Restrictions on recreational drone use in Nevada
Unmanned aircraft systems (drones) are subject to restrictions on where in Nevada they can be flown.
Some of these are FAA regulations, which apply to all drones flown outdoors in the United States, whether commercially or for fun. Other restrictions on drones are found in the Nevada Revised Code.
But regardless of which law you are violating, flying a drone in the wrong Nevada location can subject you to anything from a stiff warning to charges of violating terrorism laws.
Penalties for Flying a Drone in the Wrong Place
Flying a drone in a prohibited area in Nevada could subject you to a civil fine by the FAA. In egregious circumstances, you might also face criminal penalties of up to $250,000 and/or up to one year in federal prison, or even charges for trespass by drone, terrorism or invasion of privacy.
Common places drones may not be flown include (but are not limited to):
- Federally restricted airspace (such as Nellis Air Force Base and other military locations);
- Airports (including McCarran International and Reno-Tahoe Airport);
- Anyplace subject to a temporary flight restriction for a reason such as a:
- Chemical spill, or
- Security-related event;
- Anyplace designated as a “critical facility” by the state of Nevada, including:
- Power plants,
- Utilities, and
- Power lines; and
- Anyplace where a drone might represent a danger to persons or property or where someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
To help you better understand where you may legally fly a drone in Nevada, our Reno and Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. Drones and federally restricted airspace
- 2. Flying a drone near an airport -- NRS 493.109
- 3. Flying a drone near a Nevada “critical facility” -- NRS 493.109
- 4. Temporary flight restrictions
- 5. Trespass by drone -- NRS 493.103
- 6. Drones and Nevada invasion of privacy laws
- 7. Nevada's “Know Before You Fly” guidelines”
Also see our article on the Nevada crime of weaponizing a drone (NRS 493.106).
Drones are considered “aircraft” under U.S. federal law. As a result, the FAA is charged with prescribing air traffic regulations on the flight of aircraft (including regulations on safe altitudes) for:
- Navigating, protecting, and identifying aircraft;
- Protecting individuals and property on the ground;
- Using the navigable airspace efficiently; and
- Preventing collision between aircraft, between aircraft and land or water vehicles, and between aircraft and airborne objects.1
Of particular concern to the United States is national defense airspace. Restricted military sites in Nevada include:
- Nellis Air Force Base,
- Naval Air Station Fallon,
- Hawthorne Army Depot,
- Stead Air Force Base,
- The Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, Creech Air Force Base,
- Tonopah Test Range, and
- The Nevada National Security Site.
Violation of national defense airspace is a crime under 49 U.S. Code 46307. Penalties for flying a drone in national defense airspace can include:
- Up to 1 year in federal prison, and
- A fine of up to $250,000.
Federal and Nevada law make it a crime to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) within 5 miles of an airport without an FAA waiver or permission of the airport operator.
Under NRS 493.109, flying a drone within 5 miles of an airport is a misdemeanor. Penalties can include:
- Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
- Up to six months in jail.
You may also face additional criminal charges if your drone endangers persons or aircraft.
NRS 493.109 also makes it a misdemeanor crime to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle near a “critical facility” in Nevada. Specifically, you may not fly a drone with a horizontal distance of 500 feet or a vertical distance of 250 feet from a critical facility without the written consent of the owner.
“Critical facilities“ include (but are not limited to):
- Petroleum refineries,
- Chemical manufacturing plants,
- Oil pipelines,
- Water or waste treatment centers,
- Prisons and jails, and
- Power lines.2
Penalties for operating a drone near a critical facility in Nevada can include:
- Up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
- Up to six months in jail.
Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) define certain areas of airspace where air travel is limited because of a temporary hazardous condition, such as a:
- Chemical spill, or
- Security-related event.
Flying a drone during one of these events is considered extremely dangerous and can be punished as a federal crime.
The FAA maintains a list of temporary flight restrictions on its website. You can find temporary flight restrictions for Nevada by using the drop-down menu in the top center of the page.
NRS 493.103 makes it a civil offense to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle over someone else's property at a height of fewer than 250 feet.
You only violate this law, however, if you have flown over the property at least once previously and the owner has given you notice that he or she did not authorize the flight.3
Trespass by drone is not a crime in Nevada. The remedy for trespass by zone is a lawsuit in Nevada District Court. A plaintiff who prevails in an action for drone trespass under NRS 493.103 is entitled to recover:
- Three times the actual damages for injury to the person or property;
- Reasonable attorney's fees and costs; and
- Possible injunctive relief to prevent future trespasses.
A suit may not be, however, be brought under NRS 493.103 if:
- The unmanned aerial vehicle is lawfully in the flight path for landing at an airport, airfield or runway;
- The drone is in the process of taking off or landing;
- The drone was under the lawful operation of a law enforcement or public agency; or
- The drone was under the lawful operation of a land surveyor or other business registered in Nevada and the flight does not unreasonably interfere with the existing use of the property.
Use of a drone may subject you to a civil lawsuit or criminal penalties if you use it to invade someone's privacy. Nevada criminal privacy laws include:
- NRS 200.603, Nevada's law on peering, peeping or spying into a dwelling;
- NRS 200.604, Nevada's law on capturing the image of another person's private area; and
- NRS 200.650, Nevada's law on unauthorized, surreptitious intrusion of privacy by listening device.
In keeping with FAA regulations, the state of Nevada has set forth community guidelines for the flying of drones.
We recommend that you review Nevada's “Know Before You Fly” guidelines before flying your recreational drone.
In addition to the restrictions set forth above in this article, Nevada's guidelines for drones include (without limitation):
- Don't fly an unmanned aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs.;
- Fly no higher than 400 feet;
- Remain below surrounding obstacles whenever possible;
- Keep your drone in your line of sight at all times;
- Keep well clear of manned aircraft;
- Don't fly over persons or vehicles and keep at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property;
- Don't fly in adverse weather conditions (such as in high winds or reduced visibility);
- Don't fly recklessly or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs; and
- Don't operate the drone under a covered structure or inside a covered stationary vehicle.
Charged a drone-related offense in Nevada? Call us for help…
If you have been charged with a drone-related crime in Nevada, we invite you to contact our Las Vegas and Reno criminal attorneys for a free consultation.
We know that most people who fly drones in the wrong place in Nevada aren't terrorists – they simply made an honest mistake. If you have been accused of a drone offense by the FAA, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police or another law enforcement agency, we fill to get your charges dismissed or reduced.
Fill out the form on this page or call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) to schedule your free consultation. One of our caring drone defense lawyers will get back to you promptly to help you start planning the best defense to your Nevada drone charges.
- 49 U.S. Code 40103(2).
- NRS 493.020: “Critical facility” means a petroleum refinery, a petroleum or chemical production, transportation, storage or processing facility, a chemical manufacturing facility, a pipeline and any appurtenance thereto, a wastewater treatment facility, a water treatment facility, a mine as that term is defined in NRS 512.006, a power generating station, plant or substation and any appurtenances thereto, any transmission line that is owned in whole or in part by an electric utility as that term is defined in subsection 5 of NRS 704.187, a county, city or town jail or detention facility and any prison, facility or institution under the control of the Department of Corrections. The term does not include any facility or infrastructure of a utility that is located underground.
- Owners of property used for agriculture, livestock or similar purposes can place owners or operators of unmanned aerial vehicles on notice by painting structures or the property with fluorescent orange paint in a certain, specified way; fencing the area; or notifying any guest on the property (verbally or in writing) to vacate the land or building. For specific details on this type of notification of trespass, see NRS 207.200.