City, Lifestyle

Here’s the scoop on NC drone laws

Photo by Mark Falkner @mfdroneproductions

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. These days, it could be a drone i.e. an unmanned aerial vehicle, also called an unmanned aircraft system. More drones are popping up in the skies around town and, as a result, more photographers are getting killer shots of local landmarks using the tech. 

Did you know drones have been taking off in the commercial + recreational markets over the last decade? And the trend shows no signs of slowing. 📈

Since drones are still relatively new, we started wondering about NC’s rules + regulations regarding drone use. Here’s what we found out:

When can’t drones be used?

  • To photograph or conduct surveillance of a person or private property without consent. Note: Some exceptions exist for law enforcement + emergency management agencies.
  • Within 500 feet (horizontally) or 250 feet (vertically) of a local, state, or federal correctional facility.
  • To hunt, or to disrupt the lawful taking of wildlife resources.

📝 ProTip: If you’re a recreational flyer (a.k.a. if you fly your drone for fun), you must register your drone and mark it with the registration number (and carry proof of registration). You don’t need a special permit or license. Plus —

  • You must fly the drone no higher than 400 feet above the ground in uncontrolled airspace.
  • Your drone must be in your visual line of sight, or in the line of sight of someone in communication with you.
  • You shouldn’t fly over a person, stadium, public event, or moving vehicle.
  • You shouldn’t fly at night.
  • You cannot interfere with the work of emergency response personnel

Have questions about where you can fly your drone? There’s an app for that (B4UFLY). You can also check Airmap

What else should I keep in mind?

  • You need special permission if you want to use your drone in a state park.
  • Some local governments + national parks have drone restrictions, so always check before you fly. For example, you can’t fly a drone on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but you can fly it nearby, in areas that aren’t under the jurisdiction of the NPS or state parks
  • Indoor flights are under the jurisdiction of building owners, but imagery collected is still subject to state laws.

Planning to operate a drone for commercial purposes (i.e. for compensation or a business)? You’ll need a permit + you must pass a knowledge test and register with the state. Click here to find out more. 🌆 

Follow a few of our favorite local drone photographers:

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