Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Aeronautics and Aviation

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or Drones

Picture of a Drone

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or DronesThis is an image of drone on the Arcola Bridge.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), sometimes called drones, are aircraft without a human pilot onboard. The FAA has defined small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) as UAS that weigh less than 55 pounds including cameras, sensors or cargo.  

UAS are Aircraft

Whether you call them UAS, Drones, Remotely Piloted Vehicles, Autonomous Aircraft, or Model Aircraft, they are all aircraft. All aircraft are subject to the rules of the Federal Aviation Regulations and the Statutes and Rules of the State of Minnesota.

Aircraft Registration

The FAA requires users of UAS that are flying for recreational or hobby use to register with them. Each user is provided a registration number that they must be attached to their UAS. The same number is used for all UAS operated by the user.

Note: Recreational or hobby UAS users are not required to be registered with MnDOT.

Any operation not conducted strictly for hobby or recreational purposes requires users to register UAS. In this case, each aircraft is identified by make, model and serial number and each aircraft is issued a registration number. All UAS registered with the FAA in this manner and owned by a Minnesota resident must register with MnDOT and pay an annual registration fee in Minnesota.  Non-residents using UAS for commercial operations in Minnesota must register their UAS before the aircraft is used for commercial purposes. To complete registration of the aircraft, the owner is required to show proof that sales tax has been paid and provide insurance information.  The insurance must comply with the requirements of Minnesota Statute 360.59, Subd. 10. Use the FAA registration number in the first blank on the form that starts with “N-“. 

Information for UAS Operators

When you fly a drone in the United States, it is your responsibility to understand and follow the rules. The rules for operating UAS depend on your intended use.

UAS Information for Airport Managers and Owners

If you are contacted by a UAS operator, we recommend that you gather information from the operator.  We recommend keeping a record (PDF, 258 KB) of all notifications.

UAS Information for Communities

As UAS use becomes more popular, communities are likely to experience issues related to their use. Having policies and practices in place allows a community to be ahead of the issues. Communicating with citizens about proper UAS use can reduce the number of calls and complaints in the community by encouraging safe practices which reduces the workload for law enforcement.

UAS Information for Manned Aircraft Operators

Currently UAS operations are normally limited to daylight operations, less than 400 feet in altitude and within the line of sight of the operator.  UAS operators are directed to not interfere and give way to any manned aircraft.  In the fall of 2016, the FAA was receiving UAS sightings from manned aircraft pilots at a rate of more than five per day.  Any search of UAS or drone footage on YouTube is likely to turn up several examples of UAS misuse.  UAS might be difficult to see, similar to birds. In addition, the movements of UAS may be more erratic, making them harder to avoid than birds.  Should you observe UAS while in-flight, the encounter should be reported to the FAA Flight Standards District Office.  In Minnesota, that number is 612-253-4400.