Administrative Code

Virginia Administrative Code
4/22/2024

Part VIII. Unmanned Aircraft

24VAC5-20-410. Definitions for Part VIII, Unmanned Aircraft.

The following words and terms, when used in this part, shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

"Commercial operator" means a person operating a UAS for a commercial purpose in compliance with applicable Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

"Emergency response personnel" means the officials and employees of governmental and nongovernmental entities responding to or supporting emergency response operations, including search and rescue, law enforcement, hazardous materials, fires, car crashes, and natural or man-made disasters.

"Locality" or "local government" means a county, city, or town.

"Operator" means the person who is directly responsible for the operation of an unmanned aircraft.

"Property owned" means any real property owned through fee interest, together with all buildings and other structures, facilities, or improvements located on the real property.

"Political subdivision" means (i) a locality, (ii) a school division, or (iii) any park authority, jail authority, or airport authority that has the power to enact or promulgate ordinances or regulations having the force or effect of law.

"Recreational operator" means a person who is operating an unmanned aircraft solely for a recreational purpose and is fully in compliance with 49 USC § 44809.

Statutory Authority

§§ 5.1-2.2 and 5.1-2.15 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 40, Issue 3, eff. October 25, 2023.

24VAC5-20-420. Political subdivision powers.

A. Any political subdivision may regulate the take-off and landing of an unmanned aircraft on property owned by the political subdivision, in a manner consistent with this part. All regulations of any political subdivision, whether enacted by ordinance or resolution by a locality or adopted by a political subdivision other than a locality, must comply with this part of this chapter.

B. The regulations may provide for times when take-offs and landings are allowed.

C. The regulations may designate specific properties of increased concern for public safety or risk to natural resources where an operator seeking to use the property must show (i) the purpose of the take-off and landing, (ii) what steps the operator will take to limit risk to the public or to natural resources, and (iii) information to demonstrate that the take-off and landing can be carried out without harm to the identified public safety risk or natural resources. On such properties, the regulation may deny permission to take-off or land unmanned aircraft, unless the operator can demonstrate the safety of the take-off and landing, based on the information provided.

Prior to designating any properties pursuant to this subsection, the political subdivision must show the basis for the designation. The designation must be based on a significant and specific risk to public safety or to natural resources. Every area designated pursuant to this subsection must include a map showing, with specificity, the area of prohibited use. The map and any related documents must be provided in electronic, computable, machine-readable, and transmissible form.

D. For unmanned aircraft with a takeoff weight of 55 pounds or more, the regulations may require the operator to provide information prior to any take-off or landing, demonstrating the safety of the take-off and landing. This subsection is inapplicable to any licensed airport or licensed UAS facility.

E. No political subdivision shall require a permit for operators for take-off and landing unmanned aircraft in areas designated for unmanned aircraft use. This subsection shall not apply to unmanned aircraft covered by subsection C of this section.

F. No political subdivision shall regulate the take-off and landing of unmanned aircraft with a ready-for-take-off weight of less than 0.55 pounds, except on properties regulated pursuant to the authority in subsection B of this section.

G. Any political subdivision may provide or participate in offering UAS classes, competitions, and similar events on its property.

Statutory Authority

§§ 5.1-2.2 and 5.1-2.15 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 40, Issue 3, eff. October 25, 2023.

24VAC5-20-430. Procedure for adopting an ordinance or regulation.

A. Any locality that proposes to regulate the take-off and landing of unmanned aircraft on property owned by it shall enact such regulations by ordinance or resolution. Any other political subdivision shall adopt regulations for such purposes.

B. No proposed ordinance or regulation may be advertised for a public hearing until the political subdivision has submitted the regulation to the department for comment and the department has notified the political subdivision that the ordinance or regulation is consistent with this chapter.

C. A locality may regulate the use of unmanned aircraft by ordinance or resolution. The locality shall hold a public hearing prior to adoption of regulations. The locality shall advertise the hearing and the substance of the ordinance or regulation on the locality website for a minimum of 14 days, displayed where public hearings are set out on the locality's website and shall include the advertising in the applicable social media feeds of the locality for the same period of time. The regulation must be based on findings of need for public safety protection or protection of specific natural resources.

D. Any political subdivision other than a locality shall hold a public hearing prior to adoption of a regulation. The other political subdivision shall advertise the hearing and the substance of the regulation on the subdivision's website for a minimum of 14 days, displayed where public hearings are set out on the political subdivision's website and shall include notice of the advertising in the applicable social media feeds of the subdivision for the same period of time. The regulation must be based on findings of need for public safety enhancement protection or protection of specific natural resources.

E. Every political subdivision shall report the adoption of any regulation permitted by this chapter to the Department of Aviation within 14 days of adoption. The report shall include an electronic copy of the regulations, policies, maps, and any other documents related to the regulation with links to the political subdivision's regulation. No regulation shall take effect until it is published on the department's website.

F. The department will publish all new or revised regulations or ordinances or provide links to the political subdivision's website pages containing such information within 14 days of receipt from the political subdivision. The department shall publish and update annually on its website, and any other website the department deems appropriate, a summary of any such regulations or ordinances adopted.

G. If, at any time, the department deems a political subdivision's local regulation to be inconsistent with this chapter, the department will inform the subdivision of the discrepancies. The political subdivision shall amend its regulation to eliminate the discrepancies.

Statutory Authority

§§ 5.1-2.2 and 5.1-2.15 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 40, Issue 3, eff. October 25, 2023.

24VAC5-20-440. Exceptions.

A. No ordinance or regulation may prohibit:

1. The take-off or landing of an unmanned aircraft by a commercial operator in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations or as deemed reasonable or necessary by private or public entities for emergency or maintenance support functions or services, including the protection and maintenance of public or private critical infrastructure;

2. The landing of an unmanned aircraft by an operator in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations as deemed reasonable or necessary by the operator in the event of a technical malfunction of an unmanned aircraft system;

3. The take-off or landing of an unmanned aircraft being operated by a sworn public safety officer or other emergency response personnel in the performance of the public safety officer's duties;

4. The take-off or landing of an unmanned aircraft owned or operated by the United States government or any operator under contract with any agency of the United States government in performance of the officer's assigned duties;

5. The take-off or landing of an unmanned aircraft by a commercial operator done as a part of the response to an emergency declared by the Governor or a local emergency declared pursuant to the laws of the Commonwealth; or

6. The take-off or landing of unmanned aircraft by employees and agents of a political subdivision on that political subdivision's lands.

B. No political subdivision's local regulation enacted pursuant to the authority in this chapter shall apply to take-offs and landings on the vehicular travel portions of public highways or streets or to rights of ways adjacent to travel portions of the highways or streets.

C. If a private entity has exclusive use of more than one-half acre of public property for a specific event, such as a concert, sports activity, or family event, any local regulation may allow the entity to launch and land its own unmanned aircraft at the event and may allow an operator employed by the entity to launch and land unmanned aircraft during the event on that property only.

Statutory Authority

§§ 5.1-2.2 and 5.1-2.15 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 40, Issue 3, eff. October 25, 2023.

24VAC5-20-450. Federal laws and regulations.

Nothing in this chapter shall allow any use of unmanned aircraft in any manner inconsistent with federal laws and regulations, including Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Statutory Authority

§§ 5.1-2.2 and 5.1-2.15 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 40, Issue 3, eff. October 25, 2023.

Website addresses provided in the Virginia Administrative Code to documents incorporated by reference are for the reader's convenience only, may not necessarily be active or current, and should not be relied upon. To ensure the information incorporated by reference is accurate, the reader is encouraged to use the source document described in the regulation.

As a service to the public, the Virginia Administrative Code is provided online by the Virginia General Assembly. We are unable to answer legal questions or respond to requests for legal advice, including application of law to specific fact. To understand and protect your legal rights, you should consult an attorney.