Drone law, or the flying of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) in Florida, is a constantly changing field of legislation and case law. The rules and requirements stem both from Federal agencies and the State of Florida and require careful consideration to avoid running afoul. There are abundant resources to be found online, but as always, if there is any question on the legality of a drone flight, please consult with an attorney qualified to discuss Florida drone law beforehand.
Federal Drone Law
The first step is to ensure compliance with Federal law. A UAS smaller than .55 lbs is automatically considered a “toy,” but with any UAS between .55 and 55 lbs, the rules get a little more complicated. UASs over 55 lbs also have all their own rules. It also matters substantially whether or not a UAS is being used as a hobby, as opposed to deriving or earning any kind of compensation. If a UAS is going to be used for a business and is under 55 lbs, the pilot must comply with the Small UAS Rule, known as Part 107. Once you have ensured that all FAA requirements are being followed you can move onto Florida law.
Florida Drone Law
The question clients always ask is “can I get in trouble using a drone in Florida?” As is always the case in the law, the answer depends. After ensuring that a pilot is in compliance with Federal law, it is important to look at each Florida Law that affects Drone flying.
Anyone who is not working directly on a government purpose and is not an “owner, operator, or occupant of a critical infrastructure facility.
What does it mean?
In order to protect critical infrastructure, unauthorized individuals cannot fly over or contact said facilities. Those can be found in the statute linked above. It is important to note that most of these facilities are going to have FAA flight restrictions from the Federal level, but this creates a misdemeanor if violating this statute.
It is illegal to attach a “weapon, firearm, explosive, destructive device or ammunition.” This prevents any kind of weaponization of droves. There are no drones on the civilian market that allow for the attachment of such devices, but this law does not allow customizations to be performed.
Generally, law enforcement uses are the primary target, but it applies to anyone recording another individual’s property.
What does it mean?
Property owners have a right to privacy from UAS recordings on areas of real property that cannot be viewed from ground level. This generally applies to fenced in areas of property. There are exceptions under subsection (4), but generally do not apply to a standard hobby or commercial user.
County and City Ordinances
The state of Florida has, as part of Florida Statutes § 330.41, preempted (overruled) any past or future ordinance seeking to restrict “design, manufacture, testing, maintenance, licensing, registration, certification, or operation of an unmanned aircraft system, including airspace, altitude, flight paths, equipment or technology requirements; the purpose of operations; and pilot, operator, or observer qualifications, training, and certification.” BUT does allow the regulation of other illegal acts, such as nuisances or harassment. It is difficult to discern whether a specific local ordinance meets these requirements, and it is highly recommended to speak to a Florida Drone Attorney before willfully or accidentally violating one. Dozens of local cities and counties have passed ordinances around the state which generally remain untested by the courts.
Florida Administrative Code 5I-4.003(11). Vehicular, Animal and Pedestrian Control – Without authorization, drones must take off from a runway or helipad while on lands managed by Florida Parks and Forests.
Florida Administrative Code 40C-9.320(8). Use of Motorized Vehicles, Recreational Vehicles, Boats, and Aircraft – Prohibits the taking off or landing of aircraft on Florida Water Management Lands.
Don Pumphrey and the firm have years of experience representing defendants in Florida criminal cases. The attorneys and the whole legal team have been at the forefront of drone litigation for the past half-decade since the market exploded, traveling the country to teach the proper use of drones in the practice of the law, and spreading how to properly defend those accused of state or federal drone violations. The Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorneys at Pumphrey Law are dedicated to defending the rights of clients and will fight for the best possible disposition or dismissal of your case. Call (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today to discuss your rights during an open and free consultation with a drone attorney in our legal team.
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.