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Aviation and Spaceports Office

Aviation and Spaceports Office / More Resources / Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

Aviation and Spaceports Office


An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is an unmanned aircraft (UA) with associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications, and navigation equipment necessary to operate it. A UA is considered an aircraft under both 49 U.S.C. § 40102 and 14 C.F.R. § 1.1. Currently, both the Federal Government and the State of Florida have established regulations for UAS operation – using US codes and federal regulations on the federal level and by statute on the state level. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has focused primarily on safety while State of Florida statutes focus on the appropriate use of UAS and the protection of privacy. While the FAA and Florida have major roles in providing guidance and regulation for UAS operations and management, it is important to note that other users also play important roles. As such, airports, law enforcement, pilots, and the UAS operators also have important responsibilities in the safe and appropriate operation of UAS within the National Airspace System (NAS).

The following sections provide an overview of the various regulations and responsibilities as they relate to each UAS operations entity.

UAS Brochure

FDOT Aviation and Spaceports has developed an informational brochure to assist airports, UAS operators, the public, pilots, and law enforcements in increasing their knowledge of roles, responsibilities, and guidance related to UAS operations. Click HERE to download the UAS brochure.

FAA’s B4UFLY Smartphone Application

The FAA recently released their B4UFLY smartphone application which is designed to provide UAS operators with guidance and planning resources to improve coordination between UAS operations and airports – both public and private use – throughout the country. The application can be downloaded at http://www.faa.gov/uas/b4ufly/.

Federal Laws

The FAA is responsible for the safe and efficient movement of aircraft in the air and on the ground. Per the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the FAA is amending its regulations to adopt specific rules for the operation of UAS into the NAS. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations hopes to allow for the effective regulation of UAS within the NAS. Regardless of the type of UAS operation, FAA’s regulations and Federal Codes prohibit any conduct that endangers individuals and property within the NAS. Specifically these guidelines:

  • Require the FAA to regulate aircraft and UAS operations in the NAS (49 U.S.C. § 40103)
  • Authorize government public safety agencies to operate UAS under certain restrictions (FAA: A.C.001.1-A)
  • Ban all unmanned aircraft and remote control aircraft operations within three miles and up to 3,000 feet in altitude from all major sporting events as detailed in the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) 4/3621. It should be noted that NOTAMs apply to UAS operators. (FAA: NOTAM 4/3621)

The FAA differentiates between three categories of UAS operations, their requirements, and restrictions:

  1. Public (governmental): Entities that include publically funded universities, law enforcement, fire departments, etc.

    • FAA issues a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) that permits organizations to operate a particular aircraft, for a particular purpose, in a particular area.
  2. Civil (non-governmental): Any commercial use of UAS in connection with a business. The two methods of attaining FAA authorization for civil use are:
    • A grant of exemptions in accordance with Section 333 and a COA

    • Special Airworthiness Certificate; FAA will assess the risk and determine authorization approval
  3. Model Aircraft (hobby or recreational): Operations are for hobby or recreational use only. Recreational UAS operation must adhere to:
    • Aviation Circular 91-57A and Public Law 112-95

Federal UAS Operator Guidance

UAS operators are encouraged to be familiar with the Know Before You Fly Campaign and must ensure the following:

  • The safe operation of their UAS at all times both in the sky and on the ground;
  • Their UAS remains clear of all aircraft, people, and structures at all times; and
  • To adhere to airspace, aircraft operations, and privacy laws at all times.

The following federal guidelines are provided for operators of UAS:

  • All drones must be registered with the FAA.
  • Operate UAS within visual sight at all times (Section 334, P.L. 112-25)

    • Operate UAS no higher than 400 feet and remain below surrounding obstacles

  • Contact the airport or air traffic control tower before flying within five miles of an airport; (FAA: A.C. 91-57A; Section 336, P.L. 112-25)

  • Do not operate a UAS:

    • If it is uncertified and weighs more than 55 lbs. (FAA: A.C. 91-57A; Section 336, P.L. 112-25)

    • Near or over sensitive infrastructure, (e.g., power stations, correctional facilities, public roadways, etc.) NOTAMs should be consulted for facility-specific flight restrictions. (FAA: A.C. 91-57A; Section 336, P.L. 112-25)

    • In adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility (Know Before You Fly)

    • Under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Know Before You Fly)

State Regulations

FDOT regulates airports, promotes their development, and protects the approaches to Florida’s aviation facilities by Florida Statute (F.S.). Independent of FDOT, UAS operator rules are provided in Chapter 934.50, F.S., and regulate law enforcement, civil, business, and personal uses, as well as the liabilities associated with them.

Specifically, Chapter 934.50(3), F.S., prohibits the use of UAS for the following purposes:

  • Use of UAS by law enforcement to gather evidence or other information (934.50(3)(a), F.S.)

  • Use of UAS to conduct surveillance of privately owned real property or the owner (934.50(3)(b), F.S.)

Additionally, under Chapter 934.50(4), F.S., UAS are allowed for the following uses:

  • To counter a terrorist threat (934.50(4)(a), F.S.)

  • Law enforcement activity with a warrant (934.50(4)(b), F.S.)

  • For law enforcement in particular circumstances when swift action is needed (934.50(4)(c), F.S.)

  • A business or profession may use a drone to conduct reasonable tasks within the scope of that business’ license (934.50(4)(d), F.S.)

  • For property appraisals (934.50(4)(e), F.S.)

  • To capture images of electric, water, or natural gas facilities (934.50(4)(f), F.S.)

  • For aerial mapping in compliance with FAA regulations (934.50(4)(g), F.S.)

  • To deliver cargo in compliance with FAA regulations (934.50(4)(h), F.S.)

  • To capture images necessary for the safe operation or navigation of a UAS, when used for purposes allowed under federal and Florida law (934.50(4)(i), F.S.)

Chapter 934.50 of Florida Statutes can be viewed HERE.

Airport’s Responsibility

An airport is responsible for ensuring the safety of airport facilities and for managing airport lands, buildings, and infrastructure. Airports should understand the rules and regulations related to UAS operations at and in the vicinity of their airport and coordinate with the FAA and FDOT to ensure the safety of airport operations. Airports should notify local law enforcement and the FAA in the event of an unauthorized UAS is used in close proximity to the airport.

Local Law Enforcement’s Responsibility

Local law enforcement is responsible for enforcing the laws and regulations as they relate to UAS operation. Enforcement is limited to the legal boundaries of each law enforcement agency. If a UAS operator is suspected of breaking FAA regulations, local Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) are encouraged to conduct interviews, document the scene, collect any evidence, and notify the appropriate FAA Regional Operation Center. In addition to federal regulation, LEAs should be familiar with state (934.50, F.S.) and local regulations that may pertain to UAS operation within their jurisdiction.

Pilot’s Responsibility

Pilots are in charge of operating aircraft in a safe manner and are ultimately responsible for the route and operation of aircraft in the sky and on the ground. Pilots should understand the rules and regulations of UAS and report any improper use or operation. Please utilize the FAA’s “I Fly Safe” UAS safety checklist here.

Community Responsibility

The community should understand the rules and regulations regarding airports and aircraft. Knowing the roles and responsibilities of those involved in aviation (the FAA, the airports, airlines, pilots, etc.) and how to contact the appropriate entity will help ensure the safe and effective operations of UAS. Community members should know the locations of airports in their area and report any suspicious activity to the appropriate agencies.

The 2015 FDOT Airport Directory lists the owner, manager, and contact information for all public and private use facilities in Florida. The link to download the Directory is here. A map of Florida’s public use aviation facilities can be found here.

A map of Florida’s aviation facilities can be found at http://www.fdot.gov/aviation/facilitymap.shtm.

Helpful Contact Information

FAA Southern Regional Operation Center

(ROC): (404) 305-5180 or 9-ASO-ROC@faa.gov

FAA Flight Standards Districts Offices

(service areas can be identified here):

  • South Florida: (954) 641-6000

  • Orlando: (407) 812-7700

  • Tampa: (813) 287-4900

  • NW Florida (panhandle west of and including Gulf, Calhoun, and Jackson Counties): (205) 876-1300

FAA’s Law Enforcement Assistance Program Office

(202) 267-4641 or (202) 267-9411

FDOT Aviation and Spaceports Central Office:

(850) 414-4500

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Regional Offices: here.

Resources/Useful Links


Federal Regulations, Laws, and Guidance

Other Resources

Safety, Security, and Law Enforcement

You may contact the Aviation System Manager for additional information.