West Virginia is the home of such natural wonders as Babcock State Park, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Blackwater Falls State Park, and the Hatfield-McCoy Trails.
If West Virginia is calling your name and you wish to fly your drone here, you’ll need to know the rules. What are they?
West Virginia has federal and state drone laws but no local laws. Federally, pilots are required to follow FAA guidelines. State drone laws prohibit invasion of privacy, harassing someone with a drone who has a restraining order against you, and flying in state parks without permission.
In today’s guide, we’ll take you through every drone law that West Virginia has so you can be clear on the rules.
Whether you’re a hobbyist or a commercial pilot, you’re not going to want to miss the info ahead!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Federal Drone Laws in West Virginia
All states in the United States are required by the government to institute a series of federal drone laws.
These laws–which West Virginia enforces as well–apply to commercial, agency, and recreational drone pilots.
Here’s what you need to know.
Agency Drone Pilots
Government pilots such as law enforcement or fire departments in West Virginia are mandated by federal law to have a Certificate of Authorization (COA) or follow the Federal Aviation Administration’s 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.
Recreational Drone Pilots
West Virginia federal drone law also applies to recreational pilots.
As a hobbyist, you’re expected to follow the Part 107 rules.
The FAA requires all recreational pilots to register their drones if the UAV exceeds a weight threshold of 0.55 pounds (or weighs approximately 0.55 pounds).
To register your drone, you have to pay $5. The registration lasts for approximately three years.
Recreational drone pilots must also carry a TRUST certificate, which is a hobbyist license issued by the FAA.
If you don’t have a TRUST certificate, then you’ll have to sign up to take the FAA’s TRUST exam.
TRUST, by the way, stands for The Recreational UAS Safety Test, which is the long-form name of the recreational pilot exam.
The TRUST exam is online-based so you can take it at home or in your favorite cozy spot. The exam has fewer than 30 questions, and they’re all multiple-choice.
If you answer a question wrong, you’re notified immediately while taking the test. You can change your answer if you wish.
The best part is that the TRUST exam is free to take. The next best part is that your TRUST certificate never expires.
TRUST is a collaboration between the FAA and industry to provide TRUST and educational safety material to Recreational Flyers.
Commercial Drone Pilots
West Virginia federal drone law applies to commercial pilots as well.
You’re also expected to follow the FAA’s flight guidelines when operating your drone.
More so, the FAA requires commercial pilots to have a Remote Pilot Certificate.
Like the TRUST certificate, the Remote Pilot Certificate proves your proficiency in drone flight.
You don’t simply receive the Remote Pilot Certificate, of course. Rather, you have to pass a rigorous FAA test known as the Part 107 exam.
The commercial pilot’s exam is the polar opposite of the TRUST exam.
It’s longer (more than 50 questions), you can’t take it online (it has to be at an FAA testing center), you can’t see wrong answers as you go, and it’s not free.
The only thing in common is the multiple-choice format of the questions.
It’s never a bad idea to study up ahead of taking the Part 107 exam, as you don’t want to have to keep paying for retests.
We’ve gathered the best drone courses right here, so make sure you check that out!
If you answer at least 70 percent of the questions correctly on the Part 107 exam, then you’ve passed!
Once you have your Remote Pilot Certificate, it’s yours for the next two years from the date it’s issued. From then out on, you’ll have to recertify.
The FAA now allows commercial pilots to take a free renewal exam to keep their Remote Pilot Certificates current.
The renewal exam is a short, to-the-point, online exam that’s free to take. As was the case with the TRUST exam, during your renewal exam, you can see wrong answers and change them before submitting the test.
You need a score of 100 percent to recertify, so take your time!
Make sure you register your commercial drone with the FAA as well.
All courses offered by Pilot Institute are taught by remote pilots, flight instructors, FAA commercial pilots, and other certified professionals.
State Drone Laws in West Virginia
Next, let’s delve into West Virginia’s state laws.
HB 3005 // 2018
The West Virginia Legislature, in 2018, enacted HB 3005, which amends the Code of West Virginia by adding Article 14. Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
In § 61-14-2. Prohibited use of an unmanned aircraft system; criminal penalties, drones are banned in the following scenarios:
“(1) To knowingly and intentionally capture or take photographs, images, video, or audio of another person or the private property of another, without the other person’s permission, in a manner that would invade the individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, including, but not limited to, capturing, or recording through a window;
(2) To knowingly and intentionally view, follow, or contact another person or the private property of another person without the other person’s permission in a manner that would invade the individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy…
(3) To knowingly and intentionally harass another person;
(4) To violate a restraining order or similar judicial order;
(5) To act with a willful wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or
(6) To knowingly and intentionally operate an unmanned aircraft system in a manner that interferes with the official duties of law enforcement personnel or emergency medical personnel.”
If you violate any of the above laws, then you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor as well as a fine between $100 and $1,000. You could have to spend up to a year in jail.
Should you equip your drone with a deadly weapon and you’re not in the military, you’ll be charged with a felony. The fine is between $1,000 and $5,000 and the jail sentence can last one to five years.
HB 4607 // 2018
HB 4607 amends §20-5-2 in the Code of West Virginia and adds rules about drones operating on rail trails, in state forests, and in state parks.
According to Article 5. Park and Recreation, §20-5-2. Powers of the director with respect to the section of parks and recreation., 16, only a State Park Superintendent can do as follows:
“Permit the use of drones within State Parks, Forests, and Rail Trails. Persons who intend to operate an unmanned aircraft system shall register at the area superintendent’s office prior to engaging or participating in the operation of any unmanned aircraft system and specify where the activity will take place.
A superintendent may only prohibit, issue directives, or implement time and place restrictions in unmanned aircraft system use in areas or portions.”
The goal is to protect park users, facilities, and the peace of the town and to prevent wildlife harassment with this decision-making.
HB 2515 // 2015
Passed in 2015, HB 2515 establishes that drone pilots cannot use a UAV to hunt.
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!
Does West Virginia Have Any Local Drone Laws?
Throughout a state’s counties, cities, towns, and villages, a state may wish to institute local drone laws. Not every state does this.
What about West Virginia? We couldn’t find any local drone laws for this state.
The federal and state laws as discussed throughout this section do still apply even if local laws do not!
West Virginia Drone Law FAQs
Before you go, make sure you check out this FAQs section. The information therein will come in handy ahead of your planned drone flight in West Virginia.
Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in West Virginia?
West Virginia is a green state with many attractive public parks to explore. Naturally, you’ll wish to bring your drone along, but can you?
None of the federal or state drone laws that we reviewed mentioned anything about flying a UAV in a public park, only a state park.
Thus, you should be able to launch your drone in one of West Virginia’s public parks.
It’s best to check in with the parks and rec association at the park before you fly just to be completely clear on the rules. You don’t want to get charged with a misdemeanor!
Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in West Virginia?
The state parks are one of the biggest attractions in West Virginia, from Audra State Park to Holly River State Park, Twin Falls Resort State Park, Blackwater Falls State Park, and more.
You’ll recall from the last section that HB 4607 gives the ultimate authority to the State Park Superintendent to decide if a drone is allowed to fly in a state park in West Virginia.
The superintendent has the right to refuse requests if they believe the request might upset local wildlife or park visitors.
Should you receive approval to fly, you’ll have to register your drone with the superintendent in addition to any active FAA registration you might have for your drone.
West Virginia cracks down hard on drone use to protect its lands. Disobeying the laws can come with jail sentences and hefty fines, which is all the more reason to be on the up and up. Happy flying!
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.