You can easily get lost in the gorgeous sights of Wisconsin, from Peninsula State Park to Mt. Olympus, Devil’s Lake State Park, Lake Mendota, and the Wilderness Resort.
Interest in flying one’s drone in a state like Wisconsin is high, but what are the drone laws here?
Wisconsin has federal, state, and local drone laws in place. Pilots must always fly by FAA guidelines per federal law. State laws restrict invading one’s privacy with a drone or weaponizing a drone while local laws outlaw drones from airports and during some events.
In this extensive guide, we’ll take you through every drone law in Wisconsin from the federal to the local laws so you can be privy when you fly.
There’s lots of great information to come, so make sure you check it out!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Federal Drone Laws in Wisconsin
The United States government requires all states to employ a set of federal drone laws, and that also includes Wisconsin.
The laws apply to every type of drone pilot, from recreational to government employees as well as commercial pilots.
Let’s review Wisconsin’s federal drone laws now.
Commercial Drone Pilots
Are you a commercial pilot? We’re sure many of you reading this are.
According to Wisconsin federal drone law, you must always fly your UAV by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 guidelines.
Another requirement is having your Remote Pilot Certificate on your person.
The Remote Pilot Certificate is your ticket to the skies, as it’s an official FAA commercial license.
Those who don’t yet have their Remote Pilot Certificates must enroll to take the Part 107 exam.
The exam is a comprehensive review of all parts of the FAA rules across more than 50 multiple-choice questions.
You’ll have to take the test at an FAA-approved testing center. At the time of your test, you’ll receive a test booklet, a magnifying glass for reading charts, a calculator, a pencil, and scratch paper.
You have two and a half hours to complete the exam. Retakes are allowed, but each test attempt costs money, so you want to limit retakes.
We recommend browsing the FAA’s study material, signing up for an online drone school, and taking as many practice tests as you can.
Should you earn a score of 70 percent or higher on the exam, then congratulations are in order since you passed!
Once you register your drone with the FAA, you can now fly per commercial guidelines for the next two years.
As your Remote Pilot Certificate expires, you can take a free recertification exam through the FAA.
The recertification exam is short and offered online for convenience. This time, you can see any incorrect answers as you select your responses (a luxury the Part 107 exam does not afford you).
Answer carefully and check over your work, as you need to score 100 percent to recertify your Remote Pilot Certificate.
All courses offered by Pilot Institute are taught by remote pilots, flight instructors, FAA commercial pilots, and other certified professionals.
Recreational Drone Pilots
In Wisconsin, federal drone law mandates that hobbyists too must follow Part 107 guidelines when operating a drone.
You’ll probably have to get your drone registered as well, but that depends on how heavy it is.
Drones that are under 0.55 pounds can forego registration, but drones that weigh approximately 0.55 pounds or over must be registered with the FAA.
The FAA also mandates that hobbyists carry a TRUST certificate. This is the recreational equivalent of the Remote Pilot Certificate.
If you guessed that that means there’s a test involved, you’d be correct. The Recreational UAS Safety Test or TRUST test is the FAA’s recreational pilot exam.
The TRUST test is shorter than the Part 107 exam, with about 23 questions as opposed to 60. All questions are still multiple-choice, but the test is offered online instead of in person.
Oh, and the TRUST test is free to take, which is great news.
If you get a question wrong when taking the exam, the answer is displayed as such so you can go back and correct your work.
Upon completion of the exam, you’ll receive your TRUST certificate. There is no need to recertify your license.
TRUST is a collaboration between the FAA and industry to provide TRUST and educational safety material to Recreational Flyers.
Agency Drone Pilots
Government employees throughout Wisconsin such as law enforcement or the local fire department must follow federal drone laws as well.
You’re required to obey Part 107 rules or have a Certificate of Authorization or COA.
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 Wisconsin
Wisconsin has several state drone laws in play, so let’s take a closer look at those as well.
942.10 Use of a Drone
Per the Wisconsin State Legislature, in 942.10 Use of a Drone., the law states that those “with the intent to photograph, record, or otherwise observe another individual in a place or location where the individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”
In Wisconsin, being charged with a Class A misdemeanor could lead to a prison sentence of up to nine months, a fine of $10,000, or possibly both charges.
This law also states that law enforcement is exempt from the above.
941.292 Possession of a Weaponized Drone
In the same document, 941.292 Possession of a Weaponized Drone states that “Whoever operates a weaponized drone is guilty of a Class H felony” except for the national guard or U.S. armed forces members.
A Class H felony in Wisconsin is a much steeper punishment. You could be fined $10,000, spend six years in state prison, or both.
175.55 Use of Drones Restricted
The Wisconsin State Legislature, in 175.55 Use of Drones Restricted, also limits law enforcement’s ability to use drones for criminal investigations and collecting evidence.
The law states that “No Wisconsin law enforcement agency may use a drone to gather evidence or other information in a criminal investigation from or at a place or location where an individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy without first obtaining a search warrant under s. 968.12.
This subsection does not apply to the use of a drone in a public place or to assist in an active search and rescue operation, to locate an escaped prisoner, to surveil a place or location for the purpose of executing an arrest warrant, or if a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion to believe that the use of a drone is necessary to prevent imminent danger to an individual or to prevent imminent destruction of evidence.”
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.
Local Drone Laws in Wisconsin
When flying a drone in Wisconsin, pilots must also be abreast of the following local laws.
City of Green Bay – Municipal Law // 2013
In Green Bay, the municipal law in place restricts pilots from flying under 400 feet of Lambeau Field when the Green Bay Packers are playing as well as during other special events.
Outagamie County – Municipal Law // 2016
Throughout Outagamie County, the municipal law blockades drones from flying on or near an airport per Section 10-35. – Entities subject to the minimum standards., 7.
The law in full reads: “No entity shall be permitted to conduct a commercial aeronautical activity at the airport in support of an aeronautical activity that is prohibited by the Federal Aviation Administration or a county ordinance, rule, or directive.
For example, and without limitation, no commercial aeronautical activity may be conducted in support of the operation of ultra-light aircraft, commercial skydiving, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and hot air balloons, which are prohibited from operating at the airport pursuant to county ordinance.”
City of Chetek – Municipal Law // 2016
The municipal law in Chetek establishes limitations on drone use around airports.
In Section 118-89. – Airport heights limitation zone., (c) (3), the law states that “Except as otherwise provided in this section, no drones shall be operated at or above a height in excess of the height limit indicated on the map referred to in Subsection (b) of this section.”
Per Subsection (b), the established zones pertain to the Chetek Municipal Airport, which drone pilots must steer clear of.
City of Hudson – Municipal Ordinance // 2017
In Hudson, the municipal ordinance through the Hudson Common Council prevents the usage of drones to observe, record, or photograph a person in a place “where they have the reasonable expectation of privacy” such as a home or even in their backyard.
If you violate this rule, you could be fined $200 by the city.
Town of Greenfield – Municipal Ordinance // 2017
Greenfield’s municipal ordinance is outlined in Chapter 10 of the Code of Ordinances, Section 10.35 – Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). (Cr. #).
The following are prohibited operations per the ordinance:
“(a) No person shall launch or land a UAV outside of their visual line of sight. Visual line of sight means the operator’s own natural vision or natural vision with correction of glasses or contact lenses and does not include the use of vision enhancement devices such as binoculars, telescopes or cameras.
(b) No person shall launch, land or operate a UAV within 100 feet of any individual except the operator and assistant operator.
(c) No person shall launch or land a UAV from any private property without the consent of the property owner.
(d) No person shall launch, land or operate a UAV within 500 feet of any festival, event, picnic, protest or public assembly of more than 100 persons.
(e) No person shall allow the launch or operation of an autonomous UAV.”
In the next section, entitled Reckless operation, these drone usage rules are established:
“(a) No person shall launch, land or operate a UAV in a manner so as to endanger the safety of any person or property. The operation of a UAV while under the influence of intoxicants or any other drug constitutes reckless operation.
(b) No person shall operate a UAV in such a way as to harass, intimidate, or otherwise cause a disturbance.”
In the section entitled Reasonable time, place and manner of operation, the following rules are listed:
“(a) No person shall launch, land or operate any UAV within 500 feet of any emergency vehicle which is operating its emergency lights or siren.
(b) No person shall launch, land or operate a UAV within 500 feet of any active law enforcement, firefighting or emergency response incident.
(c) No person shall launch, land or operate any UAV within 500 feet of a school while school is in session or during school-sponsored events without prior authorization of the principal of the school or district administration.
(d) No person shall launch, land, or operate a UAV within 500 feet of any law enforcement, jail or municipal lockup facility.”
Failing to obey these rules will lead to a penalty. Additionally, the pilot may also have pay for the repair or replacement of any damaged property.
If your child damages property with a drone, then the parents would be on the hook for these charges.
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!
Wisconsin Drone Law FAQs
What about flying a drone in Wisconsin’s parks? What are the rules there? We’re glad you asked, as we put together this FAQs section to answer just that question.
Can You Fly a Drone in a Public Park in Wisconsin?
Juneau City Park, City View Park, Balsam Lake Pine Park, Montello City Park, and Plymouth City Park are some of the most popular public parks in Wisconsin.
Per the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, drone use is barred “except where posted for their use, at state parks, state recreation areas, state natural areas, the Kettle Moraine and Point Beach state forests, and the Lower Wisconsin state riverway.”
A public park could be considered a state recreation area or a state natural area, so you should always confirm that with the local parks and rec association.
Can You Fly a Drone in a State Park in Wisconsin?
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources policy, which is also included in the Wisconsin State Legislature in NR 45.04 General Rules., makes it crystal-clear that you cannot fly a drone in a state park unless in a designated area.
Plan to visit locales such as Mirror Lake State Park, Pattison State Park, Governor Dodge State Park, and High Cliff State Park sans drone.
Wisconsin has a number of federal, state, and local drone laws for pilots to abide by. Failing to do so can lead to some very severe punishments, including expensive fines and possibly even years in jail.
Keep these rules in mind whenever you embark on a drone flight in this state!
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.