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The northwestern state of Montana hides many secret treasures that make it appealing to drone pilots. These include Glacier National Park, the Fly Fish Blue Ribbon Waterways, Going-to-the-Sun Road, Big Sky Resort, and so much more.
What are the drone laws in Montana?
Montana has federal and state-level drone laws but no local laws. Drone pilots are always required to follow FAA guidelines, and drones are not allowed to in any way interrupt wildfire suppression.
You cannot fly a drone in state parks without a permit.
This article will take you through Montana’s drone laws so whether you’re visiting here for your first time or your fifth, you can fly your drone with confidence.
Make sure you keep reading!
Federal Drone Laws in Montana #
All states within the United States have a set of federal drone laws as mandated by the US government.
Montana federal drone laws apply to all nature of drone pilots, including hobbyists and commercial employees (government employees too!).
Here are the federal drone laws in full.
Agency Drone Pilots #
Government employees such as Montana’s fire and police departments who sometimes are required to use drones are called agency drone pilots.
This specialty drone group may require a Certificate of Authorization or COA. They should follow the Part 107 rules as established by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Recreational Drone Pilots #
Hobbyist drone pilots are in it for the fun, but the FAA still has several guidelines that recreational drone pilots must meet.
First, if your drone weighs at least 0.55 pounds or more, then you have to register it for $5 through the FAA. The registration lasts for three years.
You’re also required, of course, to follow Part 107 rules whenever you fly your drone, for the safety of others and yourself.
The FAA has an exam just for hobbyists known as The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST. It’s a short online exam where any wrong answers are correctable.
After taking the exam, you’re issued your TRUST certificate. Always carry this certificate on your person when flying your drone recreationally.
Take care not to lose it, as then you would have to take the TRUST exam again. Otherwise, the TRUST certificate never expires.
Commercial Drone Pilots #
That brings us to commercial drone pilots, whose UAV activities are also regulated under Montana federal drone law.
As is true with recreational and agency drone pilots, commercial drone pilots must always follow Part 107 rules.
You, too, are required to register any drone in your fleet, as it’s expected that a commercial drone will outweigh 0.55 pounds. The registration still lasts for three years, and the fee is $5.
Under Part 107 rules, commercial drone pilots are required to carry a Remote Pilot Certificate, also known as a Part 107 license.
This certificate proves that you’ve passed the Part 107 exam, FAA’s test for commercial pilots that encompasses all its drone usage rules.
» MORE: FAA Part 107 for Commercial Drone Pilots
If you have yet to take your Part 107 exam, you’re eligible once you turn 16 or older.
You must be deemed mentally and physically proficient enough to fly a drone, and you must have full comprehension of the English language (writing, reading, and speaking).
The Part 107 exam isn’t free to take, but retakes are available if you don’t pass the first time around (for a fee).
We recommend brushing up on your Part 107 knowledge by enrolling in an online drone course.
» MORE: Best Drone Courses Taught by Experts
These courses do cost extra money, but many have money-back guarantees if you don’t pass your Part 107 exam the first time.
Once you pass the exam (by earning a score of at least 70 percent), you’re issued your Remote Pilot Certificate.
This certificate does expire two years from the date it’s issued. To recertify, you have to take the Part 107 exam again, but that can be done online.
» MORE: Renewal of Your Part 107 Certificate – 5 Steps to a Part 107 sUAS Recurrent Certificate
State Drone Laws in Montana #
Let’s switch gears and now look at the state drone laws in Montana.
SB 196 // 2013 #
The first of these is SB 196, which was passed in 2013.
The law pertains to law enforcement drone usage and thus doesn’t apply to commercial or recreational drone pilots.
According to Section 1 of SB 196, Limitations on unmanned aerial vehicles., law enforcement cannot use drone “information” as evidence in a prosecution unless:
“(a) pursuant to the authority of a search warrant; or
(b) in accordance with judicially recognized exemptions to the warrant requirement.”
Further, “information obtained from the operation of an unmanned aerial vehicle may not be used in an affidavit of probable cause in an effort to obtain a search warrant unless the information was obtained under the circumstances of subsection (1)(a) or (1)(b) or was obtained through the monitoring of public lands or international borders.”
HB 664 // 2017 #
The other Montana state drone law is HB 664, which pertains to the usage of unmanned aerial vehicles during state wildfires.
Drone pilots, according to Section 1. Obstruction of aerial wildfire suppression effort –penalty – exceptions. (1) cannot “obstruct, impede, prevent, or otherwise interfere with a lawful aerial wildfire suppression response by a state or local government effort by any means, including the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle system.”
In Section 2, HB 664 explains that violating Section 1 will lead to a civil penalty “for an amount equivalent to the reasonable costs of obstructing, impeding, preventing, or interfering with an aerial wildfire suppression response effort.”
Government employees are exempt from this rule, as Section 3 explains, but commercial and recreational drone pilots are not.
Does Montana Have Any Local Drone Laws? #
Usually, this is the section where we’d delve into Montana’s local drone laws, which are ordinances and laws created and enforced by local counties, cities, towns, and villages.
However, the state doesn’t have any local laws that we were able to find.
This isn’t terribly uncommon. In some states, the state drone laws might suffice enough that localities don’t have any ordinances of their own.
In other cases, a state simply doesn’t have any local drone laws.
Of course, that’s all that more reason to always follow the federal and state drone laws we’ve covered, as Montanans are granted plenty of freedom when flying their UAVs.
Montana Drone Law FAQs #
What about if you want to fly a drone in a Montana park? None of the federal and state drone laws touched on that. This FAQs section will address all your questions.
Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in Montana? #
Montana’s public parks are a great way to drink in the greenery and majesty of this state while capturing some awesome overhead footage on your drone.
We were not able to find any laws or rules specifying whether drone pilots are outlawed from flying in public parks.
Thus, we’d assume that you are indeed allowed to launch, land, and use a drone in a Montana public park.
However, it’s always best to contact the local parks and rec association and ask about any existing drone policies.
Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in Montana? #
Montana’s state parks attract huge crowds, and rightfully so.
From Lake Elmo State Park to the Thompson Falls State Recreation Area, Spring Meadow State Park, Lone Pine State Park, and so many others, there is so much beauty in this state.
Can you enter any of these and other state parks with your drone in tow?
The Montana State Parks and Recreation Board in association with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks put together a document called Montana State Parks Public Use Rules.
According to 12.8.816, Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Model Aircraft, (1), the answer is usually no.
Here is the rule in full: “Launching or operating an unmanned aircraft system, drone, or model aircraft from a state park is prohibited unless:
Use is authorized by a commercial use or special use permit; or
Use occurs within an area specifically designated for such use by the park manager.”
Montana is a beautiful northern state teeming with wildlife and natural wonders.
You’re welcome to explore these wonders with your drone if you follow the federal and state drone rules as well as the state parks policy.
Good luck and happy flying!