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Drone Laws in South Dakota: What you should know in 2023

Updated in 2023 by Paul Posea
South Dakota

South Dakota state defines drones as unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV), meaning they are remotely controlled. Thus, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are categorized as UAVs with communication links and sensing devices. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enacts rules and guidelines that regulate all drone operations in South Dakota.

The diverse landscape and coastlines in South Dakota overflow with spectacular scenery. The State hosts some of the most dramatic, layered rocky terrains like the Badlands National park and Mount Rushmore. Rolling grassland prairies unfolding into the stunning Black Hills National Forest in the predominant Ponderosa pine awes visitors touring the area. Unfortunately, most of these sceneries are prohibited areas for drone flying.  

Is It Legal to Fly a Drone in South Dakota?

Yes, you can fly a drone in South Dakota. The state permits drone operations for commercial and recreational purposes, subject to the FAA part 107 guidelines. The Federal USA agency broadly governs drones’ rules and regulations. However, the State and local jurisdictions have enacted supplementary laws.

General Federal Drone Laws in South Dakota

The Federal government drafts drones laws that apply to all U.S states, South Dakota included. See the enumerated list of the laws:

  • Register your unmanned aircraft with the FAA.
  • Do not fly above 400ft (unless with a special permit from the FAA).
  • Do not lose visual sight of your unmanned aircraft and use co-located visual observers.
  • Do not interfere with human-crewed aircraft and give way to emergency operations.
  • Do not fly over large crowds.
  • Do not fly over-controlled airspaces or critical infrastructure.
  • Do not fly above the speed of 100mph.
  • Do not operate a UAV from a moving vehicle or on busy streets.
  • Do not fly over airports or control towers (maintain a 5 miles distance).

Drones Laws in South Dakota Specific to Recreational Pilots

Recreation drone operations in South Dakota are subject to FAA part 107 rules. One precise rule is to take the Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). Following these guidelines will keep you and your drone safe and avail the airspace for other drone pilots. These guidelines include:

  • Register your UAV with the FAA and affix the given identification number before the flight.
  • Pass the TRUST test and carry the proof of passage at all times.
  • Fly at 400ft or below (Unless with a permit from the FAA).
  • Avoid flying over critical infrastructures. These include petroleum refineries, communication towers, etc.).
  • Avoid flying over-controlled airspaces unless approved by the FAA or local jurisdiction.
  • Give way to crewed aircraft and don’t interfere with emergency operations.
  • Keep your drone within visual sight and use co-located devices where applicable.

Drone Laws in South Dakota Specific to Commercial Pilots

All drone activities for work or business in South Dakota are subject to the FAA part 107 guidelines. South Dakota’s Federal drone laws apply to commercial pilots but are subject to specific waivers for an extensive operation. Before flying, this is what you should know:

First, the rules

Familiarize yourself with the FAA part 107 guidelines, particularly drone operations regarding business or work. Although certain commercial operations are banned in FAA part 107 rules, you can request and receive waivers. These waivers include:

  • Operating multiple drones.
  • Operating from moving vehicles.
  • Flying over crowds and busy routes.
  • Use of visual observers and sensing devices.

Register your UAV with the FAA

This is mandatory for all new drones. The registration process is online-based and simple. Check the FAA registration site and follow the prompts. Affix the given identification number on your drone before flying.  

Be an FAA-Certified commercial pilot.

Take the Aeronautical Knowledge Test by FAA to earn a license and certificate for commercial flying. To be eligible for the test:

  • You must be 16 years and above
  • Have the ability to read, write and understand English, and
  • Be physically and mentally fit to operate an unmanned aircraft.

State Drone Laws in South Dakota

Two state-wide laws (SB 22, SB80) currently apply to drone operations in South Dakota. These two laws are under the South Dakota legislature and the Department of Transportation. They are:

Senate Bill SB 22 (2017): UAV Registration exemption

According to this law, UAVs weighing less than 55lbs (25kgs) are exempt from aircraft registration rules.  

Senate Bill SB 80 (2017): Illegal surveillance and trespass

Compliance with FAA guidelines

This bill requires all UAS operations in South Dakota to comply with FAA rules and regulations strictly. The only exception is drone operations under the authority of the United States armed forces, including the National Guard.

Authorization to operate over certain facilities

This law prohibits drone operations over military and correctional facilities. Intentional violation of this rule results in a Class 1 misdemeanor. The use of unmanned aircraft to transport contrabands and correctional facilities attracts a class 6 felony.


The bill amends illegal surveillance crime to include the use of drones with lewd intentions on private property individuals with a reasonable expectation of privacy. Additionally, no UAV should land on private property without written consent from the landowner. Otherwise, it’s a felonious offense.

The only exception of the above laws applies to authorized law enforcement agencies engaged in their duty. For instance, a designated emergency officer conducting rescue operations.

Local Drone Laws in South Dakota.

Various counties and cities in South Dakota operate under different jurisdictions thus, varying restrictions. Consult with the local authorities before flying to avoid breaking any drone laws. Here is one example of a specific law that applies only to Aberdeen city:

Municipal Law (2016): Aberdeen City 

Only recreational or hobby drone flying is allowed in the city airspace under this ordinance and only when it’s safe. Restricted areas are within one mile (5,280ft) of the city’s regional airport and within a 10,000ft non-precision approach to the airport’s runways.

What happens if I violate the drone laws in South Dakota?

You will face the consequences from the FAA depending on the extent of the violation. The penalties differ:

  • Fines – If you intentionally fly over critical infrastructure like the airports, hefty fines await from the FAA law enforcement division. This counts as a Federal offense.
  • Temporary suspension – FAA has the power to confiscate your certificate and suspend any drone operations in case of a violation or accident. You’ll be required to retake the test and obtain a new certificate.
  • Jail – Some violations like trespass and illegal surveillance are Class 1 misdemeanors and may land you in jail for up to 6 years.

Most scenic places in South Dakota to fly your drone.

Giant Prairie Dog Statue

This is a Class G uncontrolled airspace, meaning you can freely fly your drone but adhere to the FAA guidelines. The site offers interesting footage like the historical 6-ton concrete structure established in 1959 and the 12ft Mascot stands. Filming on different angles gives you a posterity of the local history.

Sioux Falls

Adventurous pilots will love this large Sioux river that spills over a sequence of rock faces in Fall Park, including an observation tower and the 19th century Queen Bee Mill ruins. The 50ft quartzite cliff at Palisades State Park is ideal for rock climbing enthusiasts and a perfect nature shot for drone pilots.

Baird Park

This is a drone-friendly zone in the city of Aberdeen with amazing views. Best known for its 25ft-tall nature trail, the Baird park is a class G uncontrolled airspace. Feel free to take fitness footage as many locals enjoy walks and run along the trails.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I stop drones from flying over my property in South Dakota?

First, you cannot shoot the drones over your property as they are subject to protection under the National Transportation Safety board. Notify the drone operator of the inconvenience and that you don’t want drones over your property. Take legal action by reporting to the police if the actions persist.

Do you need a license to operate a drone over South Dakota?

Yes, you do. Whether flying for business or fun, the FAA requires you to register your drone, pass the specific tests and earn a certificate and license before flying. Aeronautical Knowledge Test for commercial pilots and TRUST test for hobbyists.

What should I do if someone is dangerously operating their drone?

If within South Dakota State, call the police and report the exact type of activity going on. The police will liaise with the FAA to hold the offender accountable for their actions.  

How far away can I legally fly a drone in South Dakota?

First, airports are restricted zones. The closer you can get to flying a drone near an airport is five miles away. The five miles away rule applies to other state-restricted zones.

Do I have to carry my TRUST certificate while flying my drone in South Dakota?

Yes, you must have your registration certificate from the FAA each time you’re planning to fly a drone. Otherwise, you might land in trouble if a state or local officer asks for it and the proof lacks.

 There you have it – everything you need to know about flying drones over South Dakota. Be sure to read and understand the FAA Regulations before taking your drone out for a spin in this beautiful state. Remember to always fly safe and have fun!

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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