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Drone Laws in Illinois

drone-laws-illinois
FAA rules and regulations aside, each state has their own legalities where flying a drone is concerned. Educating yourself on the existing laws and regulations will ensure that you have a safe, legal flight each time you’re out in the field – literally!

Flying Over Illinois

drone-laws-in-illinois-flying-over
Northerly Island in Chicago is one of the best areas to fly a drone in. Shedd Aquarium, Soldier Field, Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum and Arie Crown Theater are some of the many places that can be seen from this awesome area.

Montrose Beach is another great location, especially on a clear summer day where the colors of the scenery really pop and become vibrant. North Avenue Beach is also another great place to fly. You get a mix of the city and the water with the ocean liner-shaped Beach House close by.

Centennial Park located next to the Northwestern University campus and the beach is also another good location to get a mix of scenes and landscapes, which make it an absolute must when looking for the best locations to fly in/over.

The Registering Process in Illinois

the-registering-process-in-illinois
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that all Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) owners follow strict regulations and laws. You will need to file your name, home address and your email address as a start.

From there, you will receive a Certificate of Aircraft Registration and Proof of Ownership. These will include an identification number for your aircraft. You must have this number displayed on your drone at all times. The number will be valid for up to three years.

All aircraft that weighs more than 0.55 pounds, or 250 grams, and less than 55 pounds, or 25 kilograms, must be registered. This also includes any added payloads, such as an onboard camera.

You must be at least 13-years-old in order to register and, effective December 21st, 2015, all newly purchased or made drones must be registered before their first flight. You are able to register through a paper-based process, but you can also do so online by clicking here.

Proximity to Airports in Illinois

proximity-to-airports-in-illinois
As a general rule of thumb, and in accordance with the law from the FAA, you may not fly within a 5-mile radius of any airport.

In 2012 the FAA enacted the Modernization and Reauthorization Act which requires hobbyist drone operators, meaning residential, to contact air traffic control and/or airport management if they are operating within a 5-mile radius of any local airport.

This is enacted nationwide, not only in Illinois, under Part 101 of the Act, being Special Rule for Model Aircraft, to ensure that drone operations under unsafe conditions are disapproved before the drone can be launched.

Regardless of the local airport you will be flying near, and possibly breaching airspace, you will need to contact either the airport air traffic control tower or the airport operator.

You will need to establish an agreed-upon operating procedure with airport air traffic or the airport operator and answer a couple of questions. For example, questions relating to how long you are going to be flying for.

Unique Drone Laws in Illinois

Illinois has drone laws that are solely unique to the state, other than the existing nationwide laws and regulations that are already set by the FAA. At this time of writing all bills, laws, acts, etc., listed are in effect.

(725 ILCS 167/) Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act.

(725 ILCS 167/1)

Sec. 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the Freedom from Drone Surveillance Act.

(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)

(725 ILCS 167/5)

Sec. 5. Definitions. As used in this Act:

“Authority” means the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

“Drone” means any aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator.

“Information” means any evidence, images, sounds, data, or other information gathered by a drone.

“Law enforcement agency” means any agency of this State or a political subdivision of this State which is vested by law with the duty to maintain public order and to enforce criminal laws.

(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)

(725 ILCS 167/10)

Sec. 10. Prohibited use of drones. Except as provided in Section 15, a law enforcement agency may not use a drone to gather information.

(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)

(725 ILCS 167/15)

Sec. 15. Exceptions. This Act does not prohibit the use of a drone by a law enforcement agency:

(1) To counter a high risk of a terrorist attack by a specific individual or organization if the United States Secretary of Homeland Security determines that credible intelligence indicates that there is that risk.

(2) If a law enforcement agency first obtains a search warrant based on probable cause issued under Section 108-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963. The warrant must be limited to a period of 45 days, renewable by the judge upon a showing of good cause for subsequent periods of 45 days.

(3) If a law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that, under particular circumstances, swift action is needed to prevent imminent harm to life, or to forestall the imminent escape of a suspect or the destruction of evidence.

The use of a drone under this paragraph (3) is limited to a period of 48 hours. Within 24 hours of the initiation of the use of a drone under this paragraph (3), the chief executive officer of the law enforcement agency must report in writing the use of a drone to the local State’s Attorney.

(4) If a law enforcement agency is attempting to locate a missing person, and is not also undertaking a criminal investigation.

(5) If a law enforcement agency is using a drone solely for crime scene and traffic crash scene photography. Crime scene and traffic crash photography must be conducted in a geographically confined and time-limited manner to document specific occurrences.

The use of a drone under this paragraph (5) on private property requires either a search warrant based on probable cause under Section 108-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 or lawful consent to search.

The use of a drone under this paragraph (5) on lands, highways, roadways, or areas belonging to this State or political subdivisions of this State does not require a search warrant or consent to search. Any law enforcement agency operating a drone under this paragraph (5) shall make every reasonable attempt to only photograph the crime scene or traffic crash scene and avoid other areas.

(6) If a law enforcement agency is using a drone during a disaster or public health emergency, as defined by Section 4 of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act. The use of a drone under this paragraph (6) does not require an official declaration of a disaster or public health emergency prior to use.

A law enforcement agency may use a drone under this paragraph (6) to obtain information necessary for the determination of whether or not a disaster or public health emergency should be declared, to monitor weather or emergency conditions, to survey damage, or to otherwise coordinate response and recovery efforts.

The use of a drone under this paragraph (6) is permissible during the disaster or public health emergency and during subsequent response and recovery efforts.

(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14; 98-831, eff. 1-1-15.)

(725 ILCS 167/20)

Sec. 20. Information retention. If a law enforcement agency uses a drone under Section 15 of this Act, the agency within 30 days shall destroy all information gathered by the drone, except that a supervisor at that agency may retain particular information if:

(1) there is reasonable suspicion that the information contains evidence of criminal activity, or

(2) the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation or pending criminal trial.

(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)

(725 ILCS 167/25)

Sec. 25. Information disclosure. If a law enforcement agency uses a drone under Section 15 of this Act, the agency shall not disclose any information gathered by the drone, except that a supervisor of that agency may disclose particular information to another government agency, if

(1) there is reasonable suspicion that the information contains evidence of criminal activity, or

(2) the information is relevant to an ongoing investigation or pending criminal trial.

(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)

(725 ILCS 167/30)

Sec. 30. Admissibility. If the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that a law enforcement agency used a drone to gather information in violation of the information gathering limits in Sections 10 and 15 of this Act, then the information shall be presumed to be inadmissible in any judicial or administrative proceeding.

The State may overcome this presumption by proving the applicability of a judicially recognized exception to the exclusionary rule of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution or Article I, Section 6 of the Illinois Constitution to the information.

Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to prevent a court from independently reviewing the admissibility of the information for compliance with the aforementioned provisions of the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions.

(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)

(725 ILCS 167/35)

Sec. 35. Reporting.

(a) If a law enforcement agency owns one or more drones, then subsequent to the effective date of this Act, it shall report in writing annually by April 1 to the Authority the number of drones that it owns.

(b) On July 1 of each year, the Authority shall publish on its publicly available website a concise report that lists every law enforcement agency that owns a drone, and for each of those agencies, the number of drones that it owns.

(Source: P.A. 98-569, eff. 1-1-14.)

(725 ILCS 167/40)

Sec. 40. Law enforcement use of private drones.

(a) Except as provided in Section 15, a law enforcement agency may not acquire information from or direct the acquisition of information through the use of a drone owned by a private third party.

In the event that law enforcement acquires information from or directs the acquisition of information through the use of a privately owned drone under Section 15 of this Act, any information so acquired is subject to Sections 20 and 25 of this Act.

(b) Nothing in this Act prohibits private third parties from voluntarily submitting information acquired by a privately owned drone to law enforcement.

In the event that law enforcement acquires information from the voluntary submission of that information, whether under a request or on a private drone owner’s initiative, the information is subject to Sections 20 and 25 of this Act.

(Source: P.A. 98-831, eff. 1-1-15.)

(20 ILCS 5065/) Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Task Force Act.

(20 ILCS 5065/1)

(Section scheduled to be repealed on September 1, 2017)

Sec. 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Task Force Act.

(Source: P.A. 99-392, eff. 8-18-15.)

(20 ILCS 5065/5)

(Section scheduled to be repealed on September 1, 2017)

Sec. 5. Purpose. The use of drones is becoming more common in everyday applications both commercially and privately. It is clear that increased drone use creates emerging conflicts and challenges to providing guidance into the safe operation of drones, while not infringing upon the constitutional rights of others.

It is necessary to establish a task force to provide oversight and input in creating comprehensive laws and rules for the operation and use of drone technology within this State, subject to federal oversight and regulation.

(Source: P.A. 99-392, eff. 8-18-15.)

(20 ILCS 5065/10)

(Section scheduled to be repealed on September 1, 2017)

Sec. 10. Definitions. As used in this Act:

“Task Force” means the Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Task Force.

“Unmanned Aerial System” or “UAS” means an unmanned aerial vehicle or drone.

(Source: P.A. 99-392, eff. 8-18-15.)

(20 ILCS 5065/15)

(Section scheduled to be repealed on September 1, 2017)

Sec. 15. The Unmanned Aerial System Task Force.

(a) There is hereby created the Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Task Force to study and make recommendations for the operation, usage, and regulation of Unmanned Aerial Systems, commonly referred to as “drone” technology, within this State.

(b) Within 90 days after the effective date of this Act members of the Task Force shall be appointed by the Governor and shall consist of one member from each of the following agencies or interest groups:

(1) a member of the Division of Aeronautics of the Department of Transportation, nominated by the Secretary of Transportation;

(2) a member of the Department of State Police, nominated by the Director of State Police;

(3) a Conservation Police officer of the Department of Natural Resources, nominated by the Director of Natural Resources;

(4) a member of the Department of Agriculture, nominated by the Director of Agriculture;

(5) a member of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, nominated by the Director of Commerce and Economic Opportunity;

(6) a UAS technical commercial representative;

(7) a UAS manufacturing industry representative;

(8) a person nominated by the Attorney General;

(9) a member of the Illinois Conservation Police Lodge, nominated by the president of the Lodge;

(10) a member of a statewide sportsmen’s federation, nominated by the president of the federation;

(11) a member of a statewide agricultural association, nominated by the president of the association;

(12) a member of a statewide commerce association, nominated by the president or executive director of the association;

(13) a person nominated by an electric utility company serving retail customers in this State;

(14) a member of the Illinois National Guard, nominated by the Adjutant General;

(15) a member of a statewide retail association, nominated by the president of the association;

(16) a member of a statewide manufacturing trade association, nominated by the president or chief executive officer of the association;

(17) a member of a statewide property and casualty insurance association, nominated by the president or chief executive officer of the association;

(18) a member of a statewide association representing real estate brokers licensed in this State, nominated by the president of the association;

(19) a member of a statewide surveying association, nominated by the president of the association;

(20) a law enforcement official from a municipality with a population of 2 million or more inhabitants, nominated by the mayor of the municipality;

(21) a law enforcement official from a municipality with a population of less than 2 million inhabitants, nominated by a statewide police chiefs association;

(22) a member of a statewide freight railroad association, nominated by the president of the association; and

(23) a member of a statewide broadcasters association, nominated by the president of the association.

(b-5) Within 90 days after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 99th General Assembly, 8 members of the Task Force shall also be appointed as follows: 2 members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, 2 members appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, 2 members appointed by the President of the Senate, and 2 members appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate.

(c) Nominations to the Task Force must be submitted to the Governor within 60 days of August 18, 2015 (the effective date of Public Act 99-392), except that the nomination from a statewide broadcasters association shall be made within 60 days after the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 99th General Assembly.

The Governor shall make the appointments within 30 days after the close of nominations. The term of the appointment shall be until submission of the report of comprehensive recommendations under subsection (g) of this Section.

The member from the Division of Aeronautics of the Department of Transportation shall chair the Task Force and serve as a liaison to the Governor and General Assembly.

Meetings of the Task Force shall be held as necessary to complete the duties of the Task Force. Meetings of the Task Force shall be held in the central part of the State.

drone-laws-in-illinois
(d) The members of the Task Force shall receive no compensation for serving as members of the Task Force.

(e) The Task Force shall consider commercial and private uses of drones, landowner and privacy rights, as well as general rules and regulations for safe operation of drones, and prepare comprehensive recommendations for the safe and lawful operation of UAS in this State.

(f) The Department of Transportation shall provide administrative support to the Task Force.

(g) The Task Force shall submit a report with recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly no later than July 1, 2017.

(Source: P.A. 99-392, eff. 8-18-15; 99-649, eff. 7-28-16.)

(720 ILCS 5/) Criminal Code of 2012.

(720 ILCS 5/48-3)

Sec. 48-3. Hunter or fisherman interference.

(a) Definitions. As used in this Section: “Aquatic life” means all fish, reptiles, amphibians, crayfish, and mussels the taking of which is authorized by the Fish and Aquatic Life Code.

“Interfere with” means to take any action that physically impedes, hinders, or obstructs the lawful taking of wildlife or aquatic life.

“Taking” means the capture or killing of wildlife or aquatic life and includes travel, camping, and other acts preparatory to taking which occur on lands or waters upon which the affected person has the right or privilege to take such wildlife or aquatic life.

“Wildlife” means any wildlife the taking of which is authorized by the Wildlife Code and includes those species that are lawfully released by properly licensed permittees of the Department of Natural Resources.

(b) A person commits hunter or fisherman interference when he or she intentionally or knowingly:

(10) uses a drone in a way that interferes with another person’s lawful taking of wildlife or aquatic life. For the purposes of this paragraph (10), “drone” means any aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator.

(c) Exemptions; defenses.

(1) This Section does not apply to actions performed by authorized employees of the Department of Natural Resources, duly accredited officers of the U.S.

Fish and Wildlife Service, sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, or other peace officers if the actions are authorized by law and are necessary for the performance of their official duties.

(2) This Section does not apply to landowners, tenants, or lease holders exercising their legal rights to the enjoyment of land, including, but not limited to, farming and restricting trespass.

(3) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution for a violation of this Section that the defendant’s conduct is protected by his or her right to freedom of speech under the constitution of this State or the United States.

(4) Any interested parties may engage in protests or other free speech activities adjacent to or on the perimeter of the location where the lawful taking of wildlife or aquatic life is taking place, provided that none of the provisions of this Section are being violated.

(d) Sentence. A first violation of paragraphs (1) through (8) of subsection (b) is a Class B misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation of paragraphs (1) through (8) of subsection (b) is a Class A misdemeanor for which imprisonment for not less than 7 days shall be imposed.

A person guilty of a second or subsequent violation of paragraphs (1) through (8) of subsection (b) is not eligible for court supervision. A violation of paragraph (9) or (10) of subsection (b) is a Class A misdemeanor.

A court shall revoke, for a period of one year to 5 years, any Illinois hunting, fishing, or trapping privilege, license or permit of any person convicted of violating any provision of this Section. For purposes of this subsection, a “second or subsequent violation” means a conviction under paragraphs (1) through (8) of subsection (b) of this Section within 2 years of a prior violation arising from a separate set of circumstances.

(e) Injunctions; damages.

(1) Any court may enjoin conduct which would be in violation of paragraphs (1) through (8) or (10) of subsection (b) upon petition by a person affected or who reasonably may be affected by the conduct, upon a showing that the conduct is threatened or that it has occurred on a particular premises in the past and that it is not unreasonable to expect that under similar circumstances it will be repeated.

(2) A court shall award all resulting costs and damages to any person adversely affected by a violation of paragraphs (1) through (8) or (10) of subsection (b), which may include an award for punitive damages.

In addition to other items of special damage, the measure of damages may include expenditures of the affected person for license and permit fees, travel, guides, special equipment and supplies, to the extent that these expenditures were rendered futile by prevention of the taking of wildlife or aquatic life.

(Source: P.A. 97-1108, eff. 1-1-13; 98-402, eff. 8-16-13.)

Other Legal Issues With Drones in Illinois

Illinois does not have many legal issues where drones are concerned, but there are some rules that are specific to towns and cities. For example, the Village of Shaumburg has a strict regulation regarding the use of drones during special events that are owned and run by the village.

During any special event, such as concerts taking place as Schaumburg Boomers Stadium and Septemberfest, to name a few, drones are not allowed to fly within 100 feet of property that is owned by the village.

With this in mind, always do research on drone rules and regulations specifically in your city to ensure you are following all protocols.

FAQ on Illinois Law and Drones

If you do not see your question, or an answer to it, listed below, feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll gladly give you one.

Is a drone/UAS considered the same as a model aircraft?

The United States Congress has defined and concluded that a model aircraft is only considered a drone or a UAS when the following points are met:

It’s flown for recreational purposes or as a hobby and not for any business or commercial reasons
It’s flown within visible distance, meaning being able to see it at all times, of the individual operating it
It’s capable of sustaining flight within the atmosphere, meaning that it can fly

If your model aircraft, regardless of whether or not you acquired it pre-built or built it yourself, meets the above points to your knowledge, it’s considered a drone/UAS.

What is the Small UAS Rule?

The Small UAS Rule requires those who have unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, that weigh less than 55 pounds, payload included, to register their aircraft with the FAA. This only applies to recreational or hobby fliers and not commercial drone use, however.

Is the FAA’s Small UAS Rule still in effect?

Yes, it has been in effect from August 29th of 2016 and is still in effect at this time of writing.

Do I have to carry my Certificate of Aircraft Registration while flying my UAS at all times?

Yes, you must have the registration certificate from the FAA at all times during flight operation. In accordance with federal law, all UAS operators must show their certificate of registration to any local, state, or federal law enforcement officer when they are asked to do so.

What do I do for registration if my UAS is over the 55-pound limit?

If your UAS weighs more than 55 pounds, including payload, you will need to register it by clicking here.

How do I request flight permission from Air Traffic Control to operate within airspace class B, C, D, or E?

You can contact Air Traffic Control for flight permission through the FAA portal available online by clicking here.

Drone Laws in Illinois

To avoid any trouble, fines, or other consequences of not flying within the law and doing so safely, you should always educate yourself on the drone laws and regulations in your state.

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