Navigating Drone Laws in Wisconsin: Rules & Regulations Guide

Last Updated: 12:10, 9 April 2024
author icon Written By: Benjamin Wilson

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

Looking to fly a drone in Wisconsin? It’s crucial to navigate the drone laws in Wisconsin to ensure you’re flying within legal boundaries. This guide cuts through the complexities, offering you a streamlined view of both federal and state regulations, pertinent to hobbyists and professionals alike, without overwhelming you with legal minutiae.

Key Takeaways

  • Drone operations in Wisconsin are governed by FAA regulations under Title 14 of the CFR, demanding adherence to various rules by different types of pilots, such as recreational, commercial, and government agency drone pilots.

  • Wisconsin state laws supplement federal regulations with specific restrictions including privacy protection, prohibition of weaponized drones, and particular protocols for law enforcement drone use.

  • Local regulations, airport-specific rules, height limitations, and state park policies provide additional layers of drone operation guidance in Wisconsin, and drone pilots must obtain necessary permissions and follow responsible flying practices.

Understanding Federal Drone Regulations in Wisconsin

Federal Aviation Administration regulations for drone operators in Wisconsin

Being a drone pilot in Wisconsin, one should realize that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) primarily governs our operations under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations. This means that whether we’re capturing stunning aerial photography of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway or mapping out real estate properties, we are part of the National Airspace System and must adhere to FAA regulations.

Moreover, in Wisconsin, unmanned aircraft are also considered as aircraft and hence, must follow aviation regulations. These regulations demand that drones operate without direct human intervention from inside or on the aircraft. These federal drone laws apply to a variety of pilots, including us recreational fliers, commercial operators, and government employees. The diversity of drone users only emphasizes the importance of consistent regulatory adherence across all groups.

FAA Part 107 for Commercial Drone Pilots

If you intend to operate drones for commercial purposes, be aware there is an entirely different set of rules to abide by. The FAA Part 107 regulations require commercial drone pilots to pass an aeronautical knowledge test and be at least 16 years old. Additionally, pilots must be in a physical and mental condition that allows for safe drone operation.

Additionally, when operating a drone, it’s important to:

  • Renew our Remote Pilot Certificate every 24 months by either passing a recurrent knowledge test or completing an online training course provided by the FAA

  • Perform pre-flight checks to ensure our drone’s operational safety

  • Be ready for potential FAA inspections or tests

  • Follow restrictions on operations from a moving vehicle, except over sparsely populated areas

  • Prohibit carrying hazardous materials

Recreational Drone Flying Guidelines

The rules differ slightly for those of us who are recreational drone pilots. If our drone weighs more than 0.55 lbs (250g), we must:

  • Register it with the FAA

  • Mark the drone with the registration number

  • Carry evidence of our drone’s registration

  • Be prepared to present it if requested by authorities.

Following the FAA’s recreational model aircraft rules is a must when we fly a drone or fly model airplanes, which includes keeping our flying model airplanes within line-of-sight while flying. We should also adhere to the safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community Based Organization (CBO) and fly our drones for hobby or recreational purposes only. Bear in mind, it’s prohibited for us to take part in compensated activities or aid commercial operations with our drones.

Finally, stay aware of Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) and NOTAMs that could impact recreational drone operations.

Government Agency Drone Operations

Wisconsin’s government agencies also adhere to their specific set of drone rules. Government agencies can operate drones under Part 107, obtain a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA), or function under Part 91 as a public aircraft operation. Drones used by these agencies that weigh over 0.55 pounds must be registered with the FAA and marked with the registration number.

Specific government drone operations might qualify for a ‘governmental function’ exception, which allows some leeway from certain regulatory requirements under specific conditions. These government drone pilots must adhere to the same operational guidelines as other pilots, including not flying over people, maintaining visual line-of-sight, and not operating in controlled airspace without authorization.

Public safety and government drone users are expected to follow regulations for activities related to firefighting, search and rescue, and surveillance functions. Furthermore, government drone operations linked to sensitive missions, such as law enforcement or disaster response, demand extra coordination with the FAA to guarantee safety and regulatory compliance.

Wisconsin State Drone Laws Overview

Prohibited drone flying areas in Wisconsin state parks

Beyond federal regulations, Wisconsin also has unique state laws overseeing drone operations. These laws outline regulations and restrictions pertaining to drone usage, such as privacy protection, weaponized drone prohibition, and law enforcement use restrictions. Therefore, as drone pilots, it falls on our shoulders to comply with these laws alongside FAA regulations.

Interestingly, Wisconsin law defines drones as:

  • unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) not equipped to carry human operators

  • obtaining lift through aerodynamic forces

  • controlled either remotely or autonomously

So, whether you’re flying a drone for fun in your backyard or conducting a professional aerial survey, you’re operating a UAV under Wisconsin law.

Privacy Protection and Imaging Restrictions

Privacy is a serious matter in Wisconsin’s drone laws. Capturing images where individuals have an expectation of privacy without consent using drones is strictly prohibited, making it crucial for us to respect personal spaces while operating our drones.

This means private spaces such as:

  • restrooms

  • locker rooms

  • residential rooms

  • changing rooms

  • daycare facilities

  • health treatment rooms

are off-limits for drone imaging. Violating these privacy rules can result in severe penalties, including up to nine months imprisonment, a fine of $10,000, or both.

Therefore, responsible flying also implies respectful flying.

Weaponized Drones Prohibition

In terms of safety, Wisconsin takes a firm stance against weaponized drones. According to Wisconsin Statute 941.292, the use of drones equipped with weapons is strictly outlawed. This prohibition is in place to protect the safety of both drone pilots and the public at large.

Law Enforcement Use of Drones

Like the general public, Wisconsin’s law enforcement must also comply with certain drone laws. They must obtain a search warrant to use a drone for gathering evidence in locations where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

However, local law enforcement officers are exempt from Wisconsin’s law on using drones to observe individuals in private spaces, under certain conditions. In addition, public safety and law enforcement agencies are encouraged to use the Public Safety and Law Enforcement Toolkit to gain clarity on their roles and responsibilities in operating UAS.

Local Drone Regulations in Wisconsin

Drone laws in Wisconsin aren’t confined to the federal and state level; they also encompass the local level. Counties or towns within Wisconsin may have specific restrictions, such as The Town of Greenfield, which prohibits drones from flying within 500 feet of public gatherings of more than 100 people and landing within 100 feet of a person.

Several educational institutions in Wisconsin also impose their own drone policies, requiring permission or approval for drone operations, limiting drone usage to certain purposes at Western Technical College. So, before taking the skies, always check local ordinances for any additional drone use restrictions that may be in place in specific cities or towns within Wisconsin.

Green Bay Drone Restrictions

The City of Green Bay, for instance, has specific drone restrictions in place. During special events, drone flights below 400 feet within designated boundaries are prohibited. This creates no-fly zones during the scheduled time..

Though it’s a simple rule, it’s vital for maintaining public safety and enjoyment during these events.

Outagamie County Airport Regulations

In Outagamie County, conducting drone operations on airport property necessitates prior written authorization from the airport’s director. This regulation is in place to ensure the safety of both manned aircraft and drone operations within the airport environment.

Chetek Height Limitations

The City of Chetek enforces drone height restrictions through a Height Limitation Zoning Map around Chetek Municipal Airport. This map delineates controlled airspaces for drone activity, providing clear guidelines for where drones can and cannot fly.

Drones are prohibited from operating at or above the specific heights indicated on the Height Limitation Zoning Map around Chetek Municipal Airport. As drone operators, adherence to these regulations is mandatory when flying near the airport. After all, the city expects all drone pilots to adhere to the Height Limitation Zoning Map to ensure safe and regulated operations around Chetek Municipal Airport.

Flying Drones in Wisconsin State Parks

Now, let’s talk about flying drones in Wisconsin state parks. In general, drones cannot be flown in Wisconsin state parks unless in a designated area. This rule applies to:

  • State parks

  • State recreation areas

  • State natural areas

  • The Kettle Moraine and Point Beach state forests

  • The Lower Wisconsin state riverway

However, the Richard Bong Special Use Zone serves as an exception to this rule, where drone use is permitted. But remember, flying drones in specific zones or state parks in Wisconsin requires obtaining explicit permission.

Prohibited Areas in State Parks

Restricted airspace in Point Beach State Forest, Wisconsin

Most state parks, forests, and natural areas in Wisconsin prohibit drone flights. In Wisconsin, flying drones is prohibited in:

  • State parks

  • State recreation areas

  • State natural areas

  • Kettle Moraine and Point Beach state forests

  • Lower Wisconsin state riverway

However, there are designated areas for drone use in these locations. If you want to fly your drone in these areas, you are required to contact local parks agencies to check for specific permissions and comply with local drone laws.

Designated Drone Zones

Designated drone flying zone in Wisconsin state parks

Conversely, some Wisconsin state parks have designated drone zones where drone flights might be allowed with explicit permission. For instance, in Waukesha County, we can acquire a permit at no charge to fly drones within designated zones in County parks.

However, not all regions have these designated zones. For example, Kenosha County prohibits drone operations in all County parks, confirming there are no designated drone zones in these regions.

Tips for Responsible Drone Flying in Wisconsin

Responsible drone flying tips in Wisconsin

As drone pilots, we carry the responsibility of flying responsibly and abiding by all regulations. We should comply with conservation rules for UAVs and are responsible for adhering to all applicable state, local, and FAA regulations.

For responsible drone use over private property, maintaining visual contact with the drone, avoiding reckless flying, and informing property owners to address any privacy concerns is advised. Additionally, we can use the FAA’s B4UFLY mobile app to check for controlled airspace, restricted areas, and temporary flight restrictions to stay compliant with airspace restrictions. And remember, to fly in controlled airspace, we must obtain authorization through the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system, available at 726 airports across Wisconsin.

How to Report Unauthorized Drone Activity in Wisconsin

If we observe unauthorized drone operations like:

  • flying near airports without permission

  • disrupting wildlife

  • breaching personal privacy

  • operating in a dangerous manner

it’s advisable to report to local police or the FAA’s Flight Standards District Office.

The FAA UAS Support Center and local authorities are secondary resources where incidents of improper drone use, especially those not involving immediate danger, can be reported. Additionally, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides a Violation Hotline and an online form specifically for reporting drone activities that may harm the environment or invade privacy.

Traveling with a Drone to Wisconsin

If we are traveling to Wisconsin with a drone, there are few things to keep in mind:

  • Our drones should be packed in a dedicated drone case to protect them during the flight

  • The drone should be turned off

  • We should adhere to airline size restrictions for carry-on luggage.

Furthermore, when traveling with lithium-ion batteries, it is important to follow these guidelines:

  • Carry the batteries in your hand luggage, as they are not allowed to be transported as cargo on passenger flights.

  • Charge the batteries to only about 30 percent.

  • Ensure that each battery does not exceed a limit of 100 watt hours, or if you have spare batteries, they should not exceed 160 watt hours each.

  • Before your trip, contact the airline to inquire about any specific guidelines for carrying drones, as the TSA allows them through checkpoints, but the final discretion lies with the TSA officer.


In conclusion, flying a drone in Wisconsin involves understanding and following a complex set of federal, state, and local regulations. From commercial pilots adhering to FAA Part 107 regulations to recreational flyers respecting privacy laws, we all have a role to play in maintaining the safety and integrity of our skies. Let’s commit to flying responsibly, respecting the rules, and enjoying the endless possibilities that drones offer. Happy flying!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it illegal to fly a drone over private property in Wisconsin?

A: Yes, it is legal to fly a drone over private property in Wisconsin as long as FAA rules are followed and privacy laws are respected. Be cautious about capturing images of people in private areas without consent.

Q: What is the statute of drones in Wisconsin?

A: In Wisconsin, the use of a drone to photograph, record, or observe an individual in a place where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy is considered a Class A misdemeanor.

Q: Are drones allowed in Wisconsin state parks?

A: No, drone use is prohibited in all Wisconsin state parks, state recreation areas, state natural areas, the Kettle Moraine and Point Beach state forests, and the Lower Wisconsin state riverway, except where posted for their use.

Q: What drones can you fly without a license?

A: You can fly drones without a license if they weigh 0.55 pounds (250 grams) or less and are operated under the Exception for Recreational Flyers or the Exception for Limited Recreational Operations. Registration is not required for these drones.

Q: Do I need to register my drone with the FAA?

A: Yes, registration with the FAA is required for drones weighing over 0.55 lbs (250g) in order to comply with regulations.

Meet the tester

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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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