Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Aeronautics and Aviation

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or Drones: Commercial UAS Operators

Picture of a Drone

UAS Commercial Operators

Commercial use of drones is regulated by both the federal government and the state of Minnesota. MnDOT is the state-level regulatory agency with responsibility for all aircraft.

Do I need a Minnesota Commercial Operations License?

Although all drones used by a business generally need to be registered, not all businesses using drones need a Commercial Operations License. The determination is made on a case-by-case basis by considering whether the flight outputs are provided to a third-party.

For example:

  • A commercial photographer uses a drone to take photographs at a wedding. The photographs taken using the drone are given to the client after post-processing. Regardless of whether there was an additional charge for use of the drone, the flight is a commercial operation and requires both aircraft registration and Commercial Operations licensing.
  • A commercial photographer uses a drone to figure out sightlines at a location, but the photographs provided to the client are actually taken from a lift-truck or scaffolding. The flight requires aircraft registration, but does not require Commercial Operations licensing because the drone is being used in business for a solely internal process.

Federal Regulations

The Federal Aviation Administration is the federal regulatory authority for aviation in the United States. Small drones are generally operated under the small aircraft rule (14 CFR §107), which requires:

  • Operator/Pilot must obtain a Remote Pilot certificate
  • Drone must be registered with the FAA
  • Operation must comply with flight restrictions specified in §107, or waivers issued directly to operator

The FAA offers several other regulatory frameworks for special cases that can not operate under §107 (e.g. large drones weighing more than 55 lbs).

MnDOT will not aid in determining whether a proposed operation is compliant with federal regulations.

Minnesota Regulations

Aircraft Registration

Minnesota statutes require aircraft used in the airspace over Minnesota to be registered with MnDOT. Some exceptions apply, but they are rarely relevant to commercial drone operations.

To register your drone with MnDOT:

  • Register your aircraft with the FAA
    • You will need the FAA registration number that begins with N- or F- for the next steps
  • Obtain insurance on your drone
  • Go to MnDOT Aircraft Registration website
    • You may use either the online Aircraft Registration Application or download the Aircraft Registration Application and Sales/Use Tax Return
  • Pay your bill

After your bill is paid, your certificate of registration will be mailed to you. In most cases, registration costs $100/year.

Commercial Operations Licensing

Minnesota statutes require a license when a person advertises or holds themselves out as providing a service that involves aircraft, including drones. The licensing process is described on its own page and cost $30 a year.

There are some special considerations when filling out the license application for drone operators:

  • In the field “Operating from the following Minnesota airport(s)” put “Private-UAV”
  • Leave the field “Unicom Frequency” Blank
  • Do not check “Flight School” even if offering instruction on using drones
  • Drone operators are required to provide the certificate of insurance with endorsement giving 5-day notification of cancellation to Commissioner of Transportation.
    • If your insurance agent needs help producing this certificate/understanding this requirement, have the agent directly contact Tony Fernando, UAS Program Administrator at 651-234-7227, anthony.fernando@state.mn.us.
    • MnDOT is aware of two on-demand insurance providers who offer insurance to drone operators in Minnesota. These providers have been unwilling or unable to provide an acceptable certificate of insurance. Accordingly, on-demand insurance cannot be used to meet the statutory insurance requirement.

Assistance

For a definitive analysis of your business case, please contact:

Tony Fernando
UAS Program Administrator
MnDOT - Office of Aeronautics
651-234-7227
anthony.fernando@state.mn.us