South Dakota hosts a myriad of attractive sights that would undoubtedly appeal to drone pilots, from Wind Cave National Park to Custer State Park, Badlands National Park, and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
What are the drone laws in this state?
South Dakota has federal, state, and local drone laws for pilots to follow. The federal laws are about the adherence to FAA rules, the state laws ban drones from certain surveillance applications and use around correctional facilities, and the local laws prohibit UAVs from some city airspace.
In today’s article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about South Dakota’s drone laws.
Whether you already live here, you’re moving here soon, or you’re just visiting, you are not going to want to miss the information ahead!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Federal Drone Laws in South Dakota
South Dakota’s federal drone laws are a part of a larger series of drone laws enforced by the United States government. The laws apply to every type of drone pilot for the safety of themselves, others, and property.
Here’s what you need to know.
Commercial Drone Pilots
Let’s start with commercial drone pilots, as they represent a large class of drone users.
South Dakota’s federal drone law requires commercial pilots to operate their UAVs according to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules.
The FAA also has requirements for commercial pilots per its Part 107 rules.
For instance, a commercial pilot must always carry a Remote Pilot Certificate.
You’ll have to take the FAA’s commercial pilot test, which is known as the Part 107 exam, if you don’t have your Remote Pilot Certificate yet.
The Part 107 exam is a comprehensive test that includes more than 50 multiple-choice questions. The questions will go over all sections of the Part 107 rules.
You’ll have to pay to take the Part 107 exam, and it’s done at a testing center near you, not online.
If you answer at least 70 percent of the questions correctly, then you’ll receive your Remote Pilot Certificate.
We recommend looking into an expert-led online drone course before you take the Part 107 exam to increase your chances of passing on attempt one.
You don’t want to have to pay to take the Part 107 exam more than once if you can help it!
You’ve finally been granted your Remote Pilot Certificate, but you’re not exactly ready to fly yet.
You must also register your drone with the FAA. Your drone will need to be re-registered three years from now if you’re still flying it.
Your Remote Pilot Certificate will expire sooner, in two years versus three. You can renew the certificate by taking an FAA-issued test.
Fortunately, everything about the renewal test is a lot easier. It’s done online, it’s free, and wrong answers are displayed to you while taking the test.
Take your time while testing, as you need a score of 100 percent to renew your license.
All courses offered by Pilot Institute are taught by remote pilots, flight instructors, FAA commercial pilots, and other certified professionals.
Recreational Drone Pilots
Are you a hobbyist drone pilot? South Dakota drone law requires you to obey Part 107 rules as well.
The FAA also has some requirements for you, but they differ from the requirements of commercial drone pilots.
For instance, you have to carry a license, but it’s the TRUST license, not a Remote Pilot Certificate.
What if you don’t have a TRUST certificate? Well, then you’ll have to take The Recreational UAS Safety Test.
The TRUST exam is a completely different type of test from the Part 107 exam, worry not.
You can register to take the exam online, and it includes about 23 multiple-choice questions, not 60.
It’s also harder to fail when all incorrect answers are displayed and correctable while you’re taking the exam.
Oh, and on top of that, your TRUST certificate never expires. Once you have it, it’s yours for life.
You will have to register your drone as well if it’s heavier than 0.55 pounds. The registration also lasts for three years.
TRUST is a collaboration between the FAA and industry to provide TRUST and educational safety material to Recreational Flyers.
Agency Drone Pilots
That brings us to government or agency drone pilots, which include South Dakota’s law enforcement, fire departments, and other government jobs.
When flying your drone in these roles, you must have a Certificate of Authorization (COA) or follow FAA Part 107 rules.
Enroll in Drone Pilot Ground School, the industry’s #1 online test prep and training course, and pass your FAA drone exam on your first try — or your money back.
State Drone Laws in South Dakota
Next, let’s review South Dakota’s state drone laws.
SB 80 // 2017
2017’s SB 80 is a law that has several sections related to the use of UAVs.
Per the law, unlawful surveillance now includes intentionally using a drone to record, photograph, or observe another person in a place where they have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The section also adds that you cannot land your drone on another person’s property unless you have their permission.
Breaking either of these laws is punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor.
In South Dakota, a class 1 misdemeanor can lead to some stiff punishments, including a fine of up to $2,000 as well as imprisonment for up to a year.
SB 80 also makes it clear that you’re outlawed from flying your drone over a military or correctional facility throughout South Dakota.
If you do, then you could once again be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor.
Should you send drugs with your drone to a correctional facility, then that’s a class 6 felony.
In South Dakota, a class 6 felony punishment varies according to the amount of drugs found on your possession at the time the crime was committed.
If you possessed drugs that are more than 0.5 pounds or two ounces, you will have to pay a fine of up to $4,000 and/or face two years of jailtime.
Should you have had more drugs on your person to transmit via drone, such as 0.5 pounds to one pound, then you could be fined up to $10,000 and be punished with five years behind bars.
Finally, SB 80 makes it clear that all drones flown in South Dakota must follow FAA guidelines.
SB 22 // 2017
Also passed in 2017, South Dakota’s SB 22 makes it clear that any drones that are under 55 pounds needn’t be registered as aircraft.
Keep in mind that’s 55 pounds, not 0.55 such as the FAA’s rule for drone registration.
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!
Local Drone Laws in South Dakota
What about South Dakota’s local drone laws? Let’s review those as well, as the city of Aberdeen has its own ordinance.
City of Aberdeen – Municipal Law // 2016
Ordinance No. 20-03-01 is Aberdeen’s municipal law.
This ordinance is an amendment to the city’s Chapter 10 – Aviation of the Aberdeen City Code Regarding Drones.
The amended section is Section 10-2. – Operating regulations.
Here is the law in full.
“The airport management authorizes limited drone operation in city airspace for hobby and recreational purposes only, except that it shall be unlawful to exceed such authorization by operating a drone:
(1) Within one (1) mile of the Aberdeen Regional Airport and within the 10,000 feet non-precision approach areas to its runways. The protected airspace hereafter shall be referred to as the ‘Airport Drone No Fly Zone.’ A map of such Airport Drone No Fly Zone shall be displayed at the airport and filed with the finance office;
(2) Over any person who is not involved in the operation of the drone, without such person’s consent;
(3) Over vehicular traffic;
(4) Over property that the operator does not own, unless the property owner consents and subject to any restrictions that the property owner may place on such operation;
(5) Over property owned, leased, or operated by the city, including but not limited to airports, parks, lakes, public swimming pools, trails, parking lots, and buildings, except drones may be operated in conformity with this section:
a. To temporarily cross from one authorized property to another authorized property over streets, roads, and alleys outside the Airport Drone No Fly Zone via the most direct route; and
b. Over the following city properties, subject to any restrictions thereon imposed by the city:
(i) Northwestern holding pond nature area (near 24th Avenue Northwest);
(ii) Baird Park (near 24th Avenue Northeast);
(iii) Riverside Memorial Park holding pond area;
(iv) Kuhnert Arboretum on Dakota Street South; and
(v) Moccasin Creek Soccer Complex from Melgaard Road north to the lateral line of the 12th Avenue Southeast and from South Cochrane Street west to Moccasin Creek;
(6) By a child under 13 years of age when not accompanied by the child’s parent or guardian or an adult designated by the child’s parent or guardian. The failure of a parent or designated adult to supervise an underage child’s operation of a drone shall be a violation by the parent or designated adult;
(7) At an altitude higher than 400 feet above ground level;
(8) Outside the visual line of sight of the operator…
(9) In a manner that interferes with, or fails to give way to, any manned aircraft or moving vehicle;
(10) During the period between sunset and sunrise;
(11) Whenever weather conditions impair the operator’s ability to operate the drone safely;
(12) Over any open air assembly unit, school, school yard, hospital, swimming pool, place of worship, or law enforcement building, without the property owner’s consent, and subject to any restrictions that the property owner may place on such operation;
(13) Within 500 feet of any electric generation facility, substation, or control center, or within 100 feet of any electric transmission facility, or within 25 feet of any electric distribution facility or of any overhead wire, cable, conveyor, or similar equipment for the transmission of sounds or signal, or of heat, light or power, or data, upon or along any public way within the city, without the facility or equipment owner’s consent, and subject to any restrictions that the facility or equipment owner may place on such an operation;
(14) For the purpose of conducting surveillance, unless expressly permitted by law;
(15) With 0.08 percent or more by weight of alcohol in that person’s blood or while under the influence of alcohol, any drugs, any intoxicant, or any combination thereof, as set forth in SDCL 32-23-1, which renders that person incapable of safely operating such drone;
(16) That is equipped with a firearm or other weapon;
(17) With intent to use such drone or anything attached to it to cause harm to persons or property; or
(18) In a reckless or careless manner.”
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.
South Dakota Drone Law FAQs
The South Dakota drone laws we covered today, while extensive, do not touch on flying a UAV in a park (for the most part).
Thus, we’ve put together this FAQ section that covers just that information.
Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in South Dakota?
South Dakota is rife with beautiful public parks, but can you fly your drone in any of them?
According to a 2016 article published in the local Argus Leader, some national parks are off-limits for drone pilots.
You’ll recall that the city of Aberdeen has strict rules on park access as well.
However, those were the only rules we were able to find about public parks.
We would recommend contacting the parks and rec association for the nearby park and inquiring about the rules before flying.
Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in South Dakota?
Who doesn’t love a day spent at a state park?
South Dakota has plenty of ‘em, including Palisades State Park, Roy Lake State Park, Oakwood State Park, Custer State Park, Newton Hills State Park, Union Grove State Park, and more.
The South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks organization states on its website that drones are allowed in state parks but must “comply with all applicable Federal Aviation Administration requirements and state laws.”
Here are the rules in full for drone pilots in South Dakota state parks:
- Do not “fly in a manner which interferes with the management of the area or the authorized use of the area by others.”
- Do not “fly in a manner that causes serious public inconveniences, annoyance, or alarm to any other person, makes unreasonable noise; disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons, or obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic.”
- You cannot “hunt, kill, take, concentrate, drive, rally, stir up, spot or locate” any local animals or game birds.
- You cannot deliver contraband with your drone.
- You cannot use your drone for surveillance or eavesdropping.
- You cannot fly after dark.
- You cannot fly under 400 feet.
- You must be registered with the FAA.
South Dakota’s drone laws include federal, state, and local laws for all levels of drone pilot to obey.
You’re granted access to fly your drone in state parks as well as most public parks, but it’s key to always follow Part 107 rules!
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.