People flock to Illinois for more than Chicago – for such gorgeous sights as Lake Michigan, Shawnee National Forest, and the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. You have so many must-see destinations in Illinois that you want to capture with your drone.
Are drones allowed in Illinois state?
Drones are welcome in Illinois but are subject to federal, state, and local drone laws. You cannot fly your drone around Park District properties, nor can you use your drone to interrupt fishermen and hunters.
That’s just scratching the surface. This extensive guide will go through every federal, state, and local Illinois drone law so you can be on the up-and-up before you visit. You won’t want to miss it!
Federal Drone Laws in Illinois
We’ll begin by talking about the Illinois federal drone laws, which were established by the United States federal government.
These laws affect agency, commercial, and recreational drone pilots.
Agency Drone Pilots
An agency drone pilot is a government employee who uses drones, such as a member of the fire department or police department.
Illinois federal drone law requires that agency drone pilots follow the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules.
In some instances, a Certificate of Authorization, or COA, through the FAA may be required.
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Commercial Drone Pilots
Many more of you reading this are likely commercial drone pilots. Whether you’re self-employed or use your drone as part of a real estate team, news crew, surveying team, or ecological firm, where you go, your drone usually follows.
You cannot fly your drone in Illinois as a commercial pilot unless you have a Part 107 license or certificate on your person.
If you’re a first-time commercial drone pilot, then to earn that certificate, you’re required to take an FAA-issued knowledge test. The test will quiz you on the entirety of the Part 107 rules.
First-time test-takers must be at least 16 years old, deemed physically and mentally capable of flying a UAV, and able to understand, speak, write, and read English.
The FAA only allows you to take the Part 107 exam at an approved testing center. There are many of these testing centers across the country, so you needn’t travel too far for your exam.
The two-hour exam requires a score of 70 percent or higher to pass. Make sure to study up before the exam, because the questions aren’t what you’d call common knowledge. Check out our recommended online study courses.
Within 24 months of being issued your commercial drone pilot license, you must test again to keep your license for another two years.
You’ll also have to register your drone with the FAA. Registration costs $5 and is good for the next three years.
Even with your commercial drone certificate handy, Illinois federal drone law requires you to always follow Part 107 rules when operating your UAV.
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Recreational Drone Pilots
That brings us to recreational drone pilots or hobbyists.
You, too, need to register your drone with the FAA, but only if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds.
Those who fly toy drones needn’t apply, but most drones weigh over 0.55 pounds, so be sure to get your registration. The fees are the same, as is the duration of the registration.
The Part 107 exam is not required for hobbyists; instead, you’ll take The Recreational UAS Safety Test.
The TRUST test is designed to help you better understand the Part 107 rules. That’s why you can go back and correct any answer you got wrong while you’re taking the test.
Be sure to always carry your TRUST certificate with you when flying your drone. You must follow Part 107 rules as a hobbyist as well.
TRUST is a collaboration between the FAA and industry to provide TRUST and educational safety material to Recreational Flyers.
State Drone Laws in Illinois
Illinois has an assortment of state drone laws in effect, so let’s go over each one now.
SB 3291 // 2018
The first Illinois state drone law is SB 3291, which went into effect in 2018.
Here is the relevant section of the law in full, which comes from Section (b). “To the extent that State-level oversight does not conflict with federal laws, rules, or regulations, the regulation of unmanned aircraft systems is an exclusive power and function of the State. No unit of local government, including home rule unit, may enact an ordinance or resolution to regulate unmanned aircraft systems.”
The crux of SB 3291 is establishing that the State of Illinois ultimately has the final authority on which drone laws will pass.
Municipalities, towns, and cities are not supposed to enact restrictions or regulations on drone laws unless a municipality has a population that exceeds a million people.
SB 1587 // 2013
The next Illinois state drone law is SB 1587.
This law doesn’t apply to commercial or recreational drone pilots but only to agency drone pilots.
According to SB 1587, “to counter a high risk of a terrorist attack,” drones are allowed. That’s also the case “if a law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that…swift action is needed to prevent imminent harm to life.”
Law enforcement using drones must have a search warrant that they obtain due to probable cause. The warrant is granted by a judge and lasts 45 days to start. The judge can extend the warrant for another 45 days if need be.
In two additional circumstances, drones are also allowed by agency drone pilots such as the police.
One of these is when law enforcement “is attempting to locate a missing person, and is not also undertaking a criminal investigation.”
The other allowable circumstance is when using a drone “solely for crime scene and traffic crash scene photography,” which “must be conducted in a geographically confined and time-limited manner.”
HB 1652 // 2013
HB 1652 bars drone pilots from using their UAVs to interfere in the business of fishermen and hunters.
If you violate the rule, then the first time around, it’s categorized as a Class B misdemeanor. In Illinois, a Class B misdemeanor can lead to punishments such as a $1,500 fine, two years of probation, and six months in prison.
A second violation, as well as any subsequent violation, is a Class A misdemeanor. Interference with your drone would count as a criminal offense. You could be faced with fines of $2,500 and spend at least a year in jail.
SB 2937 // 2014
The last state drone law in Illinois is SB 2937. This is another law that applies to agency drone pilots only, and not commercial and recreational pilots.
Exceptions to drone use are introduced, including permitted drone use to prevent terrorist attacks, imminent harm to or loss of life, and other compelling circumstances.
Local Drone Laws in Illinois
The following Illinois drone laws only apply to the regions, counties, cities, or towns which are listed.
Crystal Lake Park District – Park Ordinance // 2015
Crystal Lake Park District has had its park ordinance in effect since 2001 but has continually updated it through 2015.
In Section 11.27, Flying Devices, A, the ordinance states that “Except when and where permitted by special Park District programs or in designated areas, it shall be unlawful on any Park District area for any person to Launch any type of winged aircraft, real or model.”
Section 11.27 B notes that it’s also illegal to “land or recover any type of flying device, manned or otherwise” “except when and where permitted by special Park District programs, or in an emergency.”
If you absolutely had to land your drone in a designated Park District program in Crystal Lake, then you could, but try not to make it a habit. Launching your drone is barred unless you have special permission.
McHenry County Conservation District – General Use Rules and Regulations
In McHenry County, the ordinance states in Section 3: Engine Powered Models or Toys, that “No person shall upon or in connection with any property of the District start, fly or use any fuel-powered engine, jet-type or electric-powered model aircraft, drone, car, truck, boat or rocket or like powered toy or model, except at those areas or waters designated by the Executive Director for such use.”
This is another of those instances where drones are banned unless you have express permission. Even then, you’re still expected to follow proper drone usage rules.
City of Evanston – Municipal Law // 2016
In Evanston, the municipal law states in Section 3 that “The City of Evanston supports efforts in the Illinois General Assembly, the Illinois Senate, and the United States Congress to enact legislation:
(1) prohibiting information obtained from the domestic use of drones from being introduced into a federal or state court, and
(2) precluding the domestic use of drone equipped with any anti-personnel device…or other device designed to harm, incapacitate, or otherwise negatively impact a human being.”
Anti-personnel devices are defined as directed-energy, electrical, chemical, and/or projectile devices.
Village of Schaumburg – Municipal Law // 2016
If spending time in Schaumburg, the municipal law here prohibits drone pilots from operating their UAVs within 100 feet of a village right-of-way or any village property when a special event is taking place.
Illinois Drone Law FAQs
To wrap up, let’s clarify some lingering questions you might have on Illinois drone laws with this useful FAQs section.
Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in Illinois?
To you, the only thing better than spending a relaxing afternoon at a public park is having your drone handy to fly.
You love taking aerial shots of the tree line or – in the case of a bustling city like Chicago – the city line.
Before you plan to fly your drone in an Illinois public park, double-check that it’s not a Park District property. If it is, then you’re prohibited from launching, using, and landing your UAV there.
Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in Illinois?
Illinois has some truly gorgeous state parks for unwinding and drinking in the beauty of nature.
From Matthiessen State Park to Mississippi Palisades State Park, Ferne Clyffe State Park, Cave-In-Rock State Park, and Giant City State Park, there is no shortage of parks to explore.
While no Illinois drone law mentioned state parks specifically, we can’t stress enough the importance of double-checking with the particular park you are visiting that it’s safe to fly before you assume it is.
You’ll recall that Illinois has some pretty strict rules and equally strict punishments!
Illinois has a myriad of drone laws that apply federally, locally, and throughout the state.
This is one of those states where you do not want to get caught on the wrong side of the law, as the charges can be rather serious.
With the helpful info in this guide, you can always ensure you fly your drone legally in Illinois!
The Online Part 107 Prep Course includes more than 120 lesson objectives. Practice exams with questions from real FAA tests are also invaluable.
Part 107 rules (link)
Part 107 license (link)
The Recreational UAS Safety Test (link)
Illinois General Assembly – Full Text of SB3291 (link)
Illinois General Assembly – Full Text of SB1587 (link)
Illinois General Assembly – Full Text of HB1652 (link)
Illinois General Assembly – Full Text of Public Act 098-0831 (link)
Park Ordinance (link)
McHenry County Conservation District (link)
Municode Library (link)