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Are Drones Illegal in South Carolina?

Are Drones Illegal in South Carolina?

Is It Illegal to Fly a Drone in South Carolina?

As technology continues to advance, so must the laws that govern its use. Given the rise of artificial intelligence (“AI”) and automated technologies in 2023, it’s no secret that state and federal laws can be hard-pressed to keep up with our ever-evolving digital world.

Although less of a novelty today, drones have surged in popularity since 2006, making it all the more imperative for drone hobbyists and commercial flyers alike to understand the current laws and regulations governing drone use in South Carolina.

In this blog, we’ll review South Carolina’s drone laws in 2023 and explore legal implications for unlawful operation.

What Are South Carolina’s Drone Laws in 2023?

As we continue to utilize drones as integral components in countless industries and recreational activities, questions and concerns regarding ethical use and safety are bound to come into question. From commercial flyers to recreational enthusiasts, there are various regulations in place to ensure responsible drone operation in South Carolina.

To understand these regulations, it’s important to first distinguish between commercial and recreational drone operations in SC.

Commercial Drone Laws

Commercial drone use applies to those who engage in operation for work or business purposes (e.g., to make a profit). Commercial drone operators are legally bound to comply with certain requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) while operating a UAS.

Under the Part 107 rule, commercial operators must also obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FFA to demonstrate their understanding of the regulations and operating requirements.

Recreational Drone Laws

The recreational operation of drones is codified in 49 USC § 44809. Examples of recreational zone use include:

  • Aerial photography and videography
  • Exploring nature and scenic locations
  • Educational and learning purposes
  • Real estate and property surveilling
  • FPV (“first-person view”) racing

Under FFA guidelines, all recreational flyers are required to:

  • Pass the Recreational UAS Safety Test (“TRUST”). This test is designed to test the operator’s comprehension of aeronautical knowledge and safety while operating any UAS (“Unmanned Aircraft Systems”).
  • Register all drones weighing over 250 grams (0.55 lbs) with the FAA. As of 2023, the registration fee is $5.00 and is valid for 3 years.

Surveillance Laws for Drone Flyers in SC

Like commercial flyers, recreational drone operators are bound by the guidelines outlined by the FAA. In the state of South Carolina, all drone operators are required to comply with the rules outlined in SC Code § 24-1-300 and related legal guidelines, including:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Refrain from flying within 500 feet (horizontally) or 250 feet (vertically) of any Department of Corrections Facility
  • Drones with cameras must fly at least 200 feet away from any person, vehicle, building, or structure

Common Drone Violations in South Carolina

While drones can be a fun, educational, and useful way to explore the world around us, unlawful activity can lead to serious penalties for flyers. It’s critical to understand the laws governing drone use to avoid unintended consequences. Below are some common violations by drone operators in SC:

  • Unlawful surveillance – According to the FAA, drone operators must not interfere with manned aircraft, operate within the flyer’s line of vision, and refrain from flying over people who are uninvolved.
  • Privacy violations – Privacy concerns are a nationwide concern when it comes to drone surveillance. If a drone captures images or videos of individuals in situations where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, it can lead to legal penalties for the operator.
  • Trespassing – Flying a drone that intrudes upon someone's private property, hovers near windows, or records private activities is considered an invasion of privacy or trespassing, potentially leading to criminal penalties for the operator.

Keep in mind that some local jurisdictions in South Carolina have additional regulations or ordinances related to drone use. Because such regulations can vary between jurisdictions, it’s essential to know and adhere to any local rules that may apply to drone usage in your specific location.

When Is Flying a Drone a Crime?

Common criminal charges that can result from unlawful drone operation include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Criminal trespassing on private property
  • Public trespassing or obstruction charges
  • Reckless endangerment and criminal mischief laws
  • Criminal invasion of privacy

If you find yourself in legal trouble following unlawful drone use, it’s vital to consult with a trusted criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Even minor offenses can lead to serious consequences in court. Whether you made an honest mistake or were unaware of your actions at the time, securing strong representation can ensure that your rights are protected from start to finish.

Contact Our Firm for a Free Case Evaluation

Since 2004, the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC has successfully represented thousands of clients in criminal cases in Lexington and beyond. Our firm understands how terrifying it can be to face criminal charges. No matter how high the stakes are, our skilled attorneys are here to advocate fiercely on your behalf. From drug crimes to sex crimes, our seasoned criminal defense lawyers have the specialized knowledge and skillset to fight for the just outcome you deserve. Reach out to our office to learn how we can help drop or reduce the charges against you.

Being charged with a crime can be terrifying. Call (803) 359-3301 to schedule a free case evaluation with our skilled Lexington defense attorney.


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