Michigan Drone Laws: How to Fly Drones in Michigan and Essential Tips

Michigan Drone Laws: How to Fly Drones in Michigan and Essential Tips

Federal Drone Laws for Recreational, Commercial, and Public Flying in Michigan

If you want to fly a drone in Michigan, you need to be aware of the federal drone laws that apply to all drone operators in the United States. Depending on the purpose of your drone flying, you may fall into one of three categories: recreational, commercial, or public.

You can read more about Drone laws in the United States

Michigan Drone Laws

Recreational Drone Flying

Recreational drone flying is when you fly your drone for fun or personal enjoyment. You do not need a license or certification to fly your drone recreationally, but you still need to follow some basic rules and requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These include:

  • Registering your drone with the FAA if it weighs more than 0.55 lbs (250 g) and less than 55 lbs (25 kg). You can register your drone online at FAA Drone Zone for $5 and get a unique identification number that you must attach to your drone.
  • Following the FAA’s Recreational Flyer’s Code, which outlines the best practices for safe and responsible drone flying. Some of these practices are:
    • Flying your drone below 400 feet (120 m) and within your visual line of sight.
    • Avoid flying near airports, heliports, or other restricted airspace without prior authorization.
    • Avoid flying over people, moving vehicles, or private property without permission.
    • Avoid flying near emergency situations, such as fires, accidents, or police activities.
    • Check the weather conditions and local regulations before flying your drone.
  • Passing an online [aeronautical knowledge and safety test] and carrying proof of test passage. The test is free and available on the FAA website or through the FAA’s B4UFLY app. The test covers basic topics such as airspace rules, flight restrictions, and safety guidelines.

Commercial Drone Flying

Commercial drone flying is when you fly your drone for any purpose that is not recreational or public. This includes flying your drone for business, research, education, or any other activity that benefits you or someone else financially or otherwise. You need a license and certification to fly your drone commercially, as well as follow some additional rules and requirements set by the FAA. These include:

  • Obtaining a remote pilot certificate from the FAA. To get this certificate, you need to:
    • Be at least 16 years old and able to read, speak, write, and understand English.
    • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center. The test costs $160 and covers topics such as airspace classification, operating requirements, weather, emergency procedures, and more.
    • Complete an online application using the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system.
    • Pass a background check by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
  • Registering your drone with the FAA if it weighs more than 0.55 lbs (250 g) and less than 55 lbs (25 kg). You can register your drone online at [FAA Drone Zone] for $5 and get a unique identification number that you must attach to your drone.
  • Following the [FAA’s Part 107 regulations], which outline the operational rules for commercial drone flying. Some of these rules are:
    • Flying your drone below 400 feet (120 m) and within your visual line of sight.
    • Flying your drone only during daylight hours or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise or after official sunset) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
    • Flying your drone at or below 100 mph (160 km/h).
    • Yielding right of way to manned aircraft.
    • Obtaining prior authorization from the FAA to fly in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, or E).
    • Obtaining a waiver from the FAA to fly in certain situations that are otherwise prohibited by Part 107, such as flying over people, at night, or beyond visual line of sight.

Public Drone Flying

Public drone flying is when you fly your drone for a government entity, such as a federal, state, or local agency. You do not need a license or certification to fly your drone publicly, but you still need to follow some rules and requirements set by the FAA. These include:

  • Registering your drone with the FAA if it weighs more than 0.55 lbs (250 g) and less than 55 lbs (25 kg). You can register your drone online at [FAA Drone Zone] for $5 and get a unique identification number that you must attach to your drone.
  • Obtaining a [Certificate of Authorization (COA)] from the FAA. A COA is a document that grants permission to operate a drone in a specific airspace for a specific purpose. To get a COA, you need to:
    • Submit an online [application] using the FAA’s DroneZone system.
    • Provide information about your drone, your operation, and your safety procedures.
    • Wait for the FAA to review and approve your application, which may take up to 60 days.
  • Following the terms and conditions of your COA, which may vary depending on your operation and location. Some of these terms and conditions may be:
    • Flying your drone within a defined area and altitude.
    • Flying your drone only during certain times and weather conditions.
    • Flying your drone with a qualified remote pilot in command and a visual observer.
    • Reporting any accidents or incidents to the FAA.

State Drone Laws for Operating Drones in Michigan

In addition to the federal drone laws, you also need to be aware of the state drone laws that apply to all drone operators in Michigan. These laws are enforced by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which has the authority to regulate drone use on state lands and waters. These laws include:

  • The DNR Order 5.1, prohibits drone flying in state parks, recreation areas, and wildlife areas without a permit. To get a permit, you need to:
    • Submit an online [application] using the DNR’s e-License system.
    • Provide information about your drone, your operation, and your purpose.
    • Pay a $25 application fee and a $50 permit fee.
    • Wait for the DNR to review and approve your application, which may take up to 30 days.
  • Senate Bill 992 (2015), prohibits drones from flying over private property, critical infrastructure, correctional facilities, and sporting events without consent or authorization. Some examples of these are:
    • Private property: any land or building that is owned or occupied by someone other than the drone operator or the public.
    • Critical infrastructure: any facility or system that is vital to public health, safety, or security, such as power plants, dams, bridges, airports, etc.
    • Correctional facilities: any prison, jail, or detention center that houses inmates or detainees.
    • Sporting events: any organized athletic event that is open to the public or requires a ticket for admission, such as football games, baseball games, etc.
  • The Senate Bill 54, which prohibits drone flying for the purpose of hunting or harassing wildlife. Some examples of these are:
    • Hunting: any activity that involves pursuing, capturing, killing, or injuring wild animals for sport or food.
    • Harassing: any activity that disturbs, annoys, or interferes with the normal behavior or well-being of wild animals.
  • The Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act Section 324.40111c, which prohibits drone flying for the purpose of interfering with fishing activities. Some examples of these are:
    • Interfering: any activity that hinders, obstructs, or prevents the lawful taking of fish by another person.
    • Fishing activities: any activity that involves catching or attempting to catch fish by any means or method.

Local Drone Laws for Specific Areas in Michigan

While the federal and state drone laws apply to all drone operators in Michigan, some local governments or entities may have their own drone laws or policies that may differ from or supplement the higher-level laws. These local drone laws or policies may vary depending on the area, the purpose, and the authority of the local entity. Therefore, it is important to check the local regulations before flying your drone in any specific area in Michigan. Here are some examples of local drone laws or policies for specific areas in Michigan:

West Bloomfield Drone Law

West Bloomfield is a township in Oakland County that has enacted a drone law that prohibits drone flying over public property, public gatherings, or private property without consent or authorization. The law states that:

  • No person shall operate a drone over any public property, including but not limited to parks, schools, libraries, police stations, fire stations, or municipal buildings, without the prior written permission of the township supervisor or his or her designee.
  • No person shall operate a drone over any public gathering, including but not limited to parades, festivals, concerts, or sporting events, without the prior written permission of the event organizer or his or her designee.
  • No person shall operate a drone over any private property without the prior written consent of the owner or occupant of the property.
  • No person shall operate a drone in a manner that invades the privacy of another person or violates any federal, state, or local law.

The law also provides exceptions for certain authorized drone operations, such as those conducted by law enforcement, emergency services, public utilities, or educational institutions. The law also establishes penalties for violating the law, which may include fines up to $500 and/or imprisonment up to 90 days.

The University of Michigan Drone Laws

The University of Michigan is a public research university that has campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint. The university has adopted drone laws that prohibit drone flying on campus without prior approval from the Office of Research Compliance. The laws state that:

  • No person shall operate a drone on university property or within university airspace without obtaining a university flight authorization from the Office of Research Compliance.
  • No person shall operate a drone on university property or within university airspace in a manner that endangers the safety of persons or property, interferes with university operations or activities, violates any federal, state, or local law, or infringes on the privacy of others.
  • No person shall operate a drone on university property or within university airspace for any commercial purpose without obtaining a commercial flight authorization from the Office of Research Compliance.

The laws also provide guidelines for applying for flight authorization, which include submitting an online application form, providing information about the drone and the operation, and agreeing to comply with the university’s policies and procedures. The laws also establish penalties for violating the laws, which may include fines of up to $1,000 and/or disciplinary action.

Mt. Brighton Ski Resort Drone Laws

Mt. Brighton is a ski resort in Livingston County that is owned and operated by Vail Resorts. The resort has adopted drone laws that prohibit drones from flying over ski slopes or lifts without prior approval from the resort management. The laws state that:

  • No person shall operate a drone over any ski slope or lift area without obtaining written permission from the resort management.
  • No person shall operate a drone over any ski slope or lift area in a manner that poses a risk to skiers, snowboarders, resort staff, or resort property.
  • No person shall operate a drone over any ski slope or lift area for any commercial purpose without obtaining a commercial use agreement from the resort management.

The laws also provide exceptions for certain authorized drone operations, such as those conducted by resort staff for safety, maintenance, or marketing purposes. The laws also establish penalties for violating the laws, which may include confiscation of the drone and/or removal from the resort.

No Drone Zones in Michigan

No drone zones are areas where drone flying is prohibited or restricted for safety and security reasons. These areas may be designated by federal, state, or local authorities and may vary depending on the location and the situation. Some examples of no drone zones in Michigan are:

  • Airports and heliports: These are areas where manned aircraft take off and land and where drones may pose a collision hazard. The FAA requires drone operators to obtain prior authorization to fly within 5 miles (8 km) of any airport or heliport.
  • Military bases and installations: These are areas where military activities take place and where drones may pose a security threat. The FAA prohibits drones from flying within 3 miles (5 km) of any military base or installation unless authorized by the base commander.
  • National parks and monuments: These are areas where natural and cultural resources are protected and where drones may disturb wildlife or visitors. The National Park Service prohibits drone flying in all national parks and monuments unless authorized by the park superintendent.
  • Stadiums and arenas: These are areas where large crowds gather for sporting or entertainment events and where drones may cause injury or disruption. The FAA prohibits drone flying within 3 miles (5 km) of any stadium or arena that seats more than 30,000 people during an event.
  • Power plants and dams: These are areas where critical infrastructure is located and where drones may damage or interfere with the facilities. The FAA prohibits drones from flying within 400 feet (120 m) of any power plant or dam unless authorized by the facility owner or operator.
  • Bridges and tunnels: These are areas where transportation infrastructure is located and where drones may obstruct or endanger traffic. The FAA prohibits drones from flying over any bridge or tunnel that is part of the interstate highway

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