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Drone Laws in Utah

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Home to Zion National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, and ski resorts aplenty, Utah has a lot to offer visitors with drones in tow. Before you launch your UAV around these prestigious landmarks, you want to know the rules.

What are the drone laws in Utah?

Utah has federal and state drone laws but no local laws. Pilots must always obey FAA Part 107 rules per federal law and avoid flying over private property. State law also prohibits drone pilots from chasing or disturbing livestock with their drones.

Of course, with so many drone laws in Utah, we’re just scratching the surface. Make sure you keep reading to learn about every law so you can fly knowing that you’re legally within your right to do so.

Federal Drone Laws in Utah #

The United States government has established federal drone laws in every state in the country, Utah among them.

These laws apply to every type of drone pilot, including recreational, commercial, and government pilots.

Let’s go over the federal drone laws in Utah now. 

Recreational Drone Pilots #

The Federal Aviation Administration requires recreational or hobbyist drone pilots to follow Part 107 rules whenever they operate their drones under Utah federal law.

The FAA has further requirements for you hobbyists out there. For instance, you need to carry a license known as the TRUST certificate.

TRUST is short for The Recreational UAS Safety Test, which is just the exam you need to take if you have yet to obtain your TRUST certificate. Don’t fly your drone without this cert.

The TRUST exam will quiz you on various aspects of the FAA Part 107 rules across more than 20 multiple-choice questions.

If you find that your nerves are getting the better of you when taking the exam, try to take a deep breath. This free online exam shows your wrong answers as you complete the test.

You’re free to go back and change any incorrect answer for a perfect score.

Soon thereafter, you’ll be issued your TRUST certificate, which won’t ever expire. Just keep it handy and it’s yours for life.

You may have to register your drone as a hobbyist, which you would do through the FAA. However, the FAA only requires drone registration for UAVs that are 0.55 pounds or heavier.

Commercial Drone Pilots #

According to Utah federal drone law, commercial drone pilots are beholden to FAA Part 107 rules as well.

Per Part 107 rules, a commercial drone pilot must always carry a Remote Pilot Certificate to prove their commercial status.

What if you don’t have a Remote Pilot Certificate? Well, you shouldn’t fly your drone until you do.

Instead, you should prioritize registering for the Part 107 exam, which is the commercial drone pilot test issued by the FAA.

» MORE: FAA Part 107 for Commercial Drone Pilots

The Part 107 exam is nowhere near as easy as the TRUST test. Rather than loosely know the Part 107 rules, you need to have them ingrained in your head forward, backward, up, down, and sideways.

Studying up is a surefire way to pass, so you might want to check out some online drone courses ahead of taking the Part 107 exam.

» MORE: Best Drone Courses Taught by Experts

Keep in mind that the exam is not free to take, and for each retest, you’d have to pay a fee as well.

You’re given two and a half hours to answer more than 50 multiple-choice questions at a testing center. You need to score 70 percent or higher to pass.

Your Remote Pilot Certificate will be good for the next two years. To keep it current, you can take the FAA’s new recertification exam.

» MORE: Renewal of Your Part 107 Certificate

It used to be that you had to retake the Part 107 exam. Now you just have to pass a free, short online test that you can take from the comfort of your own home.

As was the case with the TRUST exam, on your recertification exam, you can see wrong answers and go back and correct them before submitting the test.

We would highly recommend you do so, as you need a score of 100 percent to recertify.

You’ll also have to register your drone with the FAA before flying.

Agency Drone Pilots #

Federal drone law also applies to Utah government employees like those in the fire department or law enforcement.

Agency drone pilots need a Certificate of Authorization or to follow Part 107 rules.

State Drone Laws in Utah #

Next, let’s go over the vast array of Utah state drone laws.

76-6-2-206(2)(A) // 2017 #

The first of these is 76-6-2-206(2)(A), which is also known as Title 76 of the Utah Criminal Code.

In Chapter 6, Offenses Against Property, Part 2, Burglary and Criminal Trespass, Section 206 Criminal trespass (2), the law makes it clear that “A person is guilty of criminal trespass if, under circumstances not amounting to burglary as defined in Section 76-6-202, 76-6-203, or 76-6-204 or a violation of Section 76-10-2402 regarding criminal obstruction:

  • The person enters or remains unlawfully on or causes an unmanned aircraft to enter and remain unlawfully over property and:
  • Intends to cause annoyance or injury to any person or damage to any property, including the use of graffiti as defined in Section 76-6-107;
  • Intends to commit any crime, other than theft or a felony; or
  • Is reckless as to whether the person’s or unmanned aircraft’s presence will cause fear for the safety of another;
  • Knowing the person’s or unmanned aircraft’s entry or presence is unlawful, the person enters or remains on or causes an unmanned aircraft to enter or remain unlawfully over property to which notice against entering is given by:
  • Personal communication to the person by the owner or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner;
  • Fencing or other enclosure obviously designed to exclude intruders, or;
  • Posting of signs reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders; or
  • The person enters a condominium unit in violation of Subsection 57-8-7(8).

If you violate Subsection (2)(a) or (b), then you could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.

A Class B misdemeanor in Utah could mean getting slapped with a fine of $1,000 at most and a six-month sentence in county jail.

65A-3-2.5 #

65A-3-2.5 is also referred to as Title 65A, Forestry, Fire, and State Lands.

In Chapter 3, Illegal Activities on State Lands and Wildland Fire Liability, Section 2.5, Wildland fire and unmanned aircraft, (2), the law is as follows:

“A person may not operate an unmanned aircraft system in a manner that causes an unmanned aircraft to fly within an area that is under a temporary flight restriction that is used by the Federal Aviation Administration as a result of the wildland fire, or an area designated as a wildland fire scene on a system managed by a federal, state, or local government…unless the person operates the unmanned aircraft system with the permission of, and in accordance with the restrictions established by, the incident commander.”

Exceptions do exist for government employees and officials to use a drone per the terms in Section 2.5 (2), but not for commercial or recreational drone pilots.

Should you disobey the rules set forth in 65A-3-2.5, then you could be punished with a Class B misdemeanor. The law makes it clear that the fine would be heftier than $1,000 and could be between $2,500 and $5,000.

The latter charge only applies if your drone causes an aircraft helping in fire stoppage to drop fire retardant or water in an unintended location, or if you stop the aircraft from being able to launch.

Should your drone collide with the manned aircraft, then you could be looking at an even steeper punishment still. That would count as a third-degree felony with fines of $10,000.

If your drone were to make the manned aircraft crash, that’s a second-degree felony with an accompanying fine of $15,000.

On top of that, “A judge may require a person convicted of a violation under Subsection (3) to pay restitution in an amount equal to damages resulting from the violation, including damages to person or property, the costs of a flight, or any loss of fire retardant.”

That could get quite expensive!  

SB 196 // 2014 #

2014’s SB 196 establishes that law enforcement officials must have a warrant if they want to use a drone where someone “has a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

SB 167 // 2014 #

Designed to regulate drones, SB 167, also passed in 2014, adds a chapter called the Government Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Act.

According to that act, law enforcement cannot use or receive data that they get through an unmanned aerial vehicle unless they do so according to the terms of a search warrant and “in accordance with judicially recognized exceptions to warrant requirements.”

Nongovernment actors can only disclose drone-collected data to law enforcement in these circumstances:

  • “the data appears to pertain to the commission of a crime; or
  • The nongovernment actor believes, in good faith that: The data pertains to an imminent or ongoing emergency involving danger or death or serious bodily injury to an individual; and disclosing the data would assist in remedying the emergency.”

If law enforcement is permitted to use drone data, they cannot do so around a “person, structure, or area that is not a target.”

They also have to destroy the data unless “deleting the data would also require the deletion of data that: relates to the target of the operation; and is requisite for the success of the operation” or if they get the data “through a court order that…prohibits the destruction of the data.”

If law enforcement receives drone data from a nongovernment actor and the data “appears to pertain to the commission of a crime” or an emergency situation, then the data doesn’t have to be deleted either.

That also applies if the data “was collected through the operation of an unmanned aerial vehicle over public lands outside of municipal boundaries.”

HB 296 // 2015 #

As an amendment to Title 63G, Chapter 18, Government Use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Act, HB 296 was drafted into law in 2015.

According to 63G-18-103. Unmanned aircraft system use requirements – Exceptions – Testing., (1):

“A law enforcement agency may not obtain, receive, or use data acquired through an unmanned aircraft system unless the data is obtained:

  • Pursuant to a search warrant;
  • In accordance with judicially recognized exceptions to warrant requirements;
  • Subject to Subsection (2), from a person who is a nongovernment actor;
  • At a testing site; or
  • To locate a lost or missing person in an area in which a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

SB 111 // 2017 #

The 2017 Utah state drone law SB 111 makes a lot of amendments to prior drone laws.

Unmanned aerial systems are now exempted from aircraft registration and local registration.

Law enforcement “may not obtain, receive, or use data acquired through an unmanned aircraft system unless the data is obtained: pursuant to a search warrant; in accordance with judicially SB 111 recognized exceptions to warrant requirements; …from a person who is a nongovernment actor; to locate a lost or missing person in an area in which a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy; or for purposes unrelated to a criminal investigation.”

Per SB 111, if you fly a drone that has a weapon attached to it or is carrying a weapon, you will be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.

Rules are also established for safely flying a drone and are as follows:

  • “(a) maintain visual line of sight of the unmanned aircraft in order to:
  • (i) know the location of the unmanned aircraft;
  • (ii) determine the attitude, altitude, and direction of flight;
  • (iii) observe the airspace for other air traffic or hazards; and
  • (iv) determine that the unmanned aircraft does not endanger the life or property of another person
  • (b) ensure that the ability described in Subsection (2)(a)(i) is exercised by either:
  • (i) the operator of the unmanned aircraft; or
  • (ii) a visual observer.
  • (3) An individual may not operate an unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless the operator of the unmanned aircraft has prior authorization from air traffic control.
  • (4) An individual may not operate an unmanned aircraft in a manner that interferes with operations and traffic patterns at any airport, heliport, or seaplane base.
  • (5) An individual may not operate an unmanned aircraft system:
  • (a) from a public transit rail platform or station; or
  • (b) (i) under a height of 50 feet within a public transit fixed guideway right-of-way; and
  • (ii) directly above any overhead electric lines used to power a public transit rail vehicle.
  • (6) An individual may not operate an unmanned aircraft in violation of a notice to airmen described in 14 C.F.R. Sec. 107.47.
  •  (7) An individual may not operate an unmanned aircraft at an altitude that is higher than 400 feet above ground level unless the unmanned aircraft:
  •  (a) is flown within a 400-foot radius of a structure; and
  •  (b) does not fly higher than 400 feet above the structure’s immediate uppermost limit.
  • (8) (a) An individual who violates this section is liable for any damages that may result from the violation.
  • (b) A law enforcement officer shall issue a written warning to an individual who violates this section who has not previously received a written warning for a violation of this section.”

Continual violations of the rules can result in a Class B misdemeanor charge.

Finally, SB 111 makes it clear that if someone is using a drone for educational or commercial purposes and following FAA rules that even though the crime would normally constitute a privacy violation, in this case, it would not be one.

HB 217 // 2017 #

Then there’s HB 217, Livestock Harassment.

According to Section 2, “…a person is guilty of harassment of livestock if the person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly chases, with the intent of causing distress, or harms livestock through the use of:

  • (a) a motorized vehicle or all-terrain vehicle;
  • (b) a dog; or
  • (c) an unmanned aircraft system.”

This does not apply to those who own the livestock, their employees or agents, or someone “acting in an emergency situation to prevent damage to the livestock or property.”

Does Utah Have Any Local Drone Laws? #

Some states employ local drone laws according to the cities, towns, villages, and counties throughout that state. These localities will create ordinances and laws to prohibit certain usages of drones.

Utah does not have any local drone laws that we were able to find. With the sheer multitude of state drone laws though, Utah has its bases covered as far as drone regulations go.

Utah Drone Law FAQs #

Before we wrap up, we want to present this FAQs section so you can stay in the clear when flying your drone in and around a park in Utah.

Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in Utah? #

As we touched on in the intro, Utah has its fair share of public parks and monuments, many of which we’re sure you’re quite eager to visit.

We could not find any laws pertaining to public parks specifically, and since none of the laws covered throughout this guide say otherwise, it should be safe to fly in a public park.

That said, you should get in touch with the parks and rec association to be sure. You also must follow FAA Part 107 rules when flying.

Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in Utah? #

The unmatched magnificence of Utah state parks is why so many people come here.

From Sand Hollow State Park to Echo State Park, Snow Canyon State Park, Utah Lake State Park, Quail Creek State Park, and Deer Creek State Park, all are worth experiencing for yourself if you get the chance.

Some state parks do permit drone flight while others do not.

Here’s a list of the parks that welcome drones:

  • Sand Hollow State Park
  • Fred Hayes State Park
  • Wasatch Mountain State Park
  • Jordanelle State Park

Drone use is for recreational purposes only.

You can fly a drone at the Great Salt Lake State Park, but only with a permit.

Between March and October, you cannot fly a drone at Dead Horse Point State Park, but you can between November and February.

However, you must have paid a $10 fee, received a permit, and stay within the allocated zones.

Between March and November, you cannot fly a drone at Antelope Island State Park, but you can between December and February. You need a recreational drone permit and must stay within the designated zone.

If you have questions about a different state park in Utah and its drone policy, we recommend contacting the park and asking.

Conclusion #

Utah has many drone laws for pilots, especially federally and statewide. Don’t forget to double-check the rules when flying at a state or public park, as drone policies vary widely!

References:Utah Code Section 76-6-206 (link)65A-3-2.5 (link)SB 167 (link)HB 296 (link)SB 111 (link)HB 217 (link)


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