Home » News » A look at Legalities in The Sunshine State: Drone Laws in Florida

A look at Legalities in The Sunshine State: Drone Laws in Florida

drone-laws-in-florida

More Resources

This article will give a brief overview of the laws in your state, but we can’t keep cover all the minutae in only a thousand words. That’s why we highly recommend that you do some research on your own time and, ideally, enroll in a professional course if you’re actually looking to get certified. Though there’s lots of options for learning more about drone laws, we highly recommend Drone U. It’s a great way to learn about drone laws and piloting that’s cheaper than most of its competition, requiring you to pay only for the time it actually takes you to complete your chosen courses. Drone U also has a strong focus on community that will put you in touch with other drone experts who know what they’re talking about. And, perhaps most importantly, they keep their content as up-to-date as possible (something which we will also try to do with this article.)

A location favorable to fly over

This is a state that has pristine beaches, as well as many activities such as surfing, boating, and fishing. Prime real estate to photograph, sunsets that are spellbinding, and the diverse skyline of Miami and Ft Lauderdale as well as Tampa Bay are all reasons why many drone enthusiasts would want to fly above.

drones-law-florida

Daniel Piraino Flickr

In the United States, laws are simply not the same everywhere, and Florida happens to be a state that has a couple of extra things you need to be aware of in the legal realm regarding drones. Once you are aware of how to proceed and what you need to do you’ll feel a lot better, because as with any hobby, knowledge is a main component of knowing how to make sure you are doing everything by the book.

The Registering Process in Florida

faa-drone-law-florida

registermyuas.faa.gov

Before you get ready to fly, register your drone with the FAA and mark it with your specific registration number that was given to you upon purchase.If you do fly one without registering and are caught, you could face 3 years in prison, $250,000 in various fines, and up to another $27,000 in civil penalties.

Once you have the drone out of the box and are ready to explore all of the terrain here, just go to the web page at registermyuas.faa.gov, and you will see the appropriate procedure to complete. This is something that you don’t want to put off, because it will absolutely make you legitimate in the eyes of the local authorities to get started.

What about proximity to airports in Florida?

You will definitely want to check exactly how close you are to any of the airports in the area: if you are not further than five miles away, it’s a must to notify the airport before you set flight. Tampa Bay and St Petersburg both have regions close to the airport where this will be an issue to pay attention to.tampa-airport-drone-lawIf you are in Hillsborough County, you need to fill out an online form if you happen to need to fly within five miles of Tampa Executive, Tampa International, Peter O. Knight Airport, or the Plant City Airport. The appropriate place to complete this is at www.tampa airport.com/UAS.no-drone-zone-florida-law If you are close to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, you just need to call the FAA’s traffic tower, and that number is 727-539-6867.

Macdill Air Force Base is an installment that you definitely want to pay all heed of seriousness to before flying around: you can contact the Office of Public Affairs to request permission to fly in the region at 813-828-2215.

You are not to fly higher than 400 feet above the ground, and the drone must be kept in sight the entire time. Flying directly above people and moving vehicles is an even bigger thing to make sure you don’t do in Florida: this is a heavily populated state, with many people coming into vacation here annually.

What are some laws here that are unique to the state?

Florida legislature passed a law that puts a restriction regarding the use of drones here, and some fliers tend to think that it’s a bit murky and hard to define. What it lays out is the illegality of invasion of privacy:

It is not legal to take pictures from the air of a person or their property without permission, and many realize that there could be numerous instances where this happens without said people’s knowledge.

As far as the very near future is concerned, it brings about the concern of many as to how deep authorities will go to solve these “crimes”; is there really enough manpower to focus on what private citizens are doing with their drones? There are many elements that could affect this: how the for-profit prison system is governed, how many other crimes are occurring that are actually violent, and how drones continue to appear as a whole in the opinion of the public.

In Florida, once a drone is used for commercial purposes, the rules that regulate it’s flight are known to be a bit more restrictive than other states. The registration process itself is a bit different, and this was one area of the nation where a licensed pilot came into play for commercial use before others. Those using drones for real estate in Florida have had to abide by stricter rules, but by being communicative and proactive right from the start, they are able to still complete their daily tasks.

Other legal issues with drones in Florida

During 2014, Gov. Rick Scott signed the “Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act” which puts a very restrictive clamp on the use of drones by local and state law enforcement agencies. Issues that occurred in North Dakota this year rose tempers nationwide, as drones were used against protesters during the Standing Rock debacle. For now, a judge in Florida has to sign off on when the use of a surveillance drone is appropriate, but the days ahead are also going to govern quite a bit about what happens and when.drone-surveillance-floridaOn May 14th, 2015, there was an amendment to Florida’s original “drone law” created in 2013. What it did was redefine what surveillance is, and the most important language in the amendment states that it is “the observation of such persons with sufficient visual clarity to be able to obtain information about their identity, habits, conduct, movements, or whereabouts”.

Many critics believe that ANY picture taken with a drone could fall under this category, and that there may be numerous lawsuits stemming from flights over different types of private properties. But how will the one who is complaining know exactly what is happening, and be able to access the pilot’s SIM card to obtain any images taken of them? In the realm of police surveillance, if you are outside a structure, you can be legally watched, but Florida’s law regarding surveillance classifies drones as any UAV with a camera, no matter how advanced the camera is.florida-property-droneDuring legislature, the issue of the surveillance law being unconstitutional was never brought up, and issues involving the first amendment itself were not looked at. It is one thing for surveillance to be prohibited, but in its current state, the way things sit in Florida allow the operator to be sued as well. The person suing can get far beyond what many consider normal damages, and some are worried that cases could be in litigation for years, as many others where the individuals can go back and forth on whether or not the drone was purposefully used to spy.

At the core, we don’t think that this was intended to clog up Florida’s courts and make things any more difficult for day-to-day living, and perhaps they did not correctly predict just how many people would be hitting the skies with drones. Nothing will tell now but time, and the state of Florida will be one of the places that pilots will be paying close attention to legislature for the long haul.

Mike is an online entrepreneur and digital marketing specialist who also loves flying drones. He has owned and managed Dronethusiast since 2015 and enjoys writing reviews and analyzing different topics in the fast moving Drone technology space. Along with the editorial team at Dronethusiast Mike spends hundreds of hours each year analyzing and studying different drones and their tech specs to help consumers find the best products for their needs. Contact Mike by using the Dronethusiast.com Contact page or reach out at mike@dronethusiast.com.

13 comments

  1. What does it take to find out why drones are in the sky near my present location. They appear to be stationary although one tries to hide behind the tall pines. That drone bobs around in the dark. They both are lit although the little one has a flashing pattern. They are there most nights and appear to stay through dark times. Daylight they are gone. Is this legal considering the drone laws on surveillance ?

    • Don’t kid yourself, you have aliens

    • well most expencive drones can only fly about 18 minutes or less, if they are there all night, it’s not a drone

      • If this drone is stationary pretty much, it is probably tethered and connected to electricity. It can stay up for an unlimited amount of time. They use them like they do some balloons so they can see with a FLIR or IR camera over the horizon at night.

        • How do you investigate the owner of it? It will follow me around the yard they are watching so that they know when to ride by the house without me taking pictures or getting tag numbers

          • Try having a good video camera in your hand before you walk outside, not after you’ve already gone outside. Get one of your own and send it up to play with the others.
            To say they know when you’re watching them so you can’t get a photo sounds a bit paranoid.

        • Drones are not permanently tethered or connected to public utility power (like the electricity from a wall outlet). Drones are useful because they are small and mobile; anything that keeps it from moving around would make it useless for spying or anything else.

          There are some unmanned surveillance balloons tethered in the Keys which are used to track drug smuggling and refugees fleeing Cuba, but those are huge, and they’re not drones, they’re balloons.

          • There are actually tethered drones that are connected to a battery source and can stay up as long as the battery and motor temp allows.

    • Florida has a lot of insects and I think those are called “lightning bugs.” As a kid, when camping, we use to chase them and try to catch them.

    • I am having the same thing happening how do we find out the owner and how do we proceed with law enforcement to get this out of our backyard? It is being used to harass us

  2. I’m glad the FAA has jurisdiction over the sky and not the City, State, County, etc…

  3. So, I assume it is illegal to take any camera to Florida? There will always be people in your shot or personal property. What an idiotic law.

  4. SD Card, not SIM Card

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*