Alaska is home to some of the most stunning natural sights in the world, from Denali National Park to Kenai Fjords National Park to the Hubbard Glacier. Capturing photo or video footage of these sights on your drone has always been one of your dreams. What are the drone laws in Alaska?
Alaska institutes drone laws on a federal, state, and local level. Alaska-specific laws dictate that you cannot use a drone to find salmon when commercial fishing in Alaska, nor can you land your drone at Chugach State Park for a practice run.
This guide to Alaska drone laws will tell you everything you need to know. We’ll break down the laws on a federal, state, and local level so you can fly safely and legally when you embark on a trip to Alaska with your drone!
Alaska Drone Laws
Since it boasts a huge variety of wilderness, plenty of outdoor activities, and some of the biggest national parks in the country, we’re very fortunate to report that as a whole, Alaska does welcome drone pilots into this cold northern state.
That said, whether you live here and you want to take your drone for a spin or you’re traveling to Alaska for the express purpose of flying your drone, you still must be abreast of the following laws.
The federal government of the United States mandates certain restrictions on drone usage as a government employee, hobbyist drone pilot, or commercial drone pilot.
Government employees who live and work in the state of Alaska, usually for a fire department or police department, need a federal Certificate of Authorization or COA to operate their drones.
These employees are also subject to the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA’s Part 107 rules, which regulate what drone pilots can and cannot do as well as where and when they can and cannot fly.
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For the recreational or hobby drone pilots who wish to launch their drones in the lovely state of Alaska, the FAA has a special set of rules known as the recreational model aircraft rules that you must abide by.
You must also follow the FAA’s Part 107 rules, including the rule on registration.
Unless you own a toy drone, then your UAV likely exceeds the 0.55-pound mark, correct? In that case, then you need to register your drone through the FAA, paying a small fee to do so.
That’s not all. Hobbyist drone pilots must also take a test through the FAA called The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST. Don’t worry, as there’s no way to fail this test.
Even if you happen to answer a question incorrectly, the right answer will be displayed. You can then change your answer to the correct answer.
The point of the TRUST test isn’t so much to test your proficiency as it is to expand your knowledge.
The TRUST test is free, and you can take it online.
Okay, so that’s government employees and recreational drone pilots. What about commercial drone pilots who use their UAVs to earn income?
Well, like every other party we’ve discussed in this section, a commercial drone pilot is still subject to the FAA’s Part 107 rules.
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Further, commercial drone users have to take a test as well. This isn’t as lenient as the TRUST test, as it’s not an online exam and you can answer the questions wrong. There are also no redos for incorrect answers, but you can re-test.
That test is called the Aeronautical Knowledge Test or the Part 107 exam. The test includes more than 70 questions that will test your proficiency in all things drones, including flying by day, by night, in inclement weather, around airports and more.
You must register at an FAA-approved testing center and pay a fee to test. If you successfully pass, then you’re issued a Part 107 license.
If you need to cram for your FAA exam, we have plenty of resources on the blog that will help, including reviews of all the latest and greatest online drone schools with Part 107 prep.
Now let’s talk about Alaska drone flight laws on a state level.
As of this writing, Alaska has instituted one state law called HB 255 // 2014.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures or NCSL, Alaska created HB 255 to enable unmanned aircraft standards.
The NCSL states that the HB 255 law requires that “the appropriate Federal Aviation Administration flight authorization is obtained; UAS operators are trained and certified; a record of all flights are kept and there is an opportunity for community involvement in the development of the agencies’ procedures.”
Further, police officers can use drones “pursuant to a search warrant, pursuant to a judicially recognized exception to the warrant requirement and in situations not involving a criminal investigation.”
On the local level, Alaska has two laws in place, 11 AAC, 20.020, and State Code 33.398. Let’s take a closer look at both laws now.
11 AAC 20.020
As part of the Alaska State Legislature, Alaska Admin Code 11 AAC 20.020 details laws about flying aircraft.
According to the law, “the use of aircraft is allowed in Chugach State Park on Bold airstrip located at the inlet of Eklutna Lake. (b) The use of aircraft for the purpose of practice landing is prohibited.”
Allow me to provide a little bit of context.
Chugach State Park in Anchorage is a 495,204-acre park in the south-central part of the state. The park is open 24 hours and is beloved for Eklutna Lake, which features a 12.7-mile walking trail along its shores.
The lake regularly attracts all nature of people, including horseback riders, ATV riders, mountain bikers, hikers, and tourists.
The rich plant life includes wildflowers, mushrooms, ferns, and trees such as the quaking aspen, the paper birch, and the white spruce, at least on the lower elevations.
Then, on the higher elevations, you’ll find wild geraniums, alpine forget-me-nots, fireweed, dwarf dogwood, and more.
Also in this part of the Chugach State Park is the aforementioned airstrip near the lake’s inlet. As long as you stay there and you don’t try to practice landing, you’re good!
State Code 33.398 – Salmon Fishing
The Alaska State Legislature Alaska Admin Code in State Code 5 AAC 33.398. Use of aircraft unlawful, is related to salmon fishing in this southeastern part of Alaska.
The rule is that “during an open commercial salmon fishing period, a person may not use an unmanned aircraft to locate salmon for the commercial taking of the salmon or to direct commercial salmon fishing operations.”
That’s a distinction that we want to ensure is clear. You can use your drone around Alaskan lakes that are rife with salmon and even take photos or videos of the salmon as they climb up a waterfall.
However, you cannot use any sort of feature or device on your drone that would assist you in locating salmon for commercial fishing. That gives you an unfair advantage.
There’s more to the State Code 5 AAC 33.398. Here’s the second part of the rule in full: “during an open commercial purse seine fishing period or an area other than a terminal harvest area, a person may not use an aircraft to locate salmon for the commercial taking of salmon or to direct commercial salmon fishing one hour before, during, and one hour after an open commercial purse seine fishing period.”
If you’re not into fishing, you may wonder what in the world a purse seine is, right? It’s a method of catching fish that involves you tossing a large net into the water and then using floats and weights to keep the net intact.
So the second part of State Code 33.398 bars you from using your drone to aid your good fortune when purse seine fishing for salmon.
Alaska Drone Flight FAQs
Are you still feeling a little ambiguous as you plan for a day of drone flight in Alaska? This FAQs section will answer your most burning questions.
Can I Fly a Drone in an Alaska Public Park?
Alaska has many public parks, everything from Chugach State Park, Point Bridget State Park, Kachemak Bay State Park, Chilkat State Park, Buskin River State Park, and Wood-Tikchik State Park.
As you’ll recall from the last section, only Chugach State Park has drone flight rules instituted, at least as of this writing. Those laws don’t ban you from flying a drone in Chugach State Park outright, so feel free to enjoy a day of drone use at the park if you follow the rules!
Can I Fly a Drone in Denali National Park?
What about Alaska’s exceptional national parks, specifically Denali National Park?
The National Park Service has barred drone owners from taking flight in this park, which you can read more about in this official park memorandum. So that would mean that flying a drone in Denali National Park is also prohibited.
The decision was made in 2014.
Alaska has some of the most captivating landscapes on the planet, and you can explore most of them with your drone. Be sure to follow the rules the state has instituted so that drone flight can be enjoyed by everyone!
FAA COA (link)
FAA Recreational (link)
HB 255 // 2014 (link)
Alaska Admin Code (link)
Alaska Admin Code (link)
U.S. National Park Service (link)