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Drone Laws in North Carolina (Everything You Need To Know in 2023)

Updated in 2023 by Paul Posea
North carolina
height flight limit 1

400ft Max Height

cant fly over crowds of people 1

Under 100 MPH

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Avoid airports

line of sight law 1

Only line of sight

If you live in North Carolina and would like to fly your drone safely (and legally), you’ll have to be familiar with the drone laws there. Drone operation in North Carolina is broadly governed by the FAA, in this article we’ll look into the different laws regarding drone use.

Can I Fly a Drone in North Carolina?

You may be wondering about that, drones are allowed in North Carolina for recreational and commercial uses!

They’re however regulated by a variety of laws and regulations. There are three types of drone laws in North Carolina which we’ll go over in this article.

Starting with the first and general type of laws; federal drone laws.

Federal Drone Laws in North Carolina

north carolina

Federal laws are laws created by the federal government, and that apply to every US state, including North Carolina.

I have already done an in-depth article about the general drone laws in the US, which you can find here. But we’ll briefly cover them in this section.

Drone flying comes in two categories, commercial and recreational:

Recreational Flying

Recreational flying is any flying that you don’t get paid for, basically flying for fun. All you have to do to fly your drone recreationally is pass the TRUST test.  

The TRUST is a free test that you can pass online, it usually takes 45 minutes and you’re good to go (my personal recommendation are Uavcoach, they’re an FAA approved test provider).

Commercial Flying

Commercial flying is any sort of flying that you’re compensated for, i.e receive money from your drone activities, you’ll have to study for and pass the 107 test. I have done a complete guide on that test here.

There are also various other conditions that you need to fulfill. You can check them here.

The General Federal Laws in North Carolina

Below are the federal drone laws in North Carolina that you’ll have to keep in mind:

  • Do not fly higher than 400ft
  • Do not fly in uncontrolled airspace without a permit (read up more on that here)
  • Always maintain visual line of sight
  • Never interfere with manned aircrafts
  • Do not fly over crowds of people
  • Your drone must be registered with the FAA on the FAADroneZone website.
  • Your maximum drone speed must not exceed 100 mph
  • Your maximum drone weight must be lower than 55 lbs, at takeoff.
  • You cannot fly from a moving vehicle.

I invite you to read up more on that in my US drone laws article, where I go over airspace classifications and various other things related to drone regulations.

State Drone Laws in North Carolina

State laws are laws that were created by North Carolina’s legislators and that apply only to North Carolina. We’ll go over each one of them in this section.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, North Carolina has several state laws governing drone use:

Correctional facilities

Flying over or close to correctional facilities is prohibited according to this law. Correctional facilities include not only prisons but also asylums and juvenile centers. There are exceptions however for those operating in an official capacity.

State Parks

This law prohibits taking-off or landing in any park area in North Carolina. Exceptions can be made if you have special permission from the park’s staff.

Exceptions to the Laws Above

According to this law, you can “break” the laws above if your reason for flying has to do with an emergency situation. Fire hazards, search and rescue, floodplain mapping… All of these provide a good reason to bypass the laws.

Extra Drone Flying Requirements

We spoke about the federal laws regarding drones and the requirements for flying, in North Carolina however there are other requirements.

For example, commercial drone operators must:

  • Have a valid NC UAS Commercial Operators Permit.
  • Take and pass NCDOT’s UAS Knowledge Test and then apply for a state permit.
  • Provide the state proof of their remote pilot certificate or other authorization to conduct commercial UAS operations from the FAA.

Recreational operators aren’t required to provide anything other than the TRUST test we spoke about. While government operators must take and pass NCDOT’s UAS Knowledge Test and then apply for a state permit.

Local Drone Laws in North Carolina

These local drone laws are laws that only apply to certain cities or regions within the state of North Carolina. They’re created and enforced by the local authorities.

I’ve found 5 cities in North Carolina that have extra drone laws, they’re as follows:

Town of Beech mountain

This town’s ordinance prohibits drones flying within or above any town-owned property. That means all public areas are off limits, even streets.

City of Raleigh

In this official article, you will find which areas you can fly in and which are off-limits.

Basically, drones may not fly in areas classified as “nature preserves,” “nature parks,” or “wetland centers”.

Taking off from or landing on lakes is also prohibited.

Gaston County

This county's legislation prohibits drone flying over or near any park area unless prior permission has been obtained.

City of Kannapolis

You cannot fly your drone over city parks. Learn more from this ordinance.

Town of Chapel Hill

In this town, local authorities have the right to enforce the FAAs laws and regulations.

That’s actually because in normal cases, it’s the FAA that regulates drone use and enforces drone laws, and not law enforcement agencies.

Read up more on that here.

What Happens if You Break the Drone Laws in North Carolina?

Fines are up to the enforcement division, but the FAA will rarely go for the maximum. 

In the case of an accidental first-offense, the FAA tends to require a temporary suspension of their UAS Airman certificate and remedial training. 

For the more egregious offenses, such as flying in an airport vicinity, expect slightly more serious repercussions.

In conclusion, just make sure you keep the federal laws in mind as they are the most important, and keep in mind to always ask for permission before flying in public parks.

Have fun and fly safely, most of these laws are just common sense.

Hi, I'm Paul.
A big drone enthusiast, reviewing, comparing and writing about drones since 2015. I'm all about helping people enjoy and even monetize their hobby.

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paul posea
Paul Posea
Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.
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