Aerial drones are not a solely recreational issue for the government anymore, so state laws are becoming more severe about the presence of drones in their skies. Furthermore, drones have brought up many concerns about privacy, safety, and nuisance invasion.
Arizona is striving to keep pace with the world around them. This state has a statute that applies explicitly to drones, which focuses on the rights of ownership and trespassing. In this article, we take a look at the laws, rules, and regulations the Arizona state has set regarding drone use.
Drone-Related Laws from Arizona's State Legislature
A model aircraft is any unmanned aircraft, whether powered or non-powered, that exists as a replica of existing aircraft or has a design resembling a realistic scale version of an existing aircraft.
You should observe the following rules regarding a model aircraft in Arizona;
- No flying it for recreation outside the visual site of the operator
- No interfering with manned aircraft
- The operator must remain on the premises of the property they have permission to fly on
Civil Unmanned Aircraft System
This aircraft is mainly used by organizations such as agencies for commercial purposes.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires Commercial Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operators to obtain Section 333 Exemption Grant and pass an FAA test for UAS remote pilot certificate.
- Approved UAS operators must maintain their drones under Title 14 Part 107.
Public Unmanned Aircraft Systems
The aircraft of this type are widely employed in civil, military, scientific, and recreational contexts for surveillance, enforcement, reconnaissance, and research purposes.
These are autonomous, remotely operated aircraft, and there is limited human interaction with them.
The term "critical facility" can refer to any of the following:
- Refineries for petroleum and alumina
- Facilities for producing, transporting, storing, or processing petroleum, chemicals, or rubber
- An industrial chemical plant
- A treatment facility, transmission, or distribution system for water, such as dams
- Facilities powered by electricity, as defined by section 42-14156, and all related substations and switchyards
- Substations that transmit or distribute electricity
- A transmission line that carries at least 69000 volts of electricity
- A tower or station for electronic communication
- Control centres for energy production
- Operational centres for distribution
- Any facility used to distribute, transfer, or liquefied natural gas, including pressure limiting stations, regulator stations, compressor stations, city gate stations, supplier tap facilities, or liquefied natural gas facilities
- A railroad facility or infrastructure
- A court of law, county, federal, municipal, or state
- Facility for emergency operations or public safety
- A prison, jail, or another facility where individuals are imprisoned, be it federal, state, county, or municipal
- Military installations or facilities under federal or state control
- An air ambulance service hospital
Can I Fly A Drone in Arizona?
Flying a drone in Arizona has been legal since July 29th, 2017. Arizona drone laws require you to register your drone with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) before flying outdoors.
Below is a list of Arizona's most significant drone laws. These laws apply to all UAVs, or drones, regardless of size. Please note that there may be exceptions in terms of registration.
Federal Drone Laws in Arizona
- Remote Pilot Certification: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enacted the final rule entitled “Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems” or the “Part 107 Rule” on June 21, 2016. The law makes way for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that conduct non-hobbyist operations. This rule provides a pathway to an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate to fly drones commercially in the National Airspace System.
- FAA Part 107 regulations cover small commercial drones that weigh less than 55 pounds.
- Flight must occur within visual line-of-sight and can only happen during the daytime (30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset).
- The pilot is limited to 400 feet above the ground and 100 mph. They need to keep away from restricted airspace (5 miles from airports, 3 miles from heliports, 2 miles from seaplane bases, etc.).
- The pilot needs to maintain 5 miles away from crowds or events (including political rallies, festivals, parades, and fireworks displays) that are not directly related to the UAS operation.
- Commercial drone pilots also need to pass an Aeronautical Knowledge Test to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate. Having this certification is proof that commercial drone operators are familiar with aviation regulations and flight requirements in Arizona.
- The law requires government employees and first responders to register with the FAA when using drones for authorized missions.
- The Arizona Department of Transportation requires all drones used in personal and commercial applications to be registered and adhere to registration laws.
- If your drone exceeds the required weight threshold, you must adhere to drone registration in Arizona.
- All FAA certificates remain property of the FAA, even if an individual is flying a drone for recreational purposes.
State Drone Laws in Arizona
The Arizona Drone Laws, also known as the Senate Bills SB 1449, are the regulations and restrictions that govern the usage of drones in Arizona. The legislature enacted these laws and signed them into law by Governor Doug Ducey on 10th March 2020. Below are some of the core facets of these laws.
- Disorderly conduct applies when flying a drone via one’s property or beyond stated conditions. These include flying above commercial and residential areas without permission from the owner of such establishments.
- Trespassing laws apply if you fly over Arizona State property without permission from the Arizona State Legislature or government agencies.
- The law does not allow UAS operations over public gatherings, roadways, and critical facilities such as power and energy stations and hospitals in a horizontal range of 500 feet and a vertical height of 250 feet.
- When flying over private properties, you should not shoot videos without the owner's permission.
- You should not use drones for police duties, firefighting, and other emergency purposes.
- Individual cities and towns are prohibited from regulating their use. The Arizona State Legislature is responsible for all laws concerning drones in the state.
- The use of drones in parks and reserves is not allowed. You must follow the procedure stated by the FAA's Part 107 regulation for commercial use.
- You must also be a holder of a legitimate license.
Local Drone Laws in Arizona
Every state has its own set of drone laws. Along with federal and state laws, local drone laws are specific to some areas in one state, such as cities and towns.
The following are some specific local drone laws in Arizona.
- In Flagstaff, the use of drones is limited to the police department and emergency responders. The use of drones for commercial purposes is prohibited without a permit from the city manager.
- In Maricopa County, drones are not allowed to fly above 400 feet or within five miles of an airport. They cannot be flown over people, stadiums, or other large gatherings of people. Drones cannot be used to photograph people without their consent.
- Maricopa County-R-116 Aircraft and Engine Powered Models // 2016 prohibits drone usage in Maricopa Parks.
- In Tucson, the use of drones is restricted to the police department and emergency responders. Drones cannot be used for commercial purposes without a permit from the city manager. They are not allowed to fly within 500 feet of any building or person, and they cannot be flown over crowds of people.
- In Yuma, you can only fly drones for recreational purposes during the day. They must be flown at least 500 feet away from any person, building, or crowd of people. Additionally, drones cannot be flown within 25 miles of an airport.
Additional UAV laws for Arizona
Besides the FAA regulation for UAS, the following laws and regulations apply to the use of drones in general:
Maricopa County R-116 Aircraft and Engine-Powered Models (2016)
The Maricopa County Drone Ordinance prohibits the operation of any model aircraft/drone at county parks or in a manner that creates a hazard to the general public. However, there are two exceptions:
- Areas specifically designated for model aircraft/drone usage, including operational areas and those approved by the Parks and Recreation Director; and
- If you have received special permission from the Parks and Recreation Department.
The Phoenix City Code Section 24-29//2016 prohibits the operation of all drones, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other radio-controlled aircraft within city parks, preserves, and trails that the city owns and manages.
However, eight previously cited locations for drone incidents have been declared as drone friendly, although other laws or requirements may apply to these specific parks. The eight drone-friendly Phoenix city parks currently include
- Coyote Basin
- Desert Foothills Park (Lower Field)
- Dynamite Park
- El Prado Park
- Esteban Park (East Quadrant)
- Grovers Basin
- Mountain View II Park (South of Ballfield)
- Werner’s Field.
The law requires unmanned aircraft pilots to comply with city ordinances, sections 24-49, and federal laws at all times.
Prescott Valley Municipal Ordinance (2018) outlined official drone uses and permitted operations by city employees. Those city employees could only use drones for
- Search and rescue
- Emergency management
- Law enforcement
- Capital project management
The ordinance does not permit any other drone uses.
What Happens If You Break Drone Rules in Arizona
- Knowingly endangering someone’s life or causing injury by flying a drone over an emergency (e.g., forest fire, car crash) without their consent is punishable as criminal endangerment under A.R.S. 13-1201.
- According to AZ state law, you must register all drones with the Federal Aviation Association (F.A.A.) unless the drone weighs less than 0.55 pounds and you are flying it for recreation purposes only. If you fail to comply, you may incur a felony charge or a two-year prison sentence.
- If a drone damages property or causes injury, the offender will be responsible for financial reparations.
Arizona is known for its wide open spaces, and this is reflected in the state's drone laws. While there are some restrictions on where and how drones can be flown, they are much less restrictive than in some other states. As always, it is important to check with your local municipality to make sure you are aware of any specific regulations that may apply to you. Remember, the federal laws always apply, so make sure you are aware of those as well.