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Drone Laws in Michigan

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Like every other state in the nation, Michigan has their own set of state laws, rules, and regulations, aside from those enacted by the FAA, regarding drones that all users must abide by. Understanding and respecting them will ensure that you stay out of trouble and have an enjoyable flight.

Flying Over Michigan

Michigan is a beautiful state with so much to offer, including an abundance of great locations to fly a drone. Unfortunately, many of Michigan’s cities have more no-fly zones than green light flight areas.

Belle Isle Park located in the city of Detroit is both a serene and myriad island perfect for drone flight. The park is only accessible through the MacArthur Bridge and has a perfect scenery aesthetic, expansive open areas, and even some locations that are great for aerial photography and filming. The James Scott Memorial Fountain and the Belle Isle Conservatory are two prime examples.

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Those who are both lovers of local legend and drones as a hobby will definitely appreciate the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and its local legend, on Lake Michigan’s shore. However, you will need to be careful where you fly, considering a lot of the National Shoreline area is a no-fly zone. Although, Glen Arbor’s shoreline is clear for flying, so the Sleeping Bear Dunes are still accessible.

The Detroit Riverwalk is the best highlight for the city’s attractions and interesting points along the riverfront. You get the waterfront action, the bustle of the city, and the activity of the maritime all in one perfect spot.

The Registering Process in Michigan

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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 3 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 Michigan

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.

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This is enacted nationwide, not only in Michigan, 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 Michigan

At this time of writing, all sections, bills, and laws listed are in effect in accordance with the law of the state of Michigan. Any editions or changes with relevant sections, bills, and laws, or any others relevant to drones that come into effect, in the future will be updated in this section.

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS ACT No. 992

AN ACT to provide for the operation and regulation of unmanned aircraft systems in this state; to create the unmanned aircraft systems task force; to provide for the powers and duties of state and local governmental officers and entities; and to prohibit conduct related to the operation of unmanned aircraft systems and prescribe penalties.

The People of the State of Michigan enact:

Sec. 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “unmanned aircraft systems act”.

Sec. 3. As used in this act:

“Person” means an individual, partnership, corporation, association, governmental entity, or other legal entity.

(b) “Political subdivision” means a county, city, village, township, or other political subdivision, public corporation, authority, or district in this state.

(c) “Unmanned aircraft system” means an unmanned aircraft and all of the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications, navigation equipment, and other equipment necessary to operate the unmanned aircraft.

(d) “Unmanned aircraft” means an aircraft flown by a remote pilot via a ground control system, or autonomously through use of an on-board computer, communication links, and any additional equipment that is necessary for the unmanned aircraft to operate safely.

Sec. 5. (1) Except as expressly authorized by statute, a political subdivision shall not enact or enforce an ordinance or resolution that regulates the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft or otherwise engage in the regulation of the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft.

This act does not prohibit a political subdivision from promulgating rules, regulations, and ordinances for the use of unmanned aircraft systems by the political subdivision within the boundaries of the political subdivision.

This act does not affect federal preemption of state law.

If this act conflicts with section 40111c or 40112 of the natural resources and environmental protection act, 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.40111c and 324.40112, those sections control.

Sec. 11. A person that is authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate unmanned aircraft systems for commercial purposes may operate an unmanned aircraft system in this state if the unmanned aircraft system is operated in a manner consistent with federal law.

Sec. 13. A person may operate an unmanned aircraft system in this state for recreational purposes if the unmanned aircraft system is operated in a manner consistent with federal law for the operation of a model aircraft.

Sec. 21. An individual shall not knowingly and intentionally operate an unmanned aircraft system in a manner that interferes with the official duties of any of the following:
A police officer.
(b) A firefighter.
(c) A paramedic.
(d) Search and rescue personnel.

Sec. 22. (1) A person shall not knowingly and intentionally operate an unmanned aircraft system to subject an individual to harassment. As used in this subsection, “harassment” means that term as defined in section 411h or 411i of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.411h and 750.411i.

A person shall not knowingly and intentionally operate an unmanned aircraft system within a distance that, if the person were to do so personally rather than through remote operation of an unmanned aircraft, would be a violation of a restraining order or other judicial order.

A person shall not knowingly and intentionally operate an unmanned aircraft system to violate section 539j of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.539j, or to otherwise capture photographs, video, or audio recordings of an individual in a manner that would invade the individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

An individual who is required to register as a sex offender under the sex offenders registration act, 1994 PA 295, MCL 28.721 to 28.736, shall not operate an unmanned aircraft system to knowingly and intentionally follow, contact, or capture images of another individual, if the individual’s sentence in a criminal case would prohibit the individual from following, contacting, or capturing the image of the other individual.

Sec. 23. (1) An individual who violates section 21 or 22 is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.

This section does not affect the ability to investigate or to arrest, prosecute, or convict an individual for any other violation of a law of this state.

Sec. 31. (1) The unmanned aircraft systems task force is created to develop statewide policy recommendations on the operation, use, and regulation of unmanned aircraft systems in this state.

Within 90 days after the effective date of this act, the governor shall appoint initial members of the unmanned aircraft systems task force. The individuals appointed to the unmanned aircraft systems task force by the governor, initially and subsequently, must comprise 1 member from each of the following agencies or interest groups:

A member from the state transportation department nominated by the director of the state transportation department.

(b) A member from the division of the state transportation department that performs bridge inspections and road work, nominated by the director of the state transportation department.

(c) A member from the department of state police, nominated by the director of the department of state police.

(d) A member from the department of natural resources, nominated by the director of the department of natural resources.

(e) A member from the department of agriculture and rural development, nominated by the director of the department of agriculture and rural development.

(f) A member from the department of licensing and regulatory affairs nominated by the director of the department of licensing and regulatory affairs.

(g) A member from the department of corrections, nominated by the director of the department of corrections.

(h) An unmanned aircraft systems technical commercial representative.

(i) An unmanned aircraft systems manufacturing industry representative.

(j) A member who is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate unmanned aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds.

(k) A member who represents airports in this state, nominated by the director of the state transportation department.

(l) A member from the Michigan Municipal League, nominated by the executive director of the Michigan Municipal League.

(m) A law enforcement official from a municipality, nominated by a statewide police chiefs association.

(n) A member who represents county sheriffs, nominated by the president of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association.

(o) A member of a statewide agricultural association, nominated by the president of the association.

(p) A member of a statewide retail association, nominated by the president of the association.

(q) A member of a statewide manufacturing trade association, nominated by the president or chief executive officer of the association.

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

(s) A member of a statewide association that represents real estate brokers licensed in this state, nominated by the president of the association.

(t) A member of a statewide surveying association, nominated by the president of the association.

(u) A member of a statewide freight railroad association, nominated by the president of the association.

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

(w) A member who represents persons that operate key facilities, as that term is defined in section 552c of the Michigan penal code, 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.552c.

(x) A member who is knowledgeable about the operation of public utilities who represents public utilities in the Upper Peninsula, nominated by the chairman of the public service commission.

(y) A member who is knowledgeable about the operation of public utilities who represents public utilities in the Lower Peninsula, nominated by the chairman of the public service commission.

(z) A member who represents the Mackinac Bridge Authority, nominated by the authority.

(aa) A member who represents the city of Mackinac Island.

Initial nominations to the unmanned aircraft systems task force must be submitted to the governor within 60 days after the effective date of this act. The governor shall make the initial appointments within 30 days after the close of nominations.

Members of the unmanned aircraft systems task force shall serve for terms of 4 years or until a successor is appointed, whichever is later, except that of the initial members appointed, 6 members, as designated by the governor, shall serve for 1 year, 6 members, as designated by the governor, shall serve for 2 years, and 7 members, as designated by the governor, shall serve for 3 years.

If a vacancy occurs on the unmanned aircraft systems task force, the governor shall make an appointment for the unexpired term in the same manner as the original appointment.

The governor may remove a member of the unmanned aircraft systems task force for incompetence, dereliction of duty, malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance in office, or any other good cause.

The member from the state transportation department shall chair the unmanned aircraft systems task force and serve as a liaison to the governor and the standing committees in the house and senate that mainly deal with transportation issues. The unmanned aircraft systems task force shall meet as necessary to complete the duties of the task force. Meetings of the unmanned aircraft systems task force must be held in the central part of this state.

A majority of the members of the unmanned aircraft systems task force constitute a quorum for the transaction of business at a meeting of the task force. A majority of the members present and serving are required for official action of the task force.

The unmanned aircraft systems task force shall conduct its business at public meetings of the task force held in compliance with the open meetings act, 1976 PA 267, MCL 15.261 to 15.275.

A writing prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by the unmanned aircraft systems task force in the performance of an official function is subject to the freedom of information act, 1976 PA 442, MCL 15.231 to 15.246.

The members of the unmanned aircraft systems task force must receive no compensation for serving as members of the task force.

The unmanned aircraft systems task force shall consider commercial and private uses of unmanned aircraft systems, landowner and privacy rights, as well as general rules and regulations for safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems, and prepare comprehensive recommendations for the safe and lawful operation of unmanned aircraft systems in this state. The recommendations must include, but not be limited to, recommendations regarding the protection of public and private property interests and the use of unmanned aircraft systems over public property.

The state transportation department shall provide administrative support to the unmanned aircraft systems task force.

The unmanned aircraft systems task force shall submit a report with recommendations to the governor and the standing committees in the house and senate that mainly deal with transportation issues within 3 months after the first meeting of the task force.

After submitting the report required under subsection (14), the unmanned aircraft systems task force shall meet not less than once every 18 months to consider any new developments or problems that may require further consideration and recommendations by the task force.

Michigan Compiled Laws Section 324.40111c Use of tranquilizer propelled from bow or firearm; use of unmanned vehicle or device; prohibitions.

A person other than the department shall not take game using a tranquilizer propelled from a bow or firearm.

An individual shall not take game or fish using an unmanned vehicle or unmanned device that uses aerodynamic forces to achieve flight or using an unmanned vehicle or unmanned device that operates on the surface of water or underwater.

Michigan Compiled Laws Section 324.40112 Obstructing or interfering in lawful taking of animals or fish; prohibited conduct; petition; injunction; violation as misdemeanor; penalties; section inapplicable to peace officer.

An individual shall not obstruct or interfere in the lawful taking of animals or fish by another individual.

An individual violates this section when the individual intentionally or knowingly does any of the following:

(a) Drives or disturbs animals or fish for the purpose of disrupting a lawful taking.

(b) Blocks, impedes, or harasses another individual who is engaged in the process of lawfully taking an animal or fish.

(c) Uses a natural or artificial visual, aural, olfactory, gustatory, or physical stimulus or an unmanned vehicle or unmanned device that uses aerodynamic forces to achieve flight or that operates on the surface of the water or underwater, to affect animal or fish behavior in order to hinder or prevent the lawful taking of an animal or a fish.

(d) Erects barriers to deny ingress or egress to areas where the lawful taking of animals or fish may occur. This subdivision does not apply to an individual who erects barriers to prevent trespassing on his or her property.

(e) Interjects himself or herself into the line of fire of an individual lawfully taking wildlife.

(f) Affects the condition or placement of personal or public property intended for use in the lawful taking of an animal or a fish in order to impair the usefulness of the property or prevent the use of the property.

(g) Enters or remains upon private lands without the permission of the owner or the owner’s agent, for the purpose of violating this section.

(h) Engages in any other act or behavior for the purpose of violating this section.

Upon petition of an aggrieved person or an individual who reasonably may be aggrieved by a violation of this section, a court of competent jurisdiction, upon a showing that an individual was engaged in and threatens to continue to engage in illegal conduct under this section, may enjoin that conduct.

An individual who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not less than $500.00 or more than $1,000.00, or both, and the costs of prosecution. An individual who violates this section a second or subsequent time is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not less than $1,000.00 or more than $2,500.00, or both, and the costs of prosecution. In addition to the penalties provided for in this subsection, any permit or license issued by the department authorizing the individual to take animals or fish shall be revoked. A prosecution under this section does not preclude prosecution or other action under any other criminal or civil statute.

(5) This section does not apply to a peace officer while the peace officer performs his or her lawful duties.

Other Legal Issues With Drones in Michigan

The main concern that generally surrounds other legal issues with drones in Michigan is the State Parks. However, laws and restrictions for each State Park can be vague and unclear.

Both the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the National Park Service have more information on the use and levels of restrictions where Michigan’s State Parks are concerned.

FAQ on Michigan Laws 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 Michigan

The best way to avoid issues when flying a drone, not just in Michigan but nationwide, is to do your research and abide by the laws, regulations, and rules that go with flying a drone in your state.

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