The great southern state of Alabama currently has 5.05 million residents. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, you recently moved here, or you’re just passing through, you may be curious what the drone flight laws are in Alabama. What do you need to know?
Alabama permits drones and doesn’t have any specific drone laws on a state level. That said, on a local level, the cities of Oxford, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores do have restrictions about where you can launch, operate, and land a drone.
This article will be your guide to where you can and cannot fly a drone in Alabama. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know how to stay on the right side of the law when operating a UAV here!
Alabama Drone Laws
Drone laws in Alabama – as they are in other states – are mandated by the federal government of the United States. Alabama also has state and local drone laws, so let’s explore all three in this section.
Alabama drone laws on a federal level mandate the rules for government employees who use drones as well as recreational and commercial drone pilots.
Let’s start by talking about government employees such as those working for a fire department or police department.
These parties must either have a federally-mandated Certificate of Authorization or COA, or they need to follow the Part 107 drone flight rules as established by the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA.
Hobbyists or recreational drone pilots who earn no money flying their UAVs must familiarize themselves with the recreational model aircraft rules as established by the FAA.
Under FAA rules, if your drone exceeds 0.55 pounds, then you must pay a fee to get the drone registered.
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Further, recreational drone pilots per federal law must pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST. This is a safety and aeronautical exam that is free to take. You can complete the exam online.
If you happen to get an answer incorrect, you’re given the correct answer and can answer that question again. This way, you can pass with a score of 100 percent.
Finally, commercial drone pilots or those who do make money flying their UAVs are also subject to FAA rules.
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You’d need to get your drone registered if it surpasses 0.55 pounds.
Much more crucially, you must pass the FAA Part 107 exam.
To be eligible to take the exam you must be 16 and over and have full English proficiency, including comprehending, speaking, writing, and reading English.
You have to pay to take the Part 107 exam, and you must do it at a designated testing center, not online like you can take the TRUST test.
We will again reffer you to our article, where we’ve reviewed an assortment of online drone schools that offer Part 107 exam prep.
Alabama State Level
Although Alabama has drone flight laws in place on a federal and local level, as of this writing, there are no state laws here mandating the requirements of using a drone.
That doesn’t mean that flying your drone is a free-for-all. You’re still required to follow FAA Part 107 rules at all times when using your drone.
As we touched on in the intro, throughout several cities in Alabama there are local drone flight laws. Here’s an overview.
City of Oxford
According to the latest edition of the Code of Ordinances City of Oxford, Alabama, Article XI. – Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), Sections 26-292. – Prohibited operations. and 26-293. – Prohibited area operations and exemptions, the rules are as follows.
- You cannot fly a drone or help someone fly a drone in the city on municipal property such as city parks and “recreational areas or any other area as designated by the chief of police.”
- You have to contact the chief of police and obtain written permission if you want to fly in the above areas with your drone.
Section 26-294. – Penalty of violations. states that, “Any person violating any provision of this article as enumerated herein shall be deemed as a separate offense for each day such offense has occurred and upon conviction, shall be punished by fine not to exceed $500.00 or incarceration not to exceed six months.”
In other words, you could get in some serious trouble by disobeying the rules.
City of Gulf Shores
In Gulf Shores, drone flight laws are mandated by the Gulf Shores, Alabama Code of Ordinances, Chapter 3 – Airport–Aircraft/ Article II. – Rules and Regulations, Division 9. – Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Sections 3.-166. – Prohibited equipment; safe operation of equipment., Section 3-167. – Accidents; duty to render aid; harassment; voyeurism prohibited., Section 3-168. – Permits; exceptions., and Section 3-169. – Violation of division as offense; affirmative defenses.
According to the rules in Gulf Shores, you cannot fly your UAV along Gulf Beach, during special outdoor events, or in or near a venue. You would need permission from a city administrator and the FAA to fly your drone in these locations.
City of Orange Beach
If you’re planning to fly a drone in Orange Beach, you’re subject to the laws in the Orange Beach, Alabama – Code of Ordinances/ Chapter 54 – Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions, Article IV. – Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
Section 54-45. – Prohibited equipment. says that you cannot use a drone “with detachable cargo, releasable payload, or any device equipped to carry a weapon or destructive devices; or any modification that has not been approved by the FAA.”
In Section 54-46. – Safe Operation, Orange Beach law restricts you from operating your drone if you “are under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or any substance that impairs the mental or physical faculties of a person, or any combination thereof, to the extent that it affects the person’s ability to operate a UAS in a safe manner.”
In Section 54-48. – Harassment; voyeurism prohibited., the law says that you cannot use your drone to watch someone “in any place where the individual being observed has a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the prior express or implied consent of the individual being obscured.”
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
In Mobile, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park also has its own policy about drone flight. These rules went into effect as of early 2017 and are as follows:
- You cannot fly your drone around the park “in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.” The park mentions Federal Aviation Rule 91.13 as setting the standard for what constitutes reckless and/or careless drone behavior.
- You must follow FAA notice to airmen or NOTAM and temporary flight restrictions or TFR rules when flying your drone around the park.
- Your drone must stay within your visual line of sight. “The operator must use his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the drone.” You cannot use goggles, powered vision magnifying devices, night vision goggles, or binoculars to view your drone.
- You cannot fly your drone when the winds are between 20 and 25 miles per hour or over.
- You cannot fly your drone when it’s precipitating.
- Your drone must stay below 400 feet over the ground level of the park.
- You cannot fly your drone 100 feet vertically or horizontally of the park’s ground artifacts and aircraft, park memorials, the Aircraft Pavilion, the USS DRUM, and the USS Alabama.
- Drones used at the park must be flown within 25 feet of you except when taking off and landing.
- You can only fly your drone during the daylight hours unless you have permission from the park’s Executive Director.
Alabama Drone Flight FAQs
Do you still have some questions about flying a drone in Alabama? Don’t worry, we’ve got answers.
Can I Fly a Drone in a Public Park?
As far as our research tells us, you’re free to fly a drone throughout Alabama public parks save for Oxford and Orange Beach.
If you want to be extra-cautious, it doesn’t hurt to call the park’s recreational services and ask if your drone is allowed there.
Can I Fly a Drone in a State Park?
Alabama is rife with state parks, from Gulf State Park to Cheaha State Park, Lake Lurleen State Park, Cathedral Caverns, Oak Mountain State Park, Tannehill State Park, and Bucks Pocket State Park.
The same recommendation as above would apply. Check the drone laws in the city to determine if you’re allowed to bring your drone to a state park and contact the parks and rec association too.
Alabama might not have any state drone laws, but on a federal and local basis, the restrictions can be rather limiting. Now that you have all this great information, you can fly safely and legally!