Operating Drones in Maryland
Maryland’s drone regulations cover factors such as flying over Maryland commercially, as a hobbyist, and as a government employee. Violating Maryland’s drone regulations can attract penalties. Drones also pose challenges for communities and law enforcement in Maryland.
Flying over Maryland Commercially
- Maryland drone laws were created by the federal government, just like in any other state in the U.S. Flying a drone commercially in the state of Maryland (work or business purposes), a pilot must adhere to the requirements laid out by the FAA Part 107 Small UAS. In this case, drone pilots are required to pass the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test before they can obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate.
Flying Over Maryland as a Hobbyist
- To fly a drone over the state of Maryland as a hobbyist or for fun, drone pilots are required to adhere to the FAA recreational model aircraft rules. In this case, a drone that weighs over 0.55 lbs. (250g), attracts a registration fee of $5. Additionally, drone pilots must observe the rules for airspace and altitude by keeping drones within line of sight when flying over Maryland.
Flying over Maryland as a Government Employee
- Government employees, such as the police or firefighters, are required to either obtain a Certificate of Authorization from a federal agency or operate under the guidelines of the FAA Part 107 rule before flying drones over the state of Maryland.
Violations and Penalties
- The FAA holds the final authority when it comes to enforcing civil penalties on drone operators flying recklessly, unregistered operators, and operators who disrupt first responder activities.
- Department of Legislative Services -SB 1105 has the mandate to penalize drone operators who violate the set rules and regulations.
- Drone operators are prohibited from flying an unmatched aircraft system (UAS), within a distance of 1,000 feet of any correctional facility.
- However, adjustments are made when a UAS is operated in line with a valid search warrant or in case of emergency, where a drone operator flies a drone as a response for safety, search, and rescue. Any other unwarranted violation can attract penalty charges of up to $2,000 or imprisonment of up to four years.
Challenges Posed by Operation of Drones in Maryland
While drones have proven to be helpful in some instances, they have also posed challenges to the communities in Maryland.
Invasion of Privacy
- As drones continue to increase over time to help with policing duties, concerns about privacy have continued to grow, thus posing abuse and invasion challenges. The privacy of citizens and communities is often jeopardized when aircraft exercise bad behavior in public airways and private property, such as flying too low thus breaching Visual Line of Sight (VLoS) regulations. The use of drones naturally raises concerns that include protection against irrational searches and seizures, as provided in the Fourth Amendment.
Failure to Observe FAA Regulation
- Most hobbyist drone operators are not well-versed in FAA regulations and this may pose a challenge to not only the surrounding communities but also the authorities in Maryland, seeing that aerial rules are not easy to enforce.
- The biggest challenge is geometry as many hobbyists and commercial drone operators have issues keeping drones within their eyesight (Visual Line of Sight) as is required by the FAA. For example, when a law enforcer, sees a drone overhead, it may be difficult to track its operator. A police officer on the ground may not have enough time or resources to pursue a drone operator violating the FAA regulations.