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Washington is the home of the Space Needle and Microsoft as well as stunning Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park (and yes, it’s different from Washington, DC!).
If you’re thinking of flying your drone here, what laws do you need to know first?
Washington has federal, state, and local drone laws for pilots to follow. Pilots must always fly according to FAA rules. State laws require permission when flying in parks while local laws outlaw drones in some cities and towns.
Today’s guide will take you through each and every Washington drone law so you can prepare accordingly ahead of your flight.
Make sure you keep reading!
Federal Drone Laws in Washington #
Let’s begin by reviewing Washington’s federal drone laws.
These laws, like every collection of federal drone laws in the United States, are mandated by the country’s government.
Commercial, recreational, and agency drone pilots must abide by these laws as follows.
Commercial Drone Pilots #
Washington’s federal drone law requires commercial pilots to fly according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules.
Following Part 107 rules means that a commercial pilot always carries a Remote Pilot Certificate when flying.
Those who don’t have a Remote Pilot Certificate will have to take the FAA’s commercial pilot test, which is known as the Part 107 exam.
» MORE: FAA Part 107 for Commercial Drone Pilots
The Part 107 exam is a multiple-choice sit-down exam with 60 questions in all. You must pay to take the exam, which you’ll do at a testing center on the FAA’s pre-approved list.
You’re given two and a half hours to complete all the questions, and each question has three answers to choose from.
You’ll have to score at least 70 percent to pass. If you don’t pass the first time around, you can pay for a retake exam.
Many aspiring commercial pilots will enroll in an online drone course with exam prep ahead of taking the FAA exam.
If you’re thinking of doing the same, we’ve reviewed the top online drone courses here.
» MORE: Best Drone Courses Taught by Experts
Once you pass, you’ll receive your Remote Pilot Certificate in the mail. It’s not forever though, as the Remote Pilot Certificate expires in two years.
Should you decide at that time that you’d like to recertify, then you can take the FAA’s commercial renewal exam.
» MORE: Renewal of Your Part 107 Certificate
This online recertification exam is much shorter than the Part 107 exam, and even better, it’s free!
You need to answer every question correctly, but you’ll be able to go back and change your wrong answers before submitting your test.
Before you’re ready for the skies, be sure to register your commercial drone through the FAA.
Agency Drone Pilots #
Government employees such as Washington fire departments or law enforcement are considered agency pilots.
As an agency pilot, you need to follow Part 107 rules or have a Certificate of Authorization or COA.
Recreational Drone Pilots #
Hobbyist pilots are also beholden to FAA Part 107 rules according to Washington federal drone law.
Under the FAA, you too are required to carry a special license, but yours is called the TRUST license.
TRUST is a handy acronym that stands for The Recreational UAS Safety Test. This is the FAA’s exam for recreational pilots such as yourself.
You can take the TRUST exam anywhere you have a stable Internet connection. The exam is over 20 questions long, and all questions are multiple-choice with three possible answers.
If you get an answer wrong, you’ll see it right away. You can also change your answer before you move on to the next question.
The TRUST certificate is good for life, so once you have it, you never have to worry about retesting unless you were to lose your license.
Hobbyists flying drones that are 0.55 pounds and up must register them through the FAA. The registration terms are three years.
State Drone Laws in Washington #
Next, let’s go over Washington’s state drone laws.
Flying Drones in State Parks – WAC 352-32-130 #
WAC 352-32-130 is a law pertaining to flying drones in Washington state parks, an activity that is banned except in certain areas.
In Section (1), the law as full reads: “No aircraft shall land on or take off from any body of water or land area in a state park not specifically designated for landing aircraft.”
The exceptions to that section include the use of drones for firefighting, emergency evacuations, law enforcement activities, medical emergencies, and search and rescue missions.
If a pilot has written permission from a designee or director “associated with the operational, or administrative needs of the agency or state,” then regardless of if they fit into the descriptions above, drone flight is allowed.
Register Your Commercial Drone #
From April 1, 2022 onward, the Washington State Department of Transportation or WS DOT now requires commercial pilots to register with the Aviation Division as well as with the FAA.
You’ll have to use the Secure Access Washington or SAW website to create an account and then apply for registration.
Any aircraft “registered under the laws of a foreign country,” as well as aircraft “owned by an academic institution” or “government or local government that is not engaged in the operations or the carriage of property for commercial purposes” need not register.
Recreational pilots can also skip this additional registration.
Local Drone Laws in Washington #
Washington has a slew of local drone laws in popular areas such as Seattle, Bellevue, and Olympia. Here’s what you need to know.
Pierce County – Municipal Law // 2013 #
In Pierce County, the 2013 municipal law prohibits both law enforcement agencies and county departments from using drones for the collection of evidence and data for any criminal activity unless state and/or federal law allows it.
City of Seattle Film Permit Requirement // 2017 #
Commercial drone pilots in the Seattle area, this one is for you.
The City of Seattle Film Permit Requirement through the Office of Film and Music mandates that commercial pilots have a City of Seattle Master Film Permit in some cases.
The link to apply for the permit is here.
So when do you need a City of Seattle Master Film Permit? If your drone will “require control of city property,” such as holding up pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic, and if you’ll use your drone to launch or land on city-owned property like parks, buildings, sidewalks, or streets, you must have a permit.
If you keep your drone use exclusive to private property, including launching and landing from private property, then you needn’t obtain a permit. That’s also the case if you’re using a drone for construction or real estate.
The City of Seattle Master Film permit is not free. You’ll pay $25 for each day of use even if you film in several locations in a day.
You need to apply for the permit at least 10 days in advance if you want to have it processed in time.
You may also need a Certificate of Insurance and Additional Endorsement.
City of Seattle – Municipal Law // 2017 #
Seattle also has a municipal law that was passed in 2017. Here’s that law for you in full:
“City law prohibits drones and other remote-controlled aircraft in parks. Drones have injured people by crashing into them and alarmed people by nearly crashing into them. Drones have annoyed people with their noise, and people have expressed privacy concerns about drone use. Drones have also harmed wildlife, in at least one instance causing an osprey to abandon the eggs in its nest.”
Whether you agree with those views on drones or not, the rules are the rules.
Snohomish County Parks & Rec – Park Code 22.16.080 // 1998 #
In Snohomish County, Park Code 22.16.080 has been enforced since 1998.
Per the law, “No person shall operate any radio/remote controlled unmanned aircraft or self propelled model airplane, glider, car, boat or any model rocket within a county park except in areas specifically designated by the parks division and posted for such use.”
Bellevue Parks & Rec – Acceptable Drone Flying Sites // 2018 #
In Bellevue, you are allowed to fly your drone, but only in certain locations as established by the City of Bellevue’s Park & Community Services.
Those locations are as follows:
- 60 Acres Park (although you will have to complete a field request to ensure your availability)
- Marymoor Park Airfield
Olympia/Thurston County – WAC 200-250-030 // 2016 #
In Thurston County and Olympia, WAC 200-250-030 makes it clear that using a drone is outlawed.
Here is what the law states: “Launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters within the boundaries of the state capitol campus is prohibited except for the exclusions listed under WAC 200-250-040.”
What are those exclusions, you ask?
Emergency fire response operations, emergency law enforcement, national defense activities, “activities necessary for the care and custody of the state capitol campus when those activities have prior written approval by the director,” and “other operations designed to support responses to health and human safety emergencies such as search and rescue, health and environmental incidents” are all exempt.
Kitsap County – Launch Notification // 2019 #
In Kitsap County, the drone regulations now require that any pilot who plans to land or launch a drone in certain areas around the county contact the Navy via this form.
The locations include the Naval Hospital, Manchester Fuel Depot, Bremerton, Keyport, and Bangor bases.
Once you fill out a form and get it approved, its validity is only for the next 12 hours.
Washington Drone Law FAQs #
Are there still a few areas of the law that could use some clearing up for you? Fortunately, we’ve put together this useful FAQs section!
Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in Washington? #
Not every park throughout Washington is a state park, per se. Yet per the local laws above, if a city, town, or county prohibits the use of drones from launching or landing in a public park, then you should avoid using your drone in that airspace.
For drones in other counties and communities not mentioned in the section above, be sure to contact the parks and rec association to ask if you can fly.
Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in Washington? #
As for Washington’s state park drone policy, we discussed it earlier in this guide. Unless you’re flying in a specific area or you have a permit, then you cannot fly your drone in a state park.
Washington state has some rather strict drone laws designed to reduce risk to local wildlife, the general public, and state infrastructure. Now that you know the full extent of these laws, you can fly safer in Washington!
References:WAC 352-32-130 (link)Washington State Department of Transportation (link)City of Seattle Film Permit Requirement (link)Seattle municipal law (link)Snohomish County Park Code 22.16.080 (link)City of Bellevue (link)WAC 200-250-030 (link)Kitsap County drone regulations (link)