of your passing.
How Alaska Enforces Drone Laws
Recreational drone pilots should know that they could be liable for criminal and/or civil penalties if they intentionally violate these safety requirements or operate their drones negligently or recklessly.
If you plan on using recreational drones around crowded public areas, wildlife, or historical resources, please consult the FAA rules regarding the proper use of such drones.
Alaska is a beautiful state filled with gorgeous landscapes and amazing wildlife. Whether you are looking to go take those aerial shorts with your DJI MIni 2 or any other of your choice, you are at peace. Take to the skies and capture phenomenal aerial shots, or use your drone for other purposes such as surveying. However, it’s important to know the FAA's laws for drones. While there are many laws specific to Alaska and the FAA, it is still important to know the general laws on drone flying.
This article covers the laws concerning drone operation in Alaska as well as answers some questions you might have about its laws. Hopefully, the information above will help you fly safely. Please follow the guidelines, and when flying somewhere public, ask for permission first.