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Pristine, picturesque sights such as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Ludington State Park Beach, Isle Royale National Park, and Tahquamenon Falls make Michigan a gorgeous state to explore.
You’ve been thinking of taking a trip to Michigan, and you want to bring your drone.
What are the laws here for drone pilots?
Michigan welcomes drone pilots but enforces laws federally, statewide, and locally. Drone pilots are expected to always follow Part 107 rules and stay out of no-fly zones. You also cannot use your UAV to interfere with search and rescue operations or hunting.
Michigan has a large line-up of drone laws, and we’ll go through them all in this article.
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know where you can and cannot take your drone so you avoid legal ramifications!
Federal Drone Laws in Michigan #
As we’ve done throughout this series, we’ll begin by exploring the federal drone laws in Michigan.
These laws are instated by the United States government and apply to agency, commercial, and hobbyist drone pilots.
Agency Drone Pilots #
Government employees, also known as agency drone pilots, such as fire or police departments, may be required to use drones in a professional capacity from time to time.
If so, then you might need to obtain a Certificate of Authorization or COA. You’re expected to follow Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 rules.
Commercial Drone Pilots #
You’re a commercial drone pilot if you use your UAV to earn money but don’t work for the government.
You too must follow Part 107 rules. Michigan federal drone law also requires you to carry a Remote Pilot Certificate on your person when commercially operating your drone.
The Remote Pilot Certificate is a two-year license for commercial pilots. You can earn yours by passing the Part 107 exam issued by the FAA.
» MORE: FAA Part 107 for Commercial Drone Pilots
The Part 107 exam is a strenuous 60-question test that requires a full understanding of Part 107 rules to pass. You’re given two and a half hours to take the test.
On our blog, we have resources for expert-led online drone courses so you can adequately prepare for the exam. You need a score of 70 percent or higher to pass.
» MORE: Best Drone Courses Taught by Experts
The Part 107 exam is a high-pressure test since it costs money to take, and you can’t complete it online.
You can retest if you don’t pass the first time around, but you’d have to pay to take the exam a second time.
As mentioned, the Remote Pilot Certificate expires after two years. This is by design. The FAA wants its commercial drone pilots to stay current on Part 107 rules, which is why you’ll have to take the exam again at that point.
Before you take off for the beautiful Michigan skies, be sure to register your drone with the FAA, whether you’re a commercial drone pilot or a recreational flyer.
This only costs $5, and your drone is officially registered for the next three years.
Recreational Drone Pilots #
If you’re a hobbyist drone pilot, federal drone law in Michigan mandates that you, too, always obey Part 107 rules when flying your drone.
You’re also required to register your drone through the FAA, but only if it weighs 0.55 pounds or more. You needn’t register a lightweight toy drone.
The registration fee is also $5 for recreational drone pilots, and it lasts for three years.
You’re also required to sit in for an exam. No, it’s not the Part 107 exam, but The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST.
This is another FAA-issued exam that proves you know your stuff when it comes to Part 107 rules.
The test is only 25 questions. All questions are correctable, and the wrong answer will be displayed at the time you answer it.
The TRUST test is free to take and can be done online. Your TRUST certificate, which you earn for passing the exam, is yours for life.
State Drone Laws in Michigan #
Next, it’s time to peel back the curtain on Michigan’s state drone laws, of which there are three.
Order 5.1 State Parks and Recreation Areas // 2019 #
The first of these state drone laws is 2019’s Order 5.1 State Parks and Recreation Areas.
According to Section 4.4 prohibited uses within and surrounding state forest campgrounds, (5), drone pilots cannot “Operate an unmanned aircraft in conflict with the unmanned aircraft system act (pa 436 of 2016), and as follows at a state forest campground:
In a manner that knowingly and intentionally interferes with department employees and their designees performing official duties.
In a manner that interferes with department staff when conducting search and rescues.
Within 100 yards of a cultural or historical site or structure.
Over an occupied beach area.
Over an equestrian facility.
Over a restroom or open-air changing court.
Over an area subject to an aerial right-of-way.
For a commercial purpose without first obtaining written permission from an authorized representative of the department.”
SB 54 // 2015 #
Next is Senate Bill 54 or SB 54, which was passed in 2015.
The crux of this law is to prohibit drones from interfering in the fishing or hunting activities of others.
According to Section 40112 (c), you cannot use: “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 fish.”
SB 992 // 2016 #
Also passed in 2016, SB 992 is an all-encompassing law when it comes to drone rules. Let’s take it part by part.
First, in Section 22. (1), drone pilots are prohibited from using a drone “to subject an individual to harassment.”
You also cannot use a drone in such a way that intentionally violates a judicial order, including restraining orders, per Section 22. (2).
Section 22. (3) bars drone pilots from taking “photographs, video, or audio recordings of an individual in a manner that would invade the individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy.”
If you have to register as a sex offender or are already registered as a sex offender, then Section 22. (4) in SB 992 states that you cannot use a drone to surveil or photograph someone involved in your criminal case.
If you disobey the laws stated above, then you could face a misdemeanor charge that results in a fine of $500, 90 days in jail, or both.
Section 31. (1) describes the drone task force that was created in 2016 “to develop statewide policy recommendations on the operation, use, and regulation of unmanned aircraft systems in this state.”
Local Drone Laws in Michigan #
Last but certainly not least are the collection of Michigan local drone laws, which include policies and ordinances enacted by cities, towns, villages, and counties in the state.
Here’s what you need to know.
Mt. Brighton Ski Resort – Vail Properties Policy // 2020 #
In 2020, the Mt. Brighton Ski Resort expanded its policy to include a statement on drones.
Here is the policy in full:
“For safety reasons, recreational drone use by any guest or member of the public, for any reason, is not permitted on or over any of our property. Likewise, commercial use is also prohibited on Vail Resorts’ property, except in limited circumstances when an approved operator has obtained an FAA exemption and received written permission from the resort. This includes use associated with special events, marketing and in film/photo applications.”
Although the policy does not mention agency drone pilots, we assume that in special circumstances such as search and rescue, this group of pilots might be able to use a UAV.
The University of Michigan – University Policy // 2017 #
The University of Michigan also has a policy about drones on its campus.
While this policy is more for students and staff, the rules would still apply to anyone who would have a reason to be near the campus even while not attending the University of Michigan.
So what are those rules? You cannot use a drone on any property owned by the University of Michigan.
There are several exceptions, including agency drone pilot usage.
Drone pilots can fly a drone in a designated area on the campus. Indoor drone use is allowed too.
If you obtain written permission from the Executive Vice President of the Ann Arbor campus as well as the Chief Financial Officer or the Flint or Dearborn campus Chancellor or the Chancellor’s designee, then you can fly a drone outdoors, likely commercially.
Town of West Bloomfield – Municipal Ordinance // 2016 #
West Bloomfield also has a municipal ordinance. Any parks in the town are official no-fly zones where drones are prohibited.
Michigan Drone Law FAQs #
You’re about to embark on a day of flying fun with your drone, but before you do, you want to be crystal clear on the rules.
Be sure to check out this helpful FAQs section!
Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in Michigan? #
Michigan has parks scattered throughout the state, many of them public parks with beautiful sights and amenities.
Depending on where you plan to fly your drone though, it’s either permissible or a no-go.
If you wanted to fly in a park around West Bloomfield, those parks are all no-fly zones.
Other parks may permit drone pilots, but you should contact the local parks and rec association to confirm that.
If you are allowed to fly, then always follow Part 107 rules whether you’re flying commercially or recreationally.
Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in Michigan? #
The state parks dotted across Michigan include Ludington State Park Beach, Petoskey State Park, Bay City State Park, Seven Lakes State Park, Onaway State Park, and many, many more.
Is your drone allowed in any of these state parks?
We’ll refer you back to Order 5.1 State Parks and Recreation Areas, which covers state park drone usage.
Commercial drone pilots can’t fly in a state park at all without getting written permission.
For recreational pilots as well as commercial pilots given the green light to fly, you cannot be within 100 yards of a historical or cultural sight, nor can you fly over any open-air changing court, bathroom, equestrian facility, occupied beach area, or an area with an aerial right-of-way.
You also cannot distract park visitors from department employees or law enforcement who are trying to do their jobs.
Michigan’s drone laws are largely designed to protect the state’s population and natural resources.
Commercial, recreational, and agency drone pilots should always obey Part 107 laws and stay out of no-fly zones in this state!
References:Order 5.1 State Parks and Recreation Areas (link)SB 54 (link)SB 992 (link)Mountain Safety | Mt Brighton Resort (link)Drones on Campus | Division of Public Safety & Security (link)Town of West Bloomfield – Municode Library (link)