Drone Licensing: Requirements Listed By State

Rashida Beal |

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have become a prevalent and transformative technology in various industries. 

Drones offer incredible functionality for both recreational and commercial use. Photographers, videographers, government agencies, and more all leverage UAVs. 

However, with great power comes great responsibility, and that’s where drone licensing enters the picture. 

In this article, we’ll explore the significance of drone licensing and a state-by-state licensing guide. 

State-by-State Licensing Guide

Drone licensing requirements can vary from state to state. To assist operators in navigating this complex landscape, we created a state-by-state licensing guide. 

This guide provides a comprehensive overview of the specific licensing regulations and procedures for each state, helping drone operators understand what’s expected of them based on their geographical location.




















Importance of Licensing: Safety, Privacy, and Standardized Operations

Importance of Drone Licensing

Drone licensing serves as a crucial framework to ensure the safety of both operators and the general public. By setting certain standards and guidelines, licensing helps prevent accidents and potential collisions with other aircraft or people on the ground. 

It promotes responsible drone usage, protecting people’s privacy by regulating where and when drones can be flown. Additionally, standardized licensing procedures streamline operations, ensuring a more organized and manageable airspace for everyone.

FAA’s Role in Drone Licensing

FAA's Role in Drone Licensing

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plays a central role in drone licensing in the United States. Their foundational guidelines dictate the rules that all drone operators must adhere to. 

The FAA is part of the US Department of Transportation. Its job is to oversee civil aviation throughout the country. They develop laws and regulations for the National Airspace System. Therefore, they craft the national drone licensing requirements. However, individual states may also craft their own licensing requirements. That’s why it’s critical to also check the state drone laws in your location.  

States Department of Transportation responsible for the regulation and oversight of civil aviation within the U.S., as well as operation and development of the National Airspace System.

For commercial drone operations, the FAA offers the Part 107 certification. This certification entails passing an exam that covers various aspects of drone operation, airspace regulations, and safety protocols. It’s important to note that while the FAA provides federal guidelines, states can also implement their own specific requirements for drone licensing.

Recreational vs Commercial Drone Licenses

Recreational vs Commercial Drone

Drones are often categorized into two main groups: recreational and commercial. Recreational drone operators fly drones for fun and personal use. Commercial operators use drones for business purposes, including aerial photography, inspections, or surveying.

The FAA’s Part 107 certification specifically targets commercial drone pilots, ensuring they possess the necessary skills and knowledge to operate drones safely and responsibly. Commercial drone pilots must obtain the Remote Pilot Certificate

For recreational users, there are still guidelines in place. However, recreational drone pilots may not require the same level of licensing as commercial operators. Recreational drone operators must still register their drones with the FAA and pass the TRUST exam

Benefits of Proper Licensing

Obtaining the proper drone license offers numerous benefits. 

  • It ensures that operators are well-versed in aviation regulations, airspace restrictions, and safety protocols, reducing the likelihood of accidents.
  • Properly licensed operators are more likely to fly their drones responsibly, respecting privacy boundaries and adhering to designated flying areas. 
  • Additionally, a licensed operator is more likely to be trusted by potential clients for commercial endeavors. 

Challenges of Drone Licensing

Getting a drone license is essential, but there can be challenges along the way. The certification process requires significant time and effort to study and prepare for the exam. Additionally, staying up-to-date with changing regulations can be demanding. However, these challenges are a small price to pay for the enhanced safety, legal compliance, and increased opportunities that come with proper licensing.

Training for Drone License

The FAA requires aspiring commercial drone operators to complete the Part 107 exam. This exam assesses knowledge in:

  • airspace classification
  • weather patterns
  • emergency procedures
  • flight regulations. 

Adequate preparation for this exam is crucial. Numerous online resources are available to help candidates prepare effectively including:

Frequently Asked Questions

What license do you need for a drone?

Commercial drone operators need to register their drones with the FAA and earn a Remote Pilot Certificate. Recreational drone pilots also need to register their drones and may need to follow specific guidelines depending on the state.

What is the largest drone you can fly without a license?

You must register any drone weighing between .55 lbs and 55 lbs with the FAA. Drones under 0.55 pounds (250 grams) generally have fewer regulatory requirements for recreational use.

Can I fly my drone over 400 feet?

Generally, no you cannot fly a drone over 400 feet. FAA regulations limit drone flights to a maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level unless you have special permission. 

What happens if I don’t register my drone with the FAA?

Failing to register your drone can result in legal consequences, including fines. Registration ensures accountability and responsible drone ownership.
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Rashida is a self-proclaimed gear-head and technical writer. Through her work, Rashida aims to highlight the limitless possibilities of drones in fields like photography, search & rescue, and environmental monitoring. When she's not writing, she travels the world playing women's soccer at a professional level.