The east coast state of Pennsylvania is a natural playground, affording such wonders as Lake Wallenpaupack, Presque Isle State Park, Ohiopyle State Park, Raystown Lake, and so much more.
If you’re interested in flying a drone in Pennsylvania, what are the rules?
Pennsylvania has federal, state, and local drone laws in place. Under federal law, pilots must always follow FAA Part 107 rules. Drones are also largely banned from Pennsylvania state parks.
Ahead, we’ll explore all of Pennsylvania’s drone laws so you can be in the know. There’s plenty of useful information ahead, so make sure you keep reading!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Federal Drone Laws in Pennsylvania
The United States government institutes a series of federal drone laws across the country. This applies in Pennsylvania as well.
These federal drone laws are designed to regulate the activities of agency or government, commercial, and recreational drone pilots.
Let’s take a closer look at Pennsylvania’s federal drone laws now.
Agency Drone Pilots
As a government employee in the state of Pennsylvania, the rules still apply when flying your drone professionally.
Government drone pilots are expected to either have a Certificate of Authorization or COA or obey the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules.
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Commercial Drone Pilots
If you’re a commercial drone pilot, then Pennsylvania federal drone law mandates that you too always follow Part 107 rules.
According to the FAA’s guidelines, a commercial drone pilot is always required to carry a license known as the Remote Pilot Certificate.
This license grants you permission to use your drone in a commercial capacity.
If you don’t have a Remote Pilot Certificate, then you’ll have to take the Part 107 exam.
The Part 107 exam tests your knowledge on the full extent of FAA drone rules. No stone is unturned on this test, so it helps to study up or enroll in a Part 107 exam cram course.
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Each time you take the Part 107 exam, you pay a fee. The test is administered at an approved FAA testing center. It takes approximately two and a half hours to answer the 50+ multiple-choice questions.
You must earn a score of 70 percent or higher to pass. Then you’ll be granted your Remote Pilot Certificate.
Before you launch your drone, be sure to register it with the FAA. It costs $5 to do this, and the registration lasts for the next three years.
Your Remote Pilot Certificate will expire in two years. Recertifying now requires commercial pilots to take a free online exam administered by the FAA.
The online recertification exam is in multiple-choice format. Pay attention to your wrong answers and go back and change them while taking the test, as you must score a 100 to recertify.
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Recreational Drone Pilots
Pennsylvania federal drone law applies to hobbyist pilots as well.
You’re also expected to follow Part 107 rules whether flying in your backyard or at your local Pennsylvania park.
If you fly mostly toy drones, then you needn’t register your drone. If you own anything more than a beginner’s drone though, then it probably exceeds 0.55 pounds.
That means you have to register it with the FAA.
You’re also required to carry a TRUST certificate when flying recreationally.
Don’t have a TRUST certificate? Then you’ll have to take a special exam called The Recreational UAS Safety Test, better known as TRUST.
The TRUST test is all done online and doesn’t cost a cent to take. You’ll answer fewer than 30 multiple-choice questions.
Any answers that you get wrong when taking the test are displayed as such.
You don’t need a perfect score to earn your TRUST certificate, but if you can get one, you might as well do it.
TRUST is a collaboration between the FAA and industry to provide TRUST and educational safety material to Recreational Flyers.
State Drone Laws in Pennsylvania
Next, we’ll examine Pennsylvania’s statewide drone laws.
Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources has its own rules and regulations about park usage in the state.
According to those rules, the Bureau of State Parks only allows drones to fly in the following state parks:
- Tuscarora State Park
- Prompton State Park
- Lackawanna State Park
- Hillman State Park
- Benjamin Rush State Park
- Beltzville State Park
Here’s what else the policy says: “Drone and UAS operators need to contact the park office of the flying site they plan to visit to ensure compliance with all rules and regulations.
Please be advised that the entire park at each of these locations is not open to UAS or drone usage. Only the designated flying site within each park is open to UAS use.”
Flying in other sections of the above parks as well as in any other state park but those on the list above is barred.
Title 53 Sec. 305 // 2018
Passed in 2018, Title 53 Sec. 305 lays out provisions and prohibitions for drone usage in the state.
Per a 2014 amendment that added §305. Local regulation of unmanned aircraft prohibited, (a), “The provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. §3505 (relating to unlawful use of unmanned aircraft) shall preempt and supersede any ordinance, resolution, rule or other enactment of a municipality regulating the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft.
As of the effective date of this section, a municipality shall not regulate the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft unless expressly authorized by statute.”
In (b), the rule is as follows: “Nothing under 18 Pa.C.S. §3505 shall prohibit a municipality from using unmanned aircraft within the boundaries of the municipality for municipal purposes and regulating that use.”
Title 18 Sect. 3505 // 2018
Title 18 Sect. 3505, which also passed in 2018, defines “unlawful use of unmanned aircraft” as willingly using a drone in the following ways:
“(1) Conduct surveillance of another person in a private place.
(2) Operate in a manner which places another person in reasonable fear of bodily injury.
(3) Deliver, provide, transmit or furnish contraband in violation of section 5123 (relating to contraband) or 61 Pa.C.S. § 5902 (relating to contraband prohibited).”
If you break laws (a)(1), you could be fined $300.
However, disobeying the laws in (a)(2) could lead to a felony charge, which would be punishable by jailtime as well as a possible fine.
Law enforcement is exempt if the officers use drones “in the performance of their official law enforcement duties.” That applies to personnel at correctional facilities, including the Department of Corrections, per (c).
In (d), the following exemptions are presented: firefighters, emergency medical personnel, “an employee or agent of an electric, water, natural gas or other utility while engaged in the performance of the employee’s or agent’s official duties,” and “an employee or agent of a government’s agency while engaged in the performance of the employee’s or agent’s official duties.”
Local Drone Laws in Pennsylvania
Local drone laws are enforced by a state’s cities, towns, villages, and counties. Pennsylvania does have local laws, but they don’t exist separately from the state laws.
Allow us to explain a little. The local drone laws are a part of Title 53 Sec. 305 as well as Title 18 Sec. 3505, which we detailed in the section prior.
All municipalities, incorporated townships, boroughs, and cities in the state of Pennsylvania are prohibited from regulating drone operation or ownership.
Under Title 18 Sec. 3505, municipal rules are also superseded by the FAA’s drone usage rules.
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Pennsylvania Drone Law FAQs
Before we wrap up, we have this useful FAQs section that will help you navigate using a drone in Pennsylvania’s parks.
Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in Pennsylvania?
The beautiful public parks throughout Pennsylvania are plentiful, making them an appealing destination for drone pilots.
We could not, in our research, find any information that outlawed drone pilots from flying in public parks, only state parks.
That said, the safest course of action is to contact a parks and rec representative and ask about the drone flight policy there if there is one.
Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania’s state parks are staunchly protected by the Bureau of State Parks and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources.
You’ll recall from the state laws section that just six state parks allow drone pilots.
Those parks do not welcome pilots to the entirety of the park, but rather, designated sections only.
You will have to contact the park ahead of your planned flight to gain confirmation that drones are allowed in the designated area that day. You should also always follow Part 107 rules.
Pennsylvania enforces drone laws federally, statewide, and locally. Many state parks are off-limits, but you can operate your drone in six state parks in specific areas only.
Whenever you fly your drone in the great state of Pennsylvania, remember to always follow Part 107 rules!
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.