The southern state of Arizona is perhaps most famed for the Grand Canyon, but the Copper State is also home to Hoover Dam, Monument Valley, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Before you pack up your drone and head out to Arizona, what laws do you need to abide by?
Arizona has drone flight laws on a federal, state, and local level. The state rules regulate drone flights such that pilots should stay away from manned aircraft, firefighters, and police vehicles. The local ordinances limit where you can fly in various Arizona parks and cities.
Don’t worry, as we’re going to cover every Arizona drone law in detail in today’s article. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be crystal clear on where you can and cannot fly your drone in Arizona!
Many states in the US do not have any specific state-level laws beyond the Federal regulations laid out for drone flight by the FAA.
Arizona, however, is one state that does have three levels of drone laws – federal, state, and local legislation governing the use of drones.
You will have to keep these rules top of mind as you plan to fly your UAV in Arizona, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Here’s what you need to know.
Federal Level Drone Laws
As is true of every state in the United States, Arizona enforces US federal government regulations on flying a drone whether you do it professionally, commercially, or recreationally.
Rules for Agency Drone Use
Let’s start with discussing the rules for those whose professions it is to fly a drone in governmental roles such as working for a fire department or a police department.
In your role, you should be a shining example of what proper drone use entails. That’s why you’ll be required to follow the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 drone flight rules.
The rules in full are available to read here. The FAA created these guidelines for safe drone flight for all.
In addition, government employees flying a drone might also need a Certificate of Authorization or COA, which is also referred to as a Certificate of Waiver.
The Air Traffic Organization issues COAs to, as FAA’s website says, “a public operator for a specific UA activity.” To get one, you have to send an application, undergo a technical and operational review, and earn approval.
Rules for Commercial Drone Use
Moving onto the next group, commercial drone pilots – or those who use their drones for professional use but are not hired by the government – must also follow all of the FAA’s Part 107 rules.
It’s not simply that you have to know the rules inside and out, which you do. You also have to prove your drone knowledge and proficiency by passing the Part 107 exam.
Passing this comprehensive exam is required to earn your UAV license, which you need for commercial drone flight purposes.
The license lasts for two years and then you have to test again to keep your knowledge current. It’s also not free to test.
Fortunately, if you’re thinking of pursuing your FAA-issued license, we’ve written about pretty much every online drone school that offers Part 107 exam prep that there is. You should be able to easily find one such school to enroll in.
All courses offered by Pilot Institute are taught by remote pilots, flight instructors, FAA commercial pilots, and other certified professionals.
Rules for Recreational Drone Use
Finally, the third group of drone pilots is recreational pilots. If you fly your drone purely for enjoyment and not profit, then you fit into this group.
Like the other two groups, to fly a drone in Arizona requires your knowledge and upkeep of current FAA Part 107 rules.
If your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, which most drones beyond the toy level models do, you have to pay $5 to get it registered.
Then you have to take The Recreational UAS Safety Test through the FAA, which is also known as TRUST.
The TRUST test is different from the Part 107 exam in several important ways. The test is available to take for free.
You can also earn a perfect score even if you get questions wrong. Every incorrect answer is correctable.
The TRUST certificate is also good for life unless you lose yours. Then the FAA says you need to take the exam again.
TRUST is a collaboration between the FAA and industry to provide TRUST and educational safety material to Recreational Flyers.
Arizona State Drone Laws
Now that you’re aware of the Arizona drone flight laws on the federal level, let’s discuss the state-specific laws.
There are two of these, the Arizona State Parks & Trails Park Regulations and SB 1449// 2016. Let’s review both rules now.
Arizona State Parks & Trails Park Regulations
Arizona has more than 30 state parks. To protect and preserve the majesty of these parks for future generations to come, Arizona restricts drone usage in its state parks as well as its trail parks.
If you’re a commercial drone pilot, the Arizona state parks website says that you need to obtain a filming permit in order to operate a drone. Even those permits are only issued for purposes of promotions, publicity, or news.
Having a permit alone wouldn’t cut it. You’d also have to be insured to fly your drone commercially in one of Arizona’s state parks.
The website says that any “final decision and any fees associated with access is at the discretion of park management.”
Thus, it’s hard to put a price tag on what you’d pay to commercially fly your drone in an Arizona state park, or whether you’ll even be able to get a permit.
Should you venture outside of the park to areas where agencies like Game & Fish, State Trust Lands, or National Forest dictate, then you might have to get yet another permit as well as additional permission.
SB 1449 // 2016
Issued in 2016 is Arizona’s bill SB 1449.
In Section 13-2904. Disorderly conduct; classification, Part 7, SB 1449 states that disorderly conduct can constitute using “a model aircraft or civil unmanned aircraft in dangerous proximity to a person or a person’s property unless the person has consented to the operation.”
Arizona considers disorderly conduct a class I misdemeanor, so it’s a law you don’t want to break whether you live in this southwestern state or you’re only visiting.
Further, in Section 13-3729. Prohibited operation of model or unmanned aircraft; state preemption; definitions, the law verbiage lays out a bunch of different rules for situations where you may be subject to penalties when it comes to using your drone.
They include the following:
- If barred by aeronautic regulation and/or federal law.
- If flying your drone “violates a temporary flight restriction or notice to airman that’s issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.”
- If you’re interrupting firefighter or police duties as well as disrupting manned aircraft.
- If you’re being reckless or careless.
- If you exceed 250 vertical feet or 500 horizontal feet.
- If you intentionally kill an animal while flying your drone.
Arizona Drone Laws – Local Level
Finally, let’s examine a few local Arizona laws. The following three ordinances were created by Maricopa County, Phoenix, and Prescott Valley and apply in those areas only.
Maricopa County – R-116 Aircraft and Engine Powered Models // 2016
The Maricopa County – R-116 Aircraft and Engine Powered Models ordinance from 2016 is a two-part rule, the second part of which applies to drone pilots.
According to that part of R-116, “Operating engine powered models and/or toys in any park area not designated for such use or in such a manner that can be a hazard to the public” is not allowed.
City of Phoenix – City Code Section 24-49 // 2016
In Phoenix, the city’s ordinances on drone laws also went into effect in 2016.
According to City Code Section 24-49. Operation of remotely controlled aircraft, unmanned aircraft vehicles, and unmanned aircraft systems, you cannot land or take off in a preserve or park that the City of Phoenix owns and operates “except in parks designated by the Director or designee in operation sites that meet the requirements of subsection E of this section.”
In case you’re curious, subsection E, Operation Sites, reads in full: “Operation sites shall at all times remain unobstructed and a safe distance away from other park users. Dimensions of operation sites shall be no less than 400 feet on all sides.”
If you have a younger child who’s into flying drones, you must be with them at all times when flying in city parks until your child turns 17, says the code.
Disobeying the rules carries a hefty fine, as you’ll be charged $500 for each day the offense continues in the form of civil sanctions.
Town of Prescott Valley – Municipal Ordinance // 2018
Enacted in 2018, the municipal ordinance for Prescott Valley put into effect a Town UAS Program. Thus, the rules apply more to city employees than the everyday drone pilot of both a commercial and recreational nature.
Only those with a Part 107 license through the FAA can fly a drone as part of the Town UAS Program. The drone pilot must have a remote-pilot-in-command or RPIC who “is directly responsible for (and is the final authority to) the operation of any Town UAS.”
Plus, the RPIC needs to have a visual observer.
It’s the RPIC’s job to prevent the drone pilot’s exposure to “undue hazards,” including property, other aircraft, and people.
Arizona Drone Flight FAQs
Are you still a little fuzzy on some of the drone laws enacted and enforced in Arizona? This FAQs section ought to provide some clarity.
Can I Fly a Drone in an Arizona Public Park?
Let’s say you want to fly a drone in a public park somewhere in Arizona. Are you allowed to?
That depends. In Maricopa County, you can only fly a drone in recreational areas and regional parks in areas that are designated just for drones. These are known as designated RC fields.
In Phoenix, most public parks and preserves are both off-limits to drone pilots.
The few that you can fly in are Werner’s Field, Mountain View II Park, Grovers Basin, Esteban Park (in the east quadrant), El Prado Park, Dynamite Park, Desert Foothills Park (in the lower field), and Coyote Basin.
Otherwise, if you have another specific park in Arizona in mind for flying, you can probably fly there. It never hurts to contact the local parks and rec association and confirm what the rules are.
Can I Fly a Drone in an Arizona State Park?
What if you’re interested in exploring Lost Dutchman State Park, Oracle State Park, Picacho Peak State Park, Alamo Lake State Park, Lake Havasu State Park, or any other awe-inspiring state park in Arizona?
As a recreational drone pilot, you cannot fly your UAV in a state park in Arizona at all. As you’ll recall from earlier, commercial drone pilots may be allowed to take flight, but will require permits, permissions, and insurance.
The Recreational UAS Safety Test (link)
Certificate of Authorization or COA (link)
The Recreational UAS Safety Test (link)
Arizona state parks website (link)
Maricopa County – R-116 Aircraft and Engine Powered Models (link)
Municipal ordinance for Prescott Valley (link)
Chapter 24 Parks and Recreation | Phoenix City Code (link)