Maryland is a state with sights just begging to be explored by drone, but due to some of the tourist-heavy cities such as Baltimore, you want to tread carefully.
What are the drone laws in Maryland?
Maryland allows drone pilots, but they must follow federal, state, and local drone laws. The laws prohibit the use of drones in some parks throughout the state, and also require all drone pilots to follow Part 107 laws.
In this extensive guide to Maryland drone laws, we’ll walk you through the laws as they apply on a federal, statewide, and local level.
We’ll even answer questions about operating a UAV in a state or local park in Maryland, so make sure you keep reading!
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Federal Drone Laws in Maryland
Maryland’s federal drone laws are instituted by the United States government.
These federal laws expand to the other states within the United States as well and are for agency, commercial, and recreational drone pilots.
Without further ado, here’s an overview of Maryland’s federal drone laws.
Agency Drone Pilots
Agency drone pilots are also known as government employees such as a fire department or police department that sometimes rely on drones as part of their jobs.
You’re required to follow the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules when operating a UAV in an agency drone pilot role.
In some circumstances, you might be required to obtain a waiver through the FAA known as the Certificate of Authorization or COA.
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Commercial Drone Pilots
The next group of drone pilots is far more populous, and it’s commercial drone pilots.
As a commercial drone pilot, you too must always follow Part 107 drone laws whenever you pick up your UAV.
You’re required to carry your Remote Pilot Certificate on your person whenever flying as well.
For first-time commercial drone pilots without an active Remote Pilot Certificate, you’ll have to take the Part 107 exam, a test for commercial pilots.
The Part 107 exam is a multiple-choice test with more than 50 questions. It takes about two and a half hours to complete.
The quiz will ask you questions about current FAA rules and regulations. You have to pay each time you take the test.
You must also complete the exam at an FAA-approved testing center.
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You can enroll in an online drone school and prep before the big day!
If you score 70 percent on the Part 107 exam or higher, then you will receive your Remote Pilot Certificate in the mail.
Once you do, the certificate lasts for two years. You’ll have to retake the Part 107 exam every two years for as long as you need to hold a Remote Pilot Certificate.
The FAA also requires you to register your drone before flying it. The registration lasts for three years and costs $5.
To help you apply the knowledge you’ve gathered, you can take a practice test that has more than 200 questions. DLA culled those questions from real FAA exams.
Recreational Drone Pilots
Recreational drone pilots must also follow Maryland federal drone laws.
You too are required to comply with Part 107 rules whenever you fly your drone.
Also, you have to register your drone with the FAA unless the drone weighs 0.55 pounds or less.
Hobbyists with only a toy drone probably won’t have to bother registering their UAVs, but it’s always worth weighing the drone to be sure.
If you do have to register your drone, then the registration terms are also three years. The FAA registration fee is no higher than for recreational drone pilots, so you’re still paying $5 to register one drone.
Finally, you need to carry a TRUST certificate when flying your drone recreationally.
To obtain such a certificate, you have to sign up for the FAA’s hobbyist drone pilot exam known as The Recreational UAS Safety Test.
The TRUST test doesn’t quiz you on your mastery of Part 107 drone laws to the same extent as the commercial drone pilot exam.
Instead, the FAA just wants to ensure that recreational drone pilots know the basics.
Any answer that you get wrong on the TRUST exam will display as such. You have the option to go back and correct your answer while still taking the test.
The test doesn’t require you to find an FAA-approved testing center, as you can take it online. It’s also free.
On top of all that, your TRUST certificate doesn’t expire.
TRUST is a collaboration between the FAA and industry to provide TRUST and educational safety material to Recreational Flyers.
State Drone Laws in Maryland
Now let’s switch gears and take a look at Maryland’s sole state drone law, which is SB 370.
SB 370 // 2015
The full name of SB 370 is the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research, Development, Regulation, and Privacy Act of 2015.
According to the law, “For the purpose of providing that only the State may enact a law or take other action to prohibit, restrict, or regulate the testing or operation of unmanned aircraft systems in the State.”
The law also states that all drone pilots in the state must follow Part 107 rules.
Local Drone Laws in Maryland
Maryland also has a smattering of local drone laws that apply to Maryland state parks as well as Calvert County parks.
Here’s what you need to know.
Maryland State Parks – Commercial Photography Policy // 2019
The Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Park Service joined together to create the Maryland State Parks Commercial Photography Policy, which was enacted on July 1st, 2019.
In Section 1. General, B., the policy reads: “Commercial users or film production entities (User) will be required to obtain a permit or, in some cases, sign a standard right-of-entry agreement or other applicable license or lease document, as well as pay any applicable service charges.”
The rule in Section 1. B only applies to commercial photography or filming. Non-commercial photography and filming “is allowed in all public areas,” says the policy.
If you do want to request permission for commercial photography or filming, such as for video programming like a documentary or movie, then you can do so “if such use does not interfere with public use of the requested facility or land, and will not damage the natural, cultural or historical features of the facility or land.”
So how would you even go about obtaining the required permit? You’d need to contact the Park Manager at the park you’re interested in using for filming or photography.
The Park Manager will send your request to the Regional Manager, who will either approve the request or make a recommendation.
The Regional Manager has to go through a Superintendent or a designee. They too have to approve the request.
At that point, the Regional Manager will go to the Director of Administration to prepare the legal documentation needed, i.e., a contract.
The contract is forwarded to you, and if you agree with the terms, you should sign it.
You “must carry general comprehensive liability insurance coverage of a minimum of one million dollars ($1,000,000), and must provide verification of such insurance prior to commencement of any work or entry on the affected facility or land.”
Oh, but that’s not all. You will incur service charges as well, as will anyone on your team who’s filming. The administrative service charge is a one-time fee of $500 and covers project processing and preparation.
You still need a permit if you’re photographing but don’t have to pay the service charge in most cases.
According to the policy, “Managers may consider a service charge if special circumstances exist (e.g. photography conducted as part of a commercial advertising campaign.”
Calvert County Parks & Recreation – County Code // 2019
Calvert County also enforces an ordinance for its parks and recreation areas.
In §82-2-101. General Provisions., A., the ordinance reads that “It is unlawful for any person in or on Park Property to…Operate a Motorized Unmanned Aircraft within or above Park Property without express written authorization from the Director.”
What happens if you break the law? Well, §82-1-104. Penalties. states that you will face a civil penalty of at least $50.
Further, your punishment “may result in the person being ineligible to participate in rentals, activities, or programs offered by the Department, as determined necessary and appropriate by the director for the execution of the principles in this Chapter.”
You could also not be allowed to return to any Calvert County parks and recreational areas.
If you were to return anyway, then at that point, you could be looking at a misdemeanor charge, which would carry heavier penalties.
For example, you could be jailed for six months or have to pay a fine of $1,000.
When you take the test, you’re protected under the Drone Pro Academy’s pass guarantee. If you fail your Part 107 test the first time, the academy will give you $160 to put towards retesting!
Maryland Drone Law FAQs
To wrap up, here are some common questions (with answers!) from drone pilots flying a UAV in Maryland for the first time.
Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in Maryland?
Maryland’s public parks are a great opportunity to experience the coastal wonders this state has to offer. Are you free to fly a drone in a public park here?
Well, you’ll recall from the last section that Culvert County bars drone users from flying a UAV in any park or recreational area unless you have a permit.
The ordinance does not go into the details of obtaining a permit, but without one, you shouldn’t launch your drone.
The punishments for disobeying the ordinance and not leaving the premises when requested are very steep!
As for other public parks in Maryland, since none of the Maryland drone laws go into further detail, we’d recommend contacting the parks and rec association and asking if drones are permitted.
Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in Maryland?
Maryland’s state parks will leave your jaw on the floor, from the 8,550-acre Rocks State Park to the picturesque Martinak State Park, the beautiful Susquehanna State Park, and the Gunpowder Falls State Park with fishing.
The Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Park Service do allow drones to take photos and videos for non-commercial purposes in state parks.
If you want to use your drone for any commercial filming or photography, then as we talked about in the section above, you will need a permit.
The process to obtain a permit seems lengthy, to put it mildly, as the request must obtain approval from several parties.
It’s a good idea to request the permit long before you need it so you’re not crunched for time!
Maryland has federal, state, and local drone laws, but those laws don’t clamp down too hard on drone pilots.
You’re allowed to bring a drone into state parks, and recreational or non-commercial pilots can even take photos and videos without a permit.
As always, be sure to follow Part 107 drone laws wherever you fly in Maryland so you can set a good example for others!
Peltier has quite the experience, making him qualified to teach about photography and drones in separate courses. He was a part of the U.S. Air Force as an F-15E flight instructor for a decade.