North Carolina Drone Laws 2024 (Federal, State, and Local Rules To Know)

David Cassiel

Before you head out with your drone to explore what the state of North Carolina has in store for you, you have to be aware of the drone laws in North Carolina else you risk getting into trouble with the law.

Are drones allowed in North Carolina?

It is legal to fly drones in the state of North Carolina. It has federal, state, and local laws that govern the flying of drones in the state. However, drones are prohibited in state parks, some cities and towns, and correctional facilities. All Drone pilots are required to follow Part 107 rules as well.

In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about North Carolina drone laws for you to enjoy a pleasurable flight with your drone and stay clear of any legal proceedings.

Federal Drone Laws In North Carolina

The United States drone laws are the federal drone laws that apply to North Carolina 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 North Carolina

You can fly your drone for recreational purposes in North Carolina 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.

Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, USA Drone Skyline Aerial.
Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, USA Drone Skyline Aerial.

Below are the federal rules to follow while flying your drone for recreational purposes in North Carolina to keep you, your drone, and everyone safe in the airspace.

  1. Fly your drone only for recreational use or as a hobby.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Don’t fly close or interfere with a manned aircraft.
  5. Fly below 400 feet in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) after obtaining permission from LAANC or FAA Drone Zone.
  6. 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.
  7. Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry proof of test passage.
  8. 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).
  9. 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 North Carolina

You can fly your drone for commercial purposes in North Carolina 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.

Charlotte North Carolina downtown aerial view
Charlotte North Carolina downtown aerial view

Below are the federal rules to follow while flying your drone for recreational purposes in North Carolina to keep you, your drone, and everyone safe in the airspace.

Step 1: Learn the Rules

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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
  2. Review the entire process to get your Drone License or Remote Pilot Certificate.
  3. Study for the Knowledge Test by reviewing the Test Prep materials provided by the FAA.
  4. Obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) by creating an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile before registering for a knowledge test.
  5. Schedule an appointment to take the Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.
  6. 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)*
  7. 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 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 North Carolina

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.

Asheville city downtown North Carolina Aerial view
Asheville city downtown North Carolina Aerial view

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.

Emergency Situations

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:

  • Firefighting
  • 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 North Carolina

Downtown Greensboro, North Carolina in the evening.
Downtown Greensboro, North Carolina in the evening.

North Carolina drone laws are those drone laws that apply to the entire state of North Carolina and were created by the North Carolina General Assembly.

North Carolina has four state-wide laws governing the use of drones in the state as put together by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the North Carolina General Assembly

HB 128 // 2017

This bill prohibits drone operations near correctional facilities. Exemptions are given to certain people operating in an official capacity or with written authorization from the warden of the facility.

HB 337 // 2017

This bill allows the use of drones for emergency management activities, including incident command, area reconnaissance, search and rescue, preliminary damage assessment, hazard risk management, and floodplain mapping. This law also makes other changes to align the state law with federal law and exempts model aircraft from training and permitting requirements for UAS.

SB 446 // 2015

This bill expands the authority of the state’s Chief Information Officer to approve the purchase and operation of UAS by the state and modifies the state’s regulation of UAS to conform to FAA guidelines.

NCAC 13B .1204 // 2018

This North Carolina administrative code prohibits drones from operating or launching within or upon any state park area or state park water surface. Exemptions are made for drone pilots that have obtained a special activity permit from the park authorities.

SB 744 // 2014

This bill lay down the following guidelines for drone operators in the state of North Carolina

Commercial Operators

Regulations for commercial drone pilots operating in the state of North Carolina must:

  • Commercial UAS/drone operators operating under 14 CFR Part 107 or a 333 Exemption within North Carolina are required to have a valid NC UAS Commercial Operators Permit.
  • Commercial operators must take and pass NCDOT’s UAS Knowledge Test and then apply for a state permit.
  • To obtain a permit, operators must provide the state proof of their remote pilot certificate or other authorization to conduct commercial UAS operations from the FAA (see Federal above).
  • Permitted operators agree to these Terms & Conditions.

Recreational Operators

Recreational drone pilots flying in North Carolina are not required to obtain a license or permit from the state’s Division of Aviation. However, recreational users are still subject to NC UAS rules and regulations.

Government Operators

Government/public-use drone pilots operating in the state of North Carolina must:

All drone pilots operating commercially in the state of North Carolina

Downtown Raleigh at Twilight with a beautiful colorful skyscape. Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.
Downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.

Local Drone Laws In North Carolina

North Carolina local drone laws are those drone laws that apply only to certain regions, cities, or counties within the state of North Carolina and were created by various authorities within the state.

Town of Chapel Hill – Municipal Ordinance

The Chapel Hill regulation allows local authorities to enforce existing FAA drone regulations.

City of Kannapolis – Municipal Law

The city of Kannapolis regulations prohibit the use of drones in city parks.

City of Raleigh—Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Drone Policy

The city of Raleigh regulates what parks, recreational, and cultural areas drones are allowed to operate in. Drones may not fly in areas classified as “nature preserves,” “nature parks,” or “wetland centers.” Drone operators are also prohibited from launching or landing in cemeteries or over lakes. The policy also identifies six parks with designated UAS areas where it is legal to fly a drone.

Gaston County – Parks and Recreation Drone Policy

The Gaston County regulation prohibits the operation of drones within any Gaston County park without a special permit. Drones are allowed to operate at the special use facility at Lewis Brooks Airfield.

Town of Beech Mountain – Municipal Ordinance // 2017

Beech Mountain regulation prohibits the operation of drones within any town-owned property, including any public vehicular areas, common areas, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions on North Carolina Drone Laws

Can you fly a drone over private property in North Carolina?

You can fly a drone above a house or private property in North Carolina as long as you don’t fly below the minimum height, hover around the property, or use your drone to capture or record the occupants without permission from the occupants or property owner.

Can I fly a drone in North Carolina without a license?

Recreational drone pilots don’t need a license to fly a drone in North Carolina, 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 North Carolina.

Can you shoot down a drone in North Carolina?

Shooting down a drone in North Carolina 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 North Carolina. You are advised to report it to the authorities if you see a drone hovering above you or your property.

Final Thoughts on North Carolina Drone Laws

North Carolina 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 North Carolina if you want to see beautiful places that are legal to fly in various cities.

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