Drones & Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), also known as drones, encompass the family of remote-operated aircraft and rotorcraft weighing less than 55 pounds. The guidance on this page provides basic rules and links to regulatory information required to safely operate your drone in Washington state.
To get started, be sure to select which type of user you are and find out what rules and regulations apply to your specific situation.
Below are the categories to find out what is required before you can operate a UAS in Washington state:
Recreational Flyers & Modeler Organizations
You are considered a recreational flyer if you fly your drone solely for recreation. It is important to know when and where you can fly and how to register your drone. The “FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018” is the base document law (PDF 1MB) that prescribes how, when, and where you can fly drones for recreational purposes. Recreational flyers must register and mark your drone and follow some basic rules outlined by the FAA. This link will ensure the most updated requirements are identified to operate safely. Intentionally violating any of these safety requirements, and/or careless or reckless operations could result in personal liability and criminal and/or civil penalties. For exceptions to the recreational UAS rules, read Advisory Circular 91-57B.
Commercial Operators/Certificated Remote Pilots
If you have a small drone that is less than 55 pounds, and fly for work or business, you fall under the provisions of the 14 CFR Part 107 guidelines. To operate a drone under Part 107 rules, there are 3 main steps:
Step 1: Learn the Rules
- Make sure you understand what is and is not allowed under Part 107 rules. Review a summary of the Part 107 rules (PDF 58KB).
- Still unsure if Part 107 rules work for you and your intended operation? Check our user identification tool.
- Some operations are not covered by Part 107 and will require a waiver. For operations outside of the Part 107 rules, visit the FAA’s Part 107 Waiver section for examples and waiver submission: Part 107 Waiver application process.
Step 2: Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by Passing the Knowledge Test
- Review the full process to get your Remote Pilot Certificate.
- Study for the Knowledge Test by reviewing the Test Prep materials provided by the FAA.
Step 3: Register your Drone with the FAA
- Visit dronezone.faa.gov and select "Fly sUAS under Part 107" to create an account and register your drone.
- Once you've registered, mark your drone (PDF 11MB) with your registration number in case it gets lost or 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 and is not safe to fly.
- Aren't sure if Part 107 is right for you and your operation? Try our user identification tool or contact us for more information.
- Commercial operators can also operate drones under Special Authority for certain unmanned Aircraft Systems approved under Section 44807 of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018. 44807 directs the Secretary of Transportation to determine if certain UAS can safely operate in the NAS even though they are not certified. To gain approval to operate an unmanned aircraft from the Secretary of Transportation, a person must apply for an exemption to certain regulations under 14 CFR Part 11.
- As an alternative to operating under Part 107 or a Section 44807 exemption, a drone operator may apply for a federal Special Airworthiness Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration.
A Public Operator includes Federal, State, local or tribal government entities, including schools and universities, that use unmanned aircraft system/drone technology are considered public operators. Federal restrictions and requirements of a public operator include:
- 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
- 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.
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:
- 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 to the FAA's System Operations Support Center (SOSC) at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Sign up for WSDOT Drone News
Public Safety Drone Playbook (PDF 2MB)
UAS Facility Maps Video
Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability Video
Public Aircraft Operations AC (PDF 497KB)
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