Flying your drone responsibly

What is an unmanned aircraft system?

An unmanned aircraft system (UAS), sometimes called a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot on-board – instead, the UAS is controlled from an operator on the ground. When you fly a drone in the United States, it is your responsibility to understand and abide by the rules.

The FAA allows amateurs/hobbyists to operate drones for non-commercial purposes subject to specific rules provided here: FAA: Fly for Fun.

The FAA has established unique requirements for commercial or institutional drone use (for example, when a Realtor uses a drone to take aerial pictures of a property); these specific rules are provided here: FAA: Fly for Work & Business.

Drone Registration

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Unmanned Aircraft System unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), sometimes called drones, are aircraft without a human pilot onboard. The FAA has defined small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) as UAS that weigh less than 55 pounds including cameras, sensors or cargo.

UAS are Aircraft

Whether you call them UAS, Drones, Remotely Piloted Vehicles, Autonomous Aircraft, or Model Aircraft, they are all aircraft. All aircraft are subject to the rules of the Federal Aviation Regulations and the Statutes and Rules of the State of Minnesota.

The FAA requires users of all UAS that are not flown in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14, Part 101, Subpart E to be registered by make, model and serial number. Each aircraft will be issued a registration number.

FAA UAS Registration

MnDOT Aircraft Registration

All UAS registered with the FAA and owned by a Minnesota resident must register with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and pay an annual registration fee in Minnesota. Non-residents using UAS for commercial operations in Minnesota must also register their UAS before the aircraft is used for commercial purposes. To complete registration of the aircraft, the owner is required to show proof that sales tax has been paid and provide insurance information. The insurance must comply with the requirements of Minnesota Statute 360.59, Subd. 10. On the Minnesota registration form, use the same registration number that was provided by the FAA that starts with “N-“.

UAS Information for Communities

As UAS use becomes more popular, communities are likely to experience issues related to their use. Having policies and practices in place allows a community to be ahead of the issues. Communicating with citizens about proper UAS use can reduce the number of calls and complaints in the community by encouraging safe practices, which reduces the workload for law enforcement.

Here is a link to an FAA webpage that will assist you in visualizing the ceilings for UAS/Drone flight within the local metro area.  Zoom into the metro area and each rectangle is clickable and will show you how high you can fly.

Notification Requirement

The FAA’s amateur/hobbyist rules include notifying the airport if the drone operator intends to fly the drone within 5 miles of the airport. The City of South Saint Paul Municipal Airport can be notified either by calling or using our online airport notification process provided here: Drone Flight Notification Form.

UAS Pilots are responsible for notifying ALL airports that they maybe near. For all other airports in the metropolitan area please use this link: Drone information page for all MAC airports in the Twin Cities.

Locality Regulations

If you’re hoping to operate a drone from or fly a drone over Dakota County or Cities within Dakota County here are links for their regulations: (this list is not all inclusive).

Key tips to fly safely

  • Drones as a general rule cannot be operated within a five mile radius of any towered airport without agreement from the air traffic control tower.
  • Per South Saint Paul Municipal Airport’s Rules and Regulations, Sec. 5.2: “No kites, model airplanes, rockets, unmanned aerial vehicles or other objects shall be flown at the Airport without prior authorization from the Airport Manager in accordance with 14 CFR Part 101 and 107..”
  • Fly your drone under 400 feet and not near stadiums, airports, public buildings and large groups of people.
  • Never fly your drone near a manned aircraft.
  • Always fly your drone within your direct line of sight.
  • Don’t fly your drone over any vehicles.
  • If you see a drone safety issue, call the FAA Flight Standards Office at (612) 253-4400.


The Federal Aviation Administration of the United States Department of Transportation has very strict rules and regulations on when and where to fly unmanned aerial systems (UAS), unmanned air vehicles (UAV), and drones. These regulations are governed nationwide and they get stricter down to the states and counties. This is why it is important to know the rules for your area so you do not get slapped with any fine or even worse, serve some jail time. Also, while government regulations are indeed important, choosing a safe place to operate is equally important for the safety of others and your drone. With that said, here are four apps to help you know the rules for your area to help keep others safe and you out of trouble.

Although some drones can fly higher and further than others, like mentioned before, some states have different rules that are not so clear, unlike the obvious stay clear of airports and military bases. This means that even a small toy drone that can only fly up a number of feet in the air, can bring you some unwanted attention. How to avoid such a predicament? Here are four (4) apps to help you:

UAV Forecast
We do not espouse any one app over the other. This is for reference only.