The Use of Personal Drones and The Change in Arizona Law

Cindy Castillo DUI

Change in Arizona Law to Include the Use of Personal Drones and the Requirement to Register

You or someone you know has most likely received a drone as a gift or purchased one for recreational use. They seem to be everywhere, in both conversation and day-to-day life. Amazon is using them to deliver packages. We’re giving them to our children as toys. They’re becoming the replacement for model airplanes for hobbyists. Currently drones are becoming one of the biggest trending items out there. With the influx of new technology, there will usually be a change in law, especially over something as (sometimes) controversial as drones. That’s why, at the end of last year, a new law regarding drones was placed into effect. We’re here to tell you more about what you need to know regarding the law and your drone. It’s important to understand the new law, as the misuse of a drone could result in serious criminal charges.

Senator Kavanagh introduced SB1449, which called for an amendment to Arizona Revised Statute Section 13-2904. This amendment required the addition of specific language to the law in order to include legislation about unmanned aircrafts or drones. This new legislation was signed into law on May 11, 2016 by Gov. Doug Ducey and took effect in August, 2016. As a result, individuals could face criminal charges if they are using a drone and it interferes with law enforcement, flies too closely to “critical facilities” such as a prison, potentially endangers or hurts another person or their property, or even if that individual intentionally kills a bird or another animal while in flight and much more.

The new legislation adds a section to Arizona’s Disorderly Conduct statute. In addition to sections A(1-6) of A.R.S. §13-2904 Disorderly Conduct the statute will now include section 7 which reads:

A) A person commits disorderly conduct if, with intent to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, family or person, or with knowledge of doing so such person:

(A)(7). Operates a model aircraft or civil unmanned aircraft in dangerous proximity to a person or a person’s property unless the person has consented to the operation. For the purposes of this paragraph, “model aircraft” and “civil unmanned aircraft” have the same meaning prescribed in section 13-3729.

An unmanned aircraft is defined as an aircraft (“commonly known as a drone”) that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft. “Model aircraft” is defined as an aircraft (“commonly known as a drone”) that is operated by a person for hobby or recreational purposes. A.R.S. §13-3729 outlines all of the instances in which a model or unmanned aircraft is prohibited. There are several instances outlined, but to highlight a few, it is prohibited to operate a model aircraft or a civil unmanned aircraft if the operation:

  • Violates a temporary flight restriction or notice to airman that is issued by the federal aviation administration;
  • Interferes in the operation of a manned aircraft;
  • Interferes with law enforcement or a firefighter operation;
  • Is in a careless or reckless manner that endangers the life or property of another person;
  • Causes the intentional killing of a bird or animal while in flight;
  • Is within 500 feet or a vertical distance of 250 feet of a critical facility without the written consent of that facility (dam, prison, railroads, etc.).

Additionally, according to the FAA’s regulatory authority, individuals flying drones for any use must register their aircraft if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds. These individuals can do so online at https://register This registration is valid for three years and costs five dollars to register. Then, the individual is required to have the certificate of aircraft registration while flying their drone. Failure to register can result in civil penalties up to $27,500.00 and criminal penalties of $250,000 and/or up to three years imprisonment.

If you are going to be using a drone for personal use, there are important rules that you need to keep in mind or you may be subject to criminal and civil penalties. These include:

  • You must be 13-years-old or older to register;
  • You cannot operate a drone under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  • The drone must remain 5 miles from airports, unless the pilot provides prior notification to the airport and air traffic control;
  • The drone must fly below 400 feet;
  • The drone must always yield to the right of way of a manned aircraft;
  • The drone must remain in the pilot’s visual line of sight;
  • The drone must be less than 55 pounds, including its cargo weight.

As we’ve referenced in past articles, with new technology, the need for changes in legislation will arise. This is why it’s so important for our readers to stay informed about the changes in the law. In the upcoming blogs, we will be posting many more changes in the legislative laws that occurred at the end of last year and what it means for those living in Arizona. If you or someone you know are facing criminal charges, please call us immediately at 480-206-5204.