Virginia Drone Laws
State Rules and Regulations
Federal airspace laws take precedence over state drone laws. If a state or local law directly conflicts with FAA regulations, the state or local law is likely to be invalidated.
“Unmanned aircraft” means an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of human intervention from within or on the aircraft.
“Unmanned aircraft system” means an unmanned aircraft and associated elements, including communication links, sensing devices, and the components that control the unmanned aircraft.
No locality may regulate the use of privately owned, unmanned aircraft system as defined in § 19.2-60.1 within its boundaries.
A. As used in this section, unless the context requires a different meaning:
"Unmanned aircraft" means an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of human intervention from within or on the aircraft.
"Unmanned aircraft system" means an unmanned aircraft and associated elements, including communication links, sensing devices, and the components that control the unmanned aircraft.
B. No state or local government department, agency, or instrumentality having jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement or regulatory violations, including but not limited to the Department of State Police, and no department of law enforcement as defined in § 15.2-836 of any county, city, or town shall utilize an unmanned aircraft system except during the execution of a search warrant issued pursuant to this chapter or an administrative or inspection warrant issued pursuant to law.
C. Notwithstanding the prohibition in this section, an unmanned aircraft system may be deployed without a warrant (i) when an Amber Alert is activated pursuant to § 52-34.3; (ii) when a Senior Alert is activated pursuant to § 52-34.6; (iii) when a Blue Alert is activated pursuant to § 52-34.9; (iv) where use of an unmanned aircraft system is determined to be necessary to alleviate an immediate danger to any person; (v) by a law-enforcement officer following an accident where a report is required pursuant to § 46.2-373, to survey the scene of such accident for the purpose of crash reconstruction and record the scene by photographic or video images; (vi) by the Department of Transportation when assisting a law-enforcement officer to prepare a report pursuant to § 46.2-373; (vii) for training exercises related to such uses; (viii) if a person with legal authority consents to the warrantless search; or (ix) by a law-enforcement officer to (a) aerially survey a primary residence of the subject of the arrest warrant to formulate a plan to execute an existing arrest warrant or capias for a felony offense or (b) locate a person sought for arrest when such person has fled from a law-enforcement officer and a law-enforcement officer remains in hot pursuit of such person.
D. The warrant requirements of this section shall not apply when such systems are utilized to support the Commonwealth or any locality for purposes other than law enforcement, including damage assessment, traffic assessment, flood stage assessment, and wildfire assessment. Nothing herein shall prohibit use of unmanned aircraft systems for private, commercial, or recreational use or solely for research and development purposes by institutions of higher education and other research organizations or institutions.
E. Evidence obtained through the utilization of an unmanned aircraft system in violation of this section is not admissible in any criminal or civil proceeding.
F. In no case may a weaponized unmanned aircraft system be deployed in the Commonwealth or its use facilitated in the Commonwealth by a state or local government department, agency, or instrumentality or department of law enforcement in the Commonwealth except in operations at the Space Port and Naval/Aegis facilities at Wallops Island.
G. Nothing herein shall apply to the Armed Forces of the United States or the Virginia National Guard while utilizing unmanned aircraft systems during training required to maintain readiness for its federal mission or when facilitating training for other U.S. Department of Defense units.
HB 2350 Peeping or spying into dwelling or occupied building by electronic device; penalty.
Makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to use UAS to trespass upon the property of another for the purpose of secretly or furtively peeping, spying, or attempting to peep or spy into a dwelling or occupied building located on such property.
SB 873 Authority of a fire chief over unmanned aircraft at a fire, explosion, or other hazardous situation.
Specifies that the fire chief or other officer in charge of a fire department has authority to maintain order at an emergency incident including the immediate airspace. Individuals who don’t obey the orders of the officer in charge are guilty of a class 4 misdemeanor.
HB 683 Trespass; use of an unmanned aircraft system, penalty
1. That §15.2-926.3 of the Code of Virginia is amended and reenacted and that the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 18.2-121.3 and by adding in Article 8 of Chapter 7 of Title 18.2 a section numbered 18.2-324.2 as follows:
15.2-926.3. (Expires July 1, 2019) Local regulation of certain aircraft.
No locality political subdivision may regulate the use of a privately owned, unmanned aircraft system as defined in § 19.2-60.1 within its boundaries. Nothing in this section shall permit a person to go or enter upon land owned by a political subdivision solely because he is in possession of an unmanned aircraft system if he would not otherwise be permitted entry upon such land.
18.2-121.3. Trespass with an unmanned aircraft system; penalty.
A. Any person who knowingly and intentionally causes an unmanned aircraft system to (i) enter the property of another and come within 50 feet of a dwelling house (a) to coerce, intimidate, or harass another person or (b) after having been given actual notice to desist, for any other reason, or (ii) take off or land in violation of current Federal Aviation Administration Special Security Instructions or UAS Security Sensitive Airspace Restrictions is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
B. This section shall not apply to any person who causes an unmanned aircraft system to enter the property as set forth in subsection A if (i) consent is given to the entry by any person with legal authority to consent or by any person who is lawfully present on such property or (ii) such person is authorized by federal regulations to operate an unmanned aircraft system and is operating such system in an otherwise lawful manner and consistent with federal regulations.
18.2-324.2. Use of unmanned aircraft system for certain purposes; penalty.
A. It is unlawful for any person who is required to register pursuant to §9.1-901 to use or operate an unmanned aircraft system to knowingly and intentionally (i) follow or contact another person without permission of such person or (ii) capture the images of another person without permission of such person when such images render the person recognizable by his face, likeness, or other distinguishing characteristic.
B. It is unlawful for a respondent of a protective order issued pursuant to §16.1-279.1 or 19.2-152.10 to knowingly and intentionally use or operate an unmanned aircraft system to follow, contact, or capture images of the petitioner of the protective order or any other individual named in the protective order.
C. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
2. That the second enactment of Chapter 451 of the Acts of Assembly of 2016 is repealed.
3. That the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, in consultation with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, shall study the impact of this act on unmanned aircraft research, innovation, and economic development in Virginia and report to the Governor and General Assembly no later than November 1, 2019.