Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Aeronautics and Aviation

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or Drones: Information for UAS Operators

King Air Airplane

Information for UAS operators

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

Where can I fly?

Apps like B4Ufly and AirMap help users to identify airports near them. The best location for contact information for the airport operator is Airport IQ 5010.

Recreational UAS operators (14 CFR, Part 101 users) are required to notify the airport operator and air traffic control before flying within five miles of an airport. They are also restricted to operating at altitudes less than 400 feet and within the line of sight of the operator.

Though not required, it is good practice for commercial UAS operators (14 CFR, Part 107 users) to contact affected airports when flying.

Commercial operators

The Minnesota Rules define a commercial operation as any operation of an aircraft for compensation or hire, or any services performed incidental to the operation of any aircraft for which a fee is charged or compensation received.  A photographer using a UAS to take wedding pictures for a client is a commercial operator even if they don’t charge extra for the use of the UAS.

Minnesota law requires commercial operators to obtain a commercial operations license before they advertise, represent, or hold themselves out as giving or offering to provide this service.  To get a commercial operations license the applicant must submit an application along with a certificate of insurance that meets the requirements of Minnesota Rule 8800.3200, Subp. 15.

The licensing fee is $30 a year and we do not have a method for accepting electronic payments. Learn more about the licensing process and access forms

Government operators

If UAS are flown for government agencies, public schools or universities, they may qualify as a public aircraft.  If the operator wishes to designate the UAS as a public aircraft they must work with the FAA to comply with the requirements for this type of operation.  The operator may also choose to follow the requirements of 14 CFR, Part 107, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and if doing so must comply with all parts of that rule. 

While MnDOT requires registration of UAS operated by government agencies, we generally do so without charge. It is unusual for a government agency to operate a commercial operation. If the agency choses to take money from outside clients in a manner that puts them in competition with other commercial operators they may be required to obtain a commercial operations license.

Model aircraft operators

If UAS are flown for the purpose of recreation or hobby, they are not required to be registered with MnDOT. The aircraft rules at the Federal, State and local levels still apply.  In addition, trespass, Peeping Tom, and nuisance laws would also apply to the operation of the UAS.  Model aircraft operators would be wise to educate themselves on the laws that apply to their operations.  Several sources from the FAA and the Academy for Model Aeronautics provide information on the rules for operating as well as best practices.