Washington State Drone Laws: All of Your Questions Answered!

This article will help you better understand the rules you need to follow when you fly your drone in Washington.
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Last updatedLast updated: August 18, 2022
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To fly a drone in Washington, you must fulfill all the federal government’s requirements, including passing a knowledge test. You must also abide by the drone laws specific to Washington State and her counties. Once you have learned all the rules of the Washington skies and passed the test, the next step is to register your drone and start flying. Although Washington State drone laws are a bit strict as compared to most other states, it all boils down to ensuring the safety of pilots and residents. Let’s talk about the rules for flying drones in Washington State but before that, note that this article is for informational purposes and therefore cannot act as legal counsel. It’s up to you, the drone owner, to research more about where it is or is not legal to fly drones in Washington.

Who Regulates Drone Use in Washington State?

To avert the risk of conflict between the federal government and individual States as far as drone laws are concerned, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was established to control navigation in the United States’ airspace. So, it’s the work of the FAA to regulate drone use in Washington.

In Washington and other States, the primary role of the FAA is to ensure an efficient environment for air navigation. Besides, it certifies airmen and enforces rules on the manufacturing, operation, and maintenance of airborne vehicles, including remote-operated aircrafts such as drones.

General Rules for Flying Drones in the State of Washington

Washington State Drone Laws: All of Your Questions Answered!

As we have mentioned, drone operation in the State of Washington is governed by the FAA.

However, Washington’s legislature passed several rules specific to the State of Washington. Here are the highlights:

  • Washington DC is a “no drone” zone: The capital city falls under the Special Flights Rules Area, where all flights are prohibited. Unless you have specific authorization by the FAA, flying a drone or any other unmanned aircraft within this area will land you in problems. It’s understandable that such tough rules are in place because Washington DC, being the capital city of the US, has critical installations such as the White House.
  • Flying drones outside the 15 miles radius from the capital are allowed, but:
    • Drones must not weigh more than 55 lbs
    • A drone must be registered and properly marked
    • Fly below 400 feet and within sight
    • Fly the drone in clear weather
    • Never fly in close proximity to other aircraft

Are Drones Allowed in the State of Washington?

According to federal laws Trusted Source eCFR Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Any operation that the holder of an exemption under section 333 of Public Law 112-95 or 49 U.S.C. 44807 elects to conduct pursuant to the exemption, unless otherwise specified in the exemption. www.ecfr.gov , flying drones for commercial or recreational purposes is allowed, of course, under strict adherence to state drone laws and local drone laws. Federal drone laws apply to all states, while state drone laws and local drone laws are specific to each state.

An example of Washington State drone law is: you cannot fly a drone or any other unmanned aircraft system (UAS) in any state park unless you have written permission from the park director.

Additional Drone Use Laws

Washington drone use laws applied to Washington state as a whole and were created by the Washington State Legislature. They include:

  • Operating (launching, operating, and landing) a drone on land or water bodies within Washington DC and State Capitol Campus is prohibited, except for these exclusions Trusted Source WAC 200-250-040
    The prohibition on launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft on the state capitol campus under WAC 200-250-030 does not apply to emergency law enforcement and fire response operations. apps.leg.wa.gov .
  • UAS may be flown in any state park with the written permission of the park designee. The park director/designee shall specify a time, geographic and elevation restrictions, and other conditions to protect the public, park visitors, and park resources.
  • All drone operations in Washington shall be governed by the FAA’s general laws.

As interesting as it may sound, not all Washington State drone laws apply to all regions, counties, and cities in the state. These laws are created by different authorities in individual regions within Washington State.

  • Freedom from unwarranted surveillance. The law applied to Pierce County, where county agencies and departments are prohibited from operating drones to gather information on criminal activities in the county, unless under special circumstances authorized by Washington State laws or federal laws.
  • No photography in Seattle parks: According to Seattle City Trusted Source Drones and rockets prohibited at City parks - Parkways 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. parkways.seattle.gov , drone photography and videography are prohibited to ensure the safety of the public and wildlife. If you want to film in the city using an unmanned aircraft, you will need a film permit.

Rules in Parks, Recreation and Cultural Preserves

As we’ve mentioned, drone use in Washington parks is allowed but under some conditions. First off, you must obtain written permission from the park director if you want to operate a drone for recreational or commercial purposes in the park. The kind of permit you get entirely depends on the park, your intention, and of course, your agreement with the park director.

If you are a hobbyist, you might want a permit that will allow you to use your drone any day you want. That’s not the case with those who want limited time. If you want to do photography or videography, you need an RC Aircraft Permit. Remember to make your application within 60 days to allow authorities enough time for review.

Bellevue park prohibits drone use, but you may operate your drone in the adjacent Marymoor park. In Snohomish county, drones cannot be used outside the areas prescribed by the park’s authorities.

Additional UAV Laws

As you can see, different regions in Washington State have restrictions specific to them, so it’s always a good idea to check what’s new in your areas.

What to Remember When You Fly Your Drone for Fun?

Looking to fly drones for fun? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Obey state rules: After you have learned all the federal drone laws, check what local authorities say about flying drones. Remember, different states, counties, and cities have different restrictions in place. Also, remember that these laws are constantly changing, so always be updated on new developments.
  • Acquire an excellent drone: A good drone helps you to fly around seamlessly, and you don’t have to constantly worry about crashing. According to most reviews, the best drone so far is the Holy Stone HS110D FPV RC, which, thanks to its 1080P HD camera, helps you to take breathtaking pictures and videos through 120° wide-angle. If you are looking for a good deal on drones, you might need to explore the best drones under $150 to find one that suits you best.
  • Don’t fly close to airplanes: FAA recommends that you stay away from airplanes because they have the right of way in the airspace. If you can, avoid flying near airports. By doing so, you avoid breaking one of the federal drone laws.
  • Don’t disturb people: That you shouldn’t disturb people while pursuing fun is a no-brainer. Drones are notoriously loud, and their buzz can deny you fun and give you a nasty headache instead. Although you cannot make your drone completely quiet, there are a few things you can do to make it quieter, including using larger propellers.
  • Fly within the visual line of sight: Flying within this range means that you will be able to see your drone as it flies around. To achieve this, maintain a flight altitude of 400 ft or less, and avoid any potential obstructions such as high-rise buildings, mountains, trees, clouds, and such.
  • Sell drone footage: Aerial footage gives videos an appealing and professional touch, and the concept has been around for decades now. The good thing about being a licensed drone pilot is that you can have fun flying and still make money by selling the drone footage you record.
  • Don’t drink and fly: operating a drone while you are intoxicated isn’t a safe thing to do. You were flying while sober not only allows you to have situational awareness of the airspace it also lets you fly without unnecessary crashes that may easily damage your drone. It’s all about choosing the recreational activity you like most. So, choose other booze or drones, and you’ll have fun!
  • Have fun: flying drones is more fun, especially when you explore other aspects such as videography and still photography. You might also want to fly the best fixed-wing drones; these are not quadcopters, and they resemble airplanes.

Operating Commercial Drone Services

A lot of people fly drones for business. Whatever your reasons for owning a drone, always remember to follow federal and state laws.

While drones under 55 lbs are allowed to operate commercially in Washington State, it’s important to understand the specific flying laws in your area because different regions have different restrictions.

Here’s how to start operating commercial drone services in Washington:

  • Learning the rules: The first step is to understand the requirements you need to fulfill as a drone pilot or owner. As per Part 107 laws, know where you can or cannot land legally.
  • Passing a knowledge test: After learning the rules of the skies, get an FAA Drone Pilot certification. Remember, you cannot be allowed to fly unmanned aircraft without passing a knowledge test. To qualify to do the test, ensure you are 16 years old and mentally and physically fit.
  • Registering with the FAA: Once you have passed the drone pilot test, proceed to register your drone. It only costs $5 to get a commercial license valid for three years.

Commercial Rules for Parks, Recreation and Cultural Reserves

Although understanding state drone laws is a great starting point, it’s also essential to know local drone laws. Some regions have additional requirements and restrictions, so check them out before flying your drone. More importantly, ensure that:

  • You hold a drone pilot license
  • Your drone is registered FAA
  • Your drone weighs 55 lbs or less because the best lightweight drones give you the freedom to fly without asking for permission every now and then
  • You fly below 400 ft, at 100 mph or below
  • Your drone is within VLOS
  • You give right of way to airplanes and other manned air vehicles

Fortunately, most of these requirements can be waived if you receive an FAA waiver.

Final Thoughts

Now that you are aware of the Washington State drone laws, it’s time to safely fly your drone, whether for recreational or commercial purposes. The best way to avoid fines and such consequences is to simply abide by the laws of the state. These regulations are deliberate measures aimed at ensuring you, your drone, and the public is safe. Regardless of the US state, you are in, getting licensed and learning the local flying laws are the constant factors in drone laws. Above all, remember to acquire drones that can make your flying experience more fun.

References

1.
eCFR Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Any operation that the holder of an exemption under section 333 of Public Law 112-95 or 49 U.S.C. 44807 elects to conduct pursuant to the exemption, unless otherwise specified in the exemption.
2.
WAC 200-250-040
The prohibition on launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft on the state capitol campus under WAC 200-250-030 does not apply to emergency law enforcement and fire response operations.
3.
Drones and rockets prohibited at City parks - Parkways
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.
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