Wisconsin is one of the emerging aerial technology hotspots and has been the stage for many drone laws and regulations. Drone Laws in Wisconsin restricts when, where and what altitude an unmanned flying vehicle can be flown.
The Wisconsin Administrative Code, specifically Section 323.26 defines when and where aerial surveillance is permitted which includes: Operators must notify a property owner before flying a UAV over their property. UAVs may be flown in daytime hours—from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
UAVs cannot be flown within five miles of any airport or landing strip without permission. UAVs can be flown within five miles of a military facility with prior permission.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains the primary responsibility for enforcing Federal aviation rules and regulations. Sheriffs also play an important role in identifying potential violators and enforcing Wisconsin's Drone laws.
Wisconsin §941.292(1) defines a Drone as “an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft”. Chapter 114 of the Wisconsin State Statutes applies to aircraft including drones.
All Wisconsin statutes are available at http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/prefaces/toc. The following is an abbreviated overview of Wisconsin law pertaining to the use of drones:
- It is unlawful to fly drones near wild animals, impede, obstruct, or harass a person lawfully engaged in hunting, fishing, or trapping, and/or disturb a lawfully placed hunting blind or stand (WI §29.083).
- Law enforcement cannot use drones without a warrant for investigative purposes in a location where the general public lacks access (WI §175.55).
- Drones may be flown over lands and waters of this state, provided they are not flown over lands and waters and at such low altitudes as to intentionally interfere with any existing use to which the land and water, or space over the land or water is already in use (WI §114.04).
- Operating a drone over a correctional facility or its grounds is unlawful (WI §114.045).
- Owners of drones are forbidden to operate their drones recklessly. Operating a drone recklessly is prohibited. If a person is operating a drone while under the influence of drugs, an intoxicant, or with a prohibited alcohol concentration above 0.04, they will be in violation of the law (WI §114.09).
- Drones are not meant to be weaponized and against the law (WI §941.292).
- Using a Drone to photograph, record, or observe an individual at a place or location where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy without their written consent is unlawful (WI §942.10).
The definition of an airplane is any device invented, used or designed to hover or fly in the sky. An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System (UAS), or drone, as defined by the FAA, is an aircraft operated from or within the aircraft without the possibility of direct human intervention. Recently, the FAA has issued new rules for small UASs used in professional applications.
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 defines “model airplanes” as small unmanned aerial vehicles used for recreational or hobby purposes only.
The FAA's website lists all rules and regulations regarding the use of small UAVs in a complete list at http://www.faa.gov/uas/.
- Any unmanned aircraft system must weigh less than 55 lbs (including payload and fuel).
- Unmanned aircraft systems must be registered with the FAA if they weigh over 0.55 lbs and must display proper FAA registration markings.
- Operators must maintain a visual line of sight with the UAS while in flight, assisted only by corrective lenses.
- The operator of an unmanned aerial system must give way to all manned aircraft.
- You must operate your UAS in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines, as provided by http://suas.modelaircraft.org/ama/images/sUAS-Safety-Program-web.pdf.
- Operation of UAS within the radius of 5 miles of an airport requires notification of the airport operators and the control tower.
- You must comply with any flight restrictions issued by the FAA for the United States (current flight restriction lists are available at http://tfr.faa.gov).
- Operators of UAS’s are subject to FAA enforcement for careless and/or reckless operation.
In addition to the statutes/regulations listed, 18 USC Part I, Chapter II, §32(a)(1) makes it a federal crime to willfully destroy, damage, or wreck any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.
WI §943. 01 criminalizes willful damage to another's property. Likewise, the inappropriate, abusive, negligent, or reckless use of a drone may also be illegal under current Wisconsin peace and order statutes.
If you suspect a drone operator of breaking a law, please contact the Sheriff's Office or the local police department.
Want to find somewhere safe to fly your drone? You can scout out safe and legal places to fly on your own using our guide to Where to Fly a Drone In Wisconsin.
Want to get a feel for what footage you could get flying a drone in Wisconsin? Here are some ethereal views over the beautiful Wisconsin River: