Your Essential Guide to Drone Laws in Minnesota: Rules & Regulations 2024

Last Updated: 12:09, 9 April 2024
author icon Written By: Benjamin Wilson

A road sign that reads 'Welcome to Minnesota' featuring a drone flying overhead.

Understanding drone laws in Minnesota is essential for pilots to operate legally and safely. This guide demystifies the regulations for both recreational and commercial drones, covering registration, FAA and state requirements, no-fly zones, and more. Stay informed and fly with confidence in Minnesota’s airspace.

Key Takeaways

  • Minnesota’s drone laws necessitate understanding federal regulations, including the FAA guidelines, and state-specific legislation; registration is essential for commercial but not for recreational drones, with law enforcement requiring warrants for drone use.

  • Commercial drone operators in Minnesota must acquire a Commercial Operations License, register their UAS with MnDOT, secure FAA Remote Pilot Certification, and are subject to fees related to drone registration, licensing, and certification.

  • Recreational drone users must adhere to best practices, such as maintaining visual line of sight, while local ordinances vary across cities and counties in Minnesota, requiring further compliance; using the B4UFLY app helps navigate no-fly zones and airspace restrictions.

Understanding Minnesota Drone Laws: Federal and State Regulations

Drone flying over a beautiful landscape

Navigating the maze of drone laws can be a daunting task. The first step is to understand that in Minnesota, drone operations are governed by both federal and local drone laws. Here are the key points to keep in mind:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a national authority, has set forth guidelines that have nationwide applicability.

  • The State of Minnesota imposes specific requirements for commercial drone registration.

  • There is no mandatory registration for recreational drones or model aircraft at the state level.

To ensure safe skies and respect the rights of all airspace users, it’s essential for drone pilots, whether recreational or commercial, to familiarize themselves with these laws and adhere to them strictly. After all, the sky is a shared resource, and it’s our responsibility to ensure it remains safe and welcoming for everyone, maintaining public safety.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Guidelines

The FAA, the primary governing body for airspace in the United States, has established guidelines that all drones, regardless of their purpose, must comply with. These guidelines encompass:

  • Responsible and cautious operation

  • Maintaining visual line-of-sight

  • Avoiding encounters with manned aircraft

  • Following the default regulations outlined in Part 107 for drones weighing under 55 pounds.

The FAA classifies drones according to their weight, categorizing small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) weighing less than 55 pounds under the remote pilot certification and operating rules. While commercial drone operators in Minnesota must obtain a commercial operations license, they are not obligated to furnish a certificate of drone insurance to the Office of Aeronautics.

Minnesota State Legislation on Drones

In the state of Minnesota, individuals engaging in commercial drone operations are required to complete a registration process and submit a $30 licensing fee in order to obtain a Commercial Operations license. Registration is not mandatory for recreational drones or model aircraft. However, operating a drone without proper registration and licensing can pose a heightened risk of penalties and legal consequences.

Minnesota law also imposes specific requirements on law enforcement agencies to protect privacy rights. Law enforcement is required to obtain a search warrant in order to use drones, unless specific exceptions are provided by the law.

Commercial Drone Operation in Minnesota: Requirements and Licensing

Commercial drone operator obtaining license

Operating a commercial drone in Minnesota involves more than just buying a drone and launching it into the air. There are several steps you need to follow:

  1. Acquire a Commercial Operations License. This requires filling out an application and paying a licensing fee of $30.

  2. Register your drone with the appropriate authorities.

  3. Obtain insurance for your drone.

  4. Familiarize yourself with the regulatory requirements for operating a commercial drone in Minnesota.

By following these steps, you can ensure that you are operating your drone legally and responsibly when you fly drones.

The costs associated with drone registration and licensing in Minnesota are:

  • Registration of a commercial drone: $5 fee

  • Drone operation license: $30 annual fee

  • FAA Remote Pilot Certification for commercial drone pilots in Minnesota: valid for 24 calendar months.

These costs should be factored into your drone operations budget.

Registering Your Drone with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT)

When it comes to commercial drone operations in Minnesota, registration with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is a crucial step. The registration process can be completed online through the MnDOT website, making it convenient for drone operators to comply with the regulations from the comfort of their homes or offices.

Registering a commercial drone with MnDOT incurs a $100 per year registration fee for each aircraft, in addition to an annual operator’s license fee. Once the registration process is completed and the licensing fee, which remains valid for a period of one year, is paid, you are ready to take off.

Obtaining a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA

In order to operate a commercial drone in Minnesota, obtaining a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA is mandatory. To acquire this certificate, individuals must meet specific criteria: be at least 16 years old, possess the ability to read, speak, write, and comprehend English, and demonstrate physical capability.

Obtaining this certificate involves the following steps:

  1. Successfully passing the Initial Aeronautical Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved testing center.

  2. Paying a fee of approximately $175 for the initial aeronautical knowledge test and $5 for registration.

  3. The certificate remains valid for a period of 3 years.

Recreational Drone Use in Minnesota: Rules and Best Practices

Drone operator checking no-fly zones

While drones offer an exciting avenue for recreational activity, it’s important to remember that they are not toys and must be operated responsibly. In Minnesota, there are certain rules and best practices that recreational drone users should follow to ensure the safety and privacy of all.

For instance, drones must maintain visual line of sight or have a visual observer in constant communication with the operator. Furthermore, it’s crucial to obtain air traffic control authorization before flying in controlled airspace. Disobeying these rules can lead to significant legal implications, such as fines ranging from $400 to $5,000 or a maximum imprisonment period of 20 years.

Flying Drones in Minnesota Parks: Permits and Restrictions

The natural beauty of Minnesota’s city parks, as well as other parks and recreational areas, makes them tempting locations for drone flights. However, it’s important to understand that there are specific rules and restrictions in place to protect these areas and their inhabitants.

In some parks, drone flights may be permitted with a Special Use Permit, while others may completely prohibit them. Certain parks, like those managed by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, require Approved Drone Permits for activities within their properties. Unlawful drone use in these areas can lead to penalties, underlining the importance of understanding and complying with local rules and ordinances.

Government and Law Enforcement Drone Operations in Minnesota

Law enforcement drone in operation

While government and law enforcement agencies in Minnesota use drones, their operations must abide by particular regulations. These include:

  • Obtaining authorization for flight in controlled airspace

  • Giving way to manned aircraft

  • Adhering to data management guidelines when using unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance or investigative purposes.

Minnesota law requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant, which serves as prior approval, before using a drone, with the exception of certain emergency situations where there’s a potential for loss of life or bodily harm. These regulations are in place to balance the benefits of drone use in law enforcement with the protection of citizens’ privacy rights.

Search Warrants and Emergency Situations

In order to use a drone for surveillance or investigative purposes, law enforcement agencies in Minnesota are required to secure a search warrant. This requirement ensures that the privacy rights of the citizens are respected and that the use of drones by law enforcement is carried out in a judicious manner.

However, in situations of emergency where there’s a potential for loss of life or bodily harm, Minnesota law allows law enforcement agencies to use drones without a search warrant. These exceptions are put in place to enable law enforcement to respond swiftly and effectively in urgent situations where time is of the essence.

Local Drone Ordinances in Minnesota: Navigating City-Specific Rules

While federal and state regulations provide a broad framework for drone operations, it’s also important to be aware of local drone ordinances that may apply in specific cities or counties within Minnesota. These local regulations can vary widely, with some cities like Minneapolis mandating Approved Drone Permits for activities within their parks, while other areas such as Anoka County require a Special Use Permit for flights over their parklands.

In smaller towns such as St. Bonifacius, there’s a stringent prohibition on flying drones within the public city airspace. Familiarizing yourself with these local rules is crucial to ensure that you are abiding by all the relevant regulations when operating your drone.

Examples of City and County Drone Laws

To give you a clearer picture of the variety in local drone ordinances across Minnesota, let’s look at some examples. In St. Bonifacius, for instance, it is prohibited for any person or entity to operate a drone within or above the city boundaries.

On the other hand, Anoka County allows drone operations over its parklands, but operators are required to acquire a Special Use Permit. Similarly, in Ramsey County, drones are permitted to operate in designated areas, but takeoff or landing in any park within the county is prohibited. These examples underscore the importance of understanding local drone laws before you start your drone operation.

No-Fly Zones and Airspace Restrictions in Minnesota

Map showing no-fly zones in Minnesota

Being aware of no-fly zones and airspace restrictions forms a crucial part of legal and safe drone operation. In Minnesota, drones are permitted to operate at altitudes up to 400 feet in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace. But flying drones in restricted airspace is prohibited, even over private property.

There are also specific no-fly zones around stadiums during major league baseball games, where a no-fly zone is established within a three nautical mile radius of any stadium with a seating capacity of 30,000 or more. To ensure that you are flying your drone within the permitted areas, you can use tools like the B4UFLY app and the LAANC system.

Using the B4UFLY App and LAANC System

The B4UFLY app is a mobile application developed by the FAA to help drone operators check airspace and local advisories before flight. It provides a map interface, weather information, and flight planning tools. You can download the B4UFLY app for free on iOS and Android devices, and it offers a user-friendly interface that indicates any restrictions or requirements at your specified flight location in Minnesota.

The LAANC system, on the other hand, is designed to automate the process of obtaining airspace authorizations for drones. It enables real-time permission to fly in controlled airspace through a system integrated with the National Airspace System. By using the FAA’s B4Ufly app, which connects to the LAANC system, you can get near-real-time permission to operate in controlled airspace.

Traveling with a Drone in Minnesota: Tips and Guidelines

If you’re planning to travel with your drone, there are some pointers and rules you should remember. Packing your drone securely is key to preventing any damage during transit. Always turn it off, secure all moving parts such as the propellers or gimbal, and place it in a dedicated compartment of a carry case for a snug fit. Particular attention should be given to securely storing loose accessories, especially batteries.

Traveling with a drone also involves adhering to FAA regulations and local government flight restrictions. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  1. Register your drone with the FAA. This is mandatory for most drone operators and entails a $5 fee for a three-year registration.

  2. When it comes to transporting batteries, carry them in your carry-on luggage, each individually protected against short circuits.

  3. It’s permissible to carry up to three batteries - one installed in the drone and two as spares.

Resources for Minnesota Drone Pilots

Droning in Minnesota isn’t just about understanding and complying with regulations; it’s also about being part of a vibrant community of drone enthusiasts, where you can learn, share, and grow together. The ‘Know Before You Fly’ campaign is an educational initiative designed to educate drone pilots about the safe and responsible operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones.

In addition to the ‘Know Before You Fly’ campaign, drone pilots in Minnesota can access valuable resources such as drone pilot training programs, online courses, in-person classes, and a free drone flight checklist PDF. There are also local drone pilot communities in Minnesota, such as the MINNESOTA Drone Club, Drones Uncensored, Minnesota Drone Pilot Group, and TFP Minnesota Photographers, which provide a platform for pilots to establish connections and share knowledge.

"Know Before You Fly" Campaign and Free Flight Checklist PDF

The ‘Know Before You Fly’ campaign is coordinated by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). It offers information and guidance to drone pilots, including those in Minnesota, regarding safe and responsible flying practices.

A complimentary flight checklist PDF is a handy tool for drone pilots. It usually includes information about:

  • Checking the flying conditions and itinerary

  • Securing required documentation

  • Inspecting the drone for damage or malfunctions

  • Ensuring the remote controller and batteries are charged

  • Verifying that the mobile device is charged and connected to the remote controller

You can find such a checklist on SafetyCulture’s website with their ‘5-Point Drone Preflight Check Guide for Pilots’ or the complimentary drone FAA sUAS pre-flight checklist provided by DV Entertainment.


In conclusion, operating a drone in Minnesota involves navigating a complex network of federal, state, and local regulations. By understanding these laws, respecting no-fly zones and airspace restrictions, and adhering to best practices, drone pilots can ensure safe and legal operations. Whether you’re a commercial operator or a recreational enthusiast, compliance with these guidelines is crucial. So remember, before you take to the skies, take a moment to understand the rules - it’s up to each of us to ensure the sky remains a safe and welcoming place for everyone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a permit to fly a drone in Minnesota?

Yes, you need a permit to fly a drone in Minnesota if you are using it for commercial purposes, as registration and a commercial license are required, along with drone insurance (Minnesota DOT Policy). However, for recreational use, no registration is required, but it's advisable to contact the UAS Department if unsure about the intended use (Minnesota DOT).

Is it illegal to fly drones over private property in MN?

It is generally not illegal to fly drones over private property in Minnesota, but getting permission from the landowner before flying can prevent conflicts. Additionally, commercial operations by licensed drone pilots within their own property should be done with prior notification of local law enforcement.

Can you fly a drone in Minnesota state parks?

No, it is unlawful to fly a drone in Minnesota state parks as they are considered aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration. Therefore, they cannot be operated within the boundaries of the parks.

What are the FAA guidelines for drone operations in Minnesota?

To operate a drone in Minnesota, you must follow FAA guidelines, including maintaining visual line-of-sight, avoiding manned aircraft, and adhering to Part 107 regulations for drones under 55 pounds.

What are the requirements for commercial drone operation in Minnesota?

To operate a commercial drone in Minnesota, you need to obtain a Commercial Operations License, register your drone, and obtain insurance. These are the key requirements for commercial drone operation in Minnesota.

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Benjamin Wilson
Benjamin, with a background in naval architecture, is passionate about RC boats. From sailboats to speedboats, he's sailed them all. Based in Florida, he's our anchor when it comes to all things aquatic in the RC world.
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