Before you head out with your drone to explore what the state of Massachusetts has in store for you, you have to be aware of the drone laws in Massachusetts or else you risk getting into trouble with the law.
Are drones allowed in Massachusetts?
It is legal to fly drones in the state of Massachusetts. It has federal, state, and local laws that govern the flying of drones in the state. However, many city, public park, and state park ordinances in Massachusetts restrict drone operations within their perimeters.
In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about Massachusetts drone laws for you to enjoy a pleasurable flight with your drone and stay clear of any legal proceedings.
- Federal Drone Laws In Massachusetts
- Federal Drone Laws for Recreational Flying in Massachusetts
- Federal Drone Laws For Commercial Drone flying in Massachusetts
- Federal Drone Laws for Public Drone Flying In Massachusetts
- State Drone Laws In Massachusetts
- Local Drone Laws In Massachusetts
- Frequently Asked Questions on Massachusetts Drone Laws
- Final Thoughts on Massachusetts Drone Laws
Federal Drone Laws In Massachusetts
The United States drone laws are the federal drone laws that apply to Massachusetts and every state in the United States of America and were created by the federal government.
If you have a small drone that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly recreationally by following the Drone Laws in the USA as defined by FAA Part 107 guidelines.
Federal Drone Laws for Recreational Flying in Massachusetts
You can fly your drone for recreational purposes in Massachusetts as a hobby without seeking monetary compensation as long as you follow the FAA law (Part 107) and also check the state jurisdiction for additional licensing, permission, and clearance requirements.
Below are the federal rules to follow while flying your drone for recreational purposes in Massachusetts to keep you, your drone, and everyone safe in the airspace.
- Fly your drone only for recreational use or as a hobby.
- Follow the safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community Based Organization (CBO). Recreational flyers should follow the safety guidelines of existing aeromodelling organizations or use the FAA-provided safety guidelines per Advisory Circular 91-57B.
- Keep your drone within your visual line of sight or use a co-located visual observer (physically next to) and in direct communication with you.
- Don’t fly close or interfere with a manned aircraft.
- Fly below 400 feet in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) after obtaining permission from LAANC or FAA Drone Zone.
- Fly below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace (Class G). Note: You can also be prohibited from flying in a Class G airspace in areas designated as prohibited areas, restricted areas, military operated areas, alert areas, etc. except with prior authorization from the FAA.
- Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage.
- Always slap your registration number on the exterior surface of your drones and always carry the proof of registration with you. As a recreational flier, you are exempted from registering and marking your drones by the FAA as long as your drone weighs less than 0.55 lbs (250 grams).
- Do not dangerously operate your drone. For example:
- Do not interfere with emergency response or law enforcement activities.
- Do not fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Avoid flying near or over critical infrastructure.
You should be aware that you could be liable for civil and/or criminal penalties if you intentionally break any of these rules and regulations listed above as a recreational drone pilot.
As a recreational drone pilot, you are obliged to learn the rules and regulations put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on the proper use of drones for recreational flying.
You should also apply common sense when operating your drone in crowded public places, historic resources, and public places to keep everyone safe.
Federal Drone Laws For Commercial Drone flying in Massachusetts
You can fly your drone for commercial purposes in Massachusetts with the aim of seeking monetary compensation as long as you follow the FAA law (Part 107) and also check the state jurisdiction for additional licensing, permission, and clearance requirements.
Below are the federal rules to follow while flying your drone for recreational purposes in Massachusetts to keep you, your drone, and everyone safe in the airspace.
Step 1: Learn the Rules
- Read and understand the dos and don’ts as a commercial flyer the under Part 107 rules. Review a summary of the Part 107 rules (PDF). Still unsure if Part 107 rules work for you and your intended UAS operation? Check the FAA user identification tool.
- You can obtain a waiver to exceed some limit put in place by the FAA that is not covered by Part 107. Below are some laws in Part 107 that are subject to a waiver.
- Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft. *
- Always operate your drone during the day. *
- Keep your drone from out of the Visual line of sight from an aircraft operation *
- Keep your drone in your Visual line of sight. *
- Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems. *
- Yielding the right of way. *
- Don’t fly your drone over people. *
- Restriction from certain airspace. *
- Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft.
- *The FAA will not waive this section to allow the carriage of property of another by aircraft for compensation or hire.
- You should read about the Part 107 Waiver application process if your drone operation requires a waiver.
- Commercial drone operators should steer clear of flying close to airports as it might be challenging for human aircraft to spot and avoid a drone in flight. Keep in mind that the UAV operator is accountable for any safety threat their drone poses in an airport area and must avoid crewed aircraft. Read more about flying near airports.
Step 2: Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by Passing the Knowledge Test
- To be eligible to get your Drone License (Remote Pilot Certificate), you must be:
- At least 16 years old
- Able to read, write, speak, and understand English
- Be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a UAS
- Review the entire process to get your Drone License or Remote Pilot Certificate.
- Study for the Knowledge Test by reviewing the Test Prep materials provided by the FAA.
- Obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) by creating an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile before registering for a knowledge test.
- Schedule an appointment to take the Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.
- Once you’ve passed your test, complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA)*
- You are now eligible to operate as a commercial drone pilot.
Step 3: Register your drone with the FAA
- Pay the registration fee of $5 with your credit card or debit card to get a valid three year license to commercially fly drones.
- Visit dronezone.faa.gov and select “Fly UAS under Part 107” to create an account and register your drone.
- After that, mark the exterior surface of your drone (PDF) with your registration number for identification and tracking if it were to get stolen
Always be sure to fly your drone safely and within FAA guidelines and regulations. It is up to you as a drone pilot to know the rules of the sky and where it is safe to fly. You should try the user identification tool if you aren’t sure if Part 107 is right for you and your operation
Federal Drone Laws for Public Drone Flying In Massachusetts
Federal public laws are drone laws for federal, state, local, or tribal government entities, including schools and universities that use unmanned aircraft systems or drone technology for their operations.
Federal Restrictions & Requirements
- Be a political subdivision of the United States government, a State or U.S. territory government, the District of Columbia, or an Indian Tribal Government listed in the Robert T Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. § 5122)
- Own and operate the unmanned aircraft, or for non-federal public aircraft operators (PAO’s) have an exclusive lease on it for more than 90 days
- Fly missions that meet the statutory criteria of a governmental function on a flight-by-flight basis.
- Not fly for a commercial purpose or receive compensation for flight operations.
First responders and other organizations responding to natural disasters or other emergency situations may be eligible for expedited approval through our Special Governmental Interest (SGI) process. Operations that may be considered include:
- Search and Rescue
- Law Enforcement
- Utility or Other Critical Infrastructure Restoration
- Incident Awareness and Analysis
- Damage Assessments Supporting Disaster Recovery Related Insurance Claims
- Media Coverage Providing Crucial Information to the Public
To apply for a waiver through the SGI process, you must be an existing Part 107 Remote Pilot with a current certificate OR you must have an existing Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). To submit a waiver through this process, fill out the Emergency Operation Request Form and send it to the FAA’s System Operations Support Center (SOSC) at [email protected] .
If approved, the FAA will add an amendment to your existing COA or Remote Pilot Certificate that authorizes you to fly under certain conditions for the specified operation. If denied, operators should not fly outside the provisions of their existing COA or part 107. Operators have the option to amend their requests.
* This process is called the Special Government Interest (SGI) amendment process and is outlined in FAA Order JO 7200.23A
State Drone Laws In Massachusetts
Massachusetts drone laws are those drone laws that apply to the entire state of Massachusetts and were created by the Massachusetts General Court.
302 CMR 12.00
The following activities are forbidden under Massachusetts CMR Section 12 unless specifically permitted by a Special Use Permit:
- Taking off, landing, or transporting any type of aircraft into Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) property, including seaplanes and ultralights.
- Using a drone over any area of land or body of water under DCR management.
- Engaging in any form of commercial activity.
Note that the CMR does not expressly address the use of unmanned aircraft, but the law also covers drone operations. It would be better to exercise caution and get in touch with the park administration.
Local Drone Laws In Massachusetts
Massachusetts local drone laws are those drone laws that apply only to certain regions, cities, or counties within the state of Massachusetts and were created by various authorities within the state.
This ordinance states that “drone use will be allowed [in the Quabbin watershed] only by written permit specifying a date and time, designated location and purpose, and only by FAA-registered UAVs operating under FAA rules.”
However, I suggest doing some research and contacting the Division of Water Supply Protection to learn more about the rules if you want to fly in the Quabbin watershed.
The City of Boston policy allows recreational flyers to operate their drones in city parks under strict safe-flight guidelines and adherence to the FAA rules and regulations.
Recreational and/or commercial drone operations are prohibited at USACE water resources development projects unless authorized by the District Commander.
Regardless of the operator’s location, this restriction applies to anybody flying a drone over USACE water resources development projects, including over outgranted Corps land that is leased to a third party.
Outdoor drone operations on private property are prohibited. Exceptions are made for Part 107-licensed pilots after they have completed a UAS Flight Approval Form from the property owner.
The municipal regulation that was adopted in Chicopee in 2017 covers drones that weigh less than 55 pounds and are flown by private individuals at a height of 400 feet.
All drone operators in Chicopee are required by 186-4 to adhere to FAA standards.
Furthermore, you can only launch or land your drone “on private property owned by the operator or where written permission is granted by the landowner.”
The permission must include the name of the owner and their signature, their property address, and the hours and dates on which the drone will be used.
Additionally, while using a drone for non-commercial or non-business objectives, you must abide by the following regulations:
- Register with the Federal Aviation Administration and maintain proper documentation of the same.
- As required by Federal law, fly below four hundred (400) feet at all times.
- Maintain at all times a visual line of sight of the aircraft and/or drone as defined above.
- No operator shall operate an aircraft and/or drone over a crowd or person(s) not directly participating in its operation.
- No operator shall operate an aircraft and/or drone prior to sunrise or subsequent to sunset.
- No aircraft and/or drone shall be weaponized.
- No aircraft or drone shall photograph or videotape any person without the prior written permission of that person. All operators shall maintain this written permission while operating the aircraft and/or drone and for a period of seven (7) years thereafter.
- No aircraft or drone shall operate over private property without the prior written permission from the landowner which shall be in the possession of the operator during operation.
- No aircraft or drone shall operate over any property owned or controlled by the City of Chicopee unless prior written authorization is secured by the operator.
- No drone shall be flown within five miles of a civilian or military airport without first contacting the control tower before flying.”
First time violators of the above drone laws in Chicopee will receive a written warning. Second time violators will pay a fine of $100, third time violators will pay a fine of $250, and the fourth time violators and above will pay a fine of $300.
In Holyoke, Section 54-22 of the municipal code, which went into effect in 2016, limits the use of drones (drones).
Part D of the section, Regulated activities and operational limits, states the following:
1. All drones shall comply with all regulations and operational limitations of the Federal Aviation Administration.
2. A drone may take off from and land on private property owned by the drone operator, and as permitted for such private and public property after having received the prior written consent of that property owner.
3. Any operator of a drone used for hobby or recreational purposes and not in connection with a business or commercial operation shall also:
a) Register with the FAA and comply with all requirements necessary to register.
b) Fly at or below 400 feet.
c) Maintain at all times a visual lie of sight to the drone while operating the drone.
d) Not operate over any persons or groups of persons not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary vehicle.
e) Not operate except in daylight-only or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunset to 30 minutes after official sunset, Eastern Standard time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
f) Not photograph or videotape residents in their own home or on their property without the prior written consent of that person or persons.
g) Not operate over the private property of another unless prior written consent is obtained from the property owner.
h) Not operate over any property owned by the city, including the Holyoke water works and Holyoke gas & electric, unless prior written consent has been obtained from the city, Holyoke water works or Holyoke gas & electric. “
First time violators of the above drone laws in Chicopee will receive a written warning. Second time violators will pay a fine of $100, third time violators will pay a fine of $200, and the fourth time violators and above will pay a fine of $300.
Frequently Asked Questions on Massachusetts Drone Laws
Is it illegal to fly a drone over private property in Massachusetts?
It is legal to fly drones above a house or private property in Massachusetts as long as you don’t hover around them or use your drone to capture or record them without permission from the property owner.
Can I fly a drone in Massachusetts without a license?
Recreational drone pilots don’t need a license to fly a drone in Massachusetts, but you must pass a free online safety test (TRUST). However, commercial drone flyers must get a certificate (Part 107) from the FAA. Furthermore, all drones weighing more than 249 grams must be registered to operate in Massachusetts.
Can you shoot down a drone in Massachusetts?
Shooting down a drone in Massachusetts is illegal and against federal law because drones are protected by the FAA. You could serve some jail time or pay a large fine if you shoot down a drone in Massachusetts. You are advised to report it to the authorities if you see a drone hovering above you or your property.
Final Thoughts on Massachusetts Drone Laws
Massachusetts has wonderful scenery you can explore with your drone for recreational or commercial purposes. However, you need to abide by the drone laws set by the FAA, your state government, and local authorities in that city to enjoy a hassle-free flight.
You should also check out the best places to fly a drone in Massachusetts if you want to see beautiful places that are legal to fly in various cities.