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Drone Laws in Iowa

Iowa has drawn you in with such natural wonders as the Maquoketa Caves State Park and the Effigy Mounds National Monument. You’d love to take some shots of the lush greenery and rock architecture with your drone, but you’re not sure what the rules are.

Are drones allowed in Iowa?

Drone pilots can fly in Iowa commercially, governmentally, and recreationally but must follow Iowa’s federal and state laws. The laws mandate that drone pilots must always fly according to the FAA’s Part 107 rules.

The last thing you would want is to get in trouble when using your drone, which is why we recommend you keep reading.

Ahead, we’ll go over every drone law in Iowa so you can learn them like the back of your hand.

Let’s begin!

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Federal Drone Laws in Iowa

As always, we’ll get underway by discussing federal drone laws, which are put in place by the United States government.

Here are Iowa’s federal drone laws, which apply whether you use your drone for work or play.

Agency Drone Pilots

Agency drone pilots refer to police officers and firefighters who must use a drone as part of their jobs.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 drone rules apply even to agency drone pilots.

» MORE: FAA Part 107 for Commercial Drone Pilots

The FAA may also issue certificates of authorization or COAs to these drone pilots, which are waivers for use in special circumstances. 

Recreational Drone Pilots

Hobbyist drone pilots are also under the Iowa federal drone laws. You, too, must brush up on Part 107 drone laws and always follow these laws when flying your UAV for recreational purposes.

The FAA requires you to register your drone as a hobbyist if the weight of the drone exceeds 0.55 pounds. The registration lasts for three years, but it isn’t free.

You’ll have to pay $5 per drone.

Finally, recreational drone pilots must take the FAA’s TRUST exam, which stands for The Recreational UAS Safety Test.

The FAA has a list of TRUST test administrators, and they’re all names that should sound familiar to you as a drone pilot, such as Drone Launch Academy, Pilot Institute, and others.

When you register with one of those test administrators to take your TRUST exam, you can do the test online for free.

You’re also granted the ability to go back and correct any of your test answers before you submit your test. All incorrect answers are displayed as such at the time you answer them.

Once you take the test, you can immediately download and print your TRUST certificate.

You won’t have to retake the TRUST exam unless you lose the certificate. Keep the certificate on your person when flying your drone recreationally.

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Commercial Drone Pilots

The last group of drone pilots included in Iowa’s federal drone laws is commercial drone pilots.

Unlike a hobbyist, you earn money from flying your drone, but you’re not an agency drone pilot either.

You, too, will have to take an exam to legally fly a drone for commercial purposes. It’s not as easy as the TRUST exam, as no incorrect answers are displayed. It’s also not free, nor can you take it online.

It’s known as the FAA Part 107 exam. Passing the exam qualifies you for a Remote Pilot Certificate that’s good for the next two years.

During the Part 107 exam, you’ll be quizzed on all drone operating procedures, requirements, and regulations. You’ll have to find an FAA-approved testing center near you and register to take the test.

The test lasts for two and a half hours. As mentioned, you don’t get to see any of your answers, correct or incorrect, while taking the exam, so studying first is crucial.

If you’re interested in enrolling in an online drone school to prepare for the Part 107 exam, we’ve reviewed them all on our blog.

» MORE: Best Drone Courses Taught by Experts

You must earn a score of at least 70 percent to pass.

Then you’ll have to log in to an FAA platform called the Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application System, or IACRA, with your registration information, request your certificate and wait until it’s mailed.

Always keep your Remote Pilot Certificate on your person when flying your drone commercially.

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State Drone Laws in Iowa

Next, let’s take a closer look at Iowa’s state drone laws.

HB 2289 // 2014

The only applicable state law is HB 2289, which went into effect in 2014.

The law adds a new section to a previous amendment about using drones for traffic law enforcement.

According to the law update, “The state or a political subdivision of the state shall not use an unmanned aerial vehicle for traffic law enforcement.”

This law only applies to agency drone pilots and not commercial or recreational pilots.

Another new section states that:

“Information obtained as a result of the use of an unmanned aerial vehicle is not admissible as evidence in a criminal or civil proceeding, unless the information is obtained pursuant to the authority of a search warrant, or unless the information is otherwise obtained in a manner that is consistent with state and federal law.”

As other states have written in their own respective drone laws, in Iowa, law enforcement officers who are using UAVs must have a search warrant to use a drone in the investigation.

That warrant will come from a judge and usually only lasts a limited time.

If the officers don’t have a search warrant and obtain evidence with a drone anyway, then the section confirms that that evidence is not admissible in court unless it gels with federal and state law.

There’s one last section to HB 2289, and it reads as follows:

“The department of public safety, in consultation with the attorney general, state and local agencies, and other interested organizations, including but not limited to organizations with expertise in unmanned aerial vehicle technology, shall examine whether Iowa criminal code shall be modified to regulate the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.”

The deadline for determining whether further law changes would have had to have been made was December 31st, 2014.

It seems unlikely that the changes described above came to fruition, as we couldn’t find further information on said updates.

Does Iowa Have Local Drone Laws?

Many of the states across the United States that we’ve discussed lately all have drone laws on a federal, state, and local level, but that doesn’t apply to every last state.

Iowa, for example, does not have any local drone laws that we were able to find.

Local drone laws are ordinances enacted by cities, towns, villages, and neighborhoods across the state. The ordinance usually applies only in the city, town, village, or neighborhood that enacted the law.

The ordinances are in place to keep a quiet, habitable place for all its residents, not solely drone pilots.

That said, while Iowa has no applicable local drone laws, this is still a good time to remind you to always follow FAA guidelines when operating your drone.

Iowa Drone Law FAQS

Do you still have a few lingering questions about Iowa drone laws that you want to be cleared up before you take your UAV out for a test drive? No problem! We’ve got the answers!

Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in Iowa?

Throughout the state of Iowa, many public parks dot the landscape. Some of the more renowned ones include City Park in Iowa City, Winterset City Park in Winterset, Waterworks Prairie Park in Iowa City, Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City, and Gillman Public Park in Gillman.

In many cases, it’s a local ordinance that blockades drone pilots from flying their UAVs in public parks. We were able to find no such prohibitive rules in Iowa, likely because the state doesn’t have local drone laws.  

That said, we did come across this 2018 article from local Iowa station KWQC that shares some UAV usage rules to keep in mind.

Here are the rules:

  • Drones are only permitted to fly in Iowa 30 minutes before daylight breaks and 30 minutes after dusk.
  • Twilight drone flight might be allowed if the pilot has anti-collision lighting.
  • Drones cannot exceed 100 miles per hour.
  • Drones must only fly 400 feet over any structure or the ground.
  • You cannot fly your drone “over anyone not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, or not inside a covered stationary vehicle.”
  • You cannot fly your drone with a moving vehicle “unless you are flying over a sparsely populated area.”
  • Your drone cannot carry cargo exceeding 55 pounds, and that includes any attached systems. Even if you do carry a load, you must still follow Part 107 rules and the rules in this section.

Interestingly, the KWQC article states that “You can request a waiver of most restrictions if you can show your operation will provide a level of safety at least equivalent to the restriction from which you want the waiver.”

Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in Iowa?

With Ledges State Park, Mini-Wakan State Park, Rice Lake State Park, Nine Eagles State Park, Honey Creek State Park, Geode State Park, and many others, Iowa affords countless natural wonders to visitors.

We couldn’t find any applicable drone laws that outlawed the use of UAVs in state parks. That’s rare considering that many state parks in other states outside of Iowa ban drones outright.

You can always contact the parks and rec association for the state park in question to ask about their drone policy before you start flying.

Following the rules above for drone flight in Iowa, as well as Part 107 rules, will ensure your state park experience is safe and enjoyable for you and other parkgoers.

Conclusion

Iowa doesn’t have as many drone laws as what you’ll find in other states but flying your UAV here is anything but a free-for-all.

You must still follow FAA Part 107 rules at all times whether you’re a hobbyist or a commercial drone pilot. Have fun out there!

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References:
HB 2289 / Iowa Legislature (link)
KWQC (link)