Unmanned Aircraft Systems


Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are rapidly becoming major users of national airspace. Commonly referred to as “drones,” unmanned aircraft come in a variety of shapes and sizes and seemingly have a near infinite number of uses.

Regardless of aircraft type, the responsibility to fly safely applies equally to all manned and unmanned aircraft operations. In order to promote safety, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established regulations pertaining to the operation of UAS.

The following links are provided to educate UAS users, communities, airports, and law enforcement on their role and responsibilities pertaining to the operation of UAS within the National Airspace System. It is important to note that the regulations pertaining to unmanned aircraft continue to evolve. Visit the FAA.gov/UAS or contact the FAA directly for the most up to date information.

FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) Service Areas


Aircraft - any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate, or fly in, the air. Both the federal government and State of Wisconsin recognize all unmanned aircraft as aircraft.

Unmanned Aircraft (UA) - an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft. Also known as drones, UAVs, and model aircraft.

Small Unmanned Aircraft (sUA) - an unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds, including everything that is onboard or attached to the aircraft.

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) - the unmanned aircraft and all of the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment, etc., necessary to operate the unmanned aircraft.

Model Aircraft – unmanned aircraft flown for recreational or hobby use only. An unmanned aircraft flown for compensation is not considered a model aircraft. Model aircraft are also restricted to less than 55 pounds unless otherwise exempt.
Civil UAS Operations – any operation of an unmanned aircraft that is not considered a model aircraft or a public UAS operation. Typically civil UAS operations include UAS flown for compensation or as part of a business activity.

Public UAS Operations
– any operation of an unmanned aircraft by a government agency such as the federal government, a state government or any other political subdivision of the United States.

National Airspace System (NAS) - the airspace, navigation facilities and airports of the United States along with their associated information, services, rules, regulations, policies, procedures, personnel and equipment.

Model Aircraft (Recreational Use)

Example uses: private individuals flying strictly for hobby or recreational purposes. Users must not be compensated and flights must not support commercial activities.

Example activities: Flying for fun, educational purposes, amateur photography 

Civil UAS (Commercial Use)

Example uses: Realtors, insurance companies, utility companies, professional photographers

Example activities: property inspections, commercial photography, commercial videography, aerial surveying 

Public UAS (Governmental Use)

Example uses: Military, federal, state, local agencies, law enforcement, public universities & colleges

Example activities: Firefighting, search and rescue, surveillance, aeronautical research

Resources for Airport Operators

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) for Airport Operators
Use of Model Aircraft near Airports
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Airports: A Primer (Airport Cooperative Research Report 144)

Resources for Communities

State and Local Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Fact Sheet (FAA Office of Chief Counsel)

Wisconsin State Statute Chapter 114 Aeronautics and Astronautics

114.002(3) Definitions.
114.02 Sky Sovereignty.
114.04 Flying and landing, limitations.
114.05 Damages by aircraft or spacecraft.
114.045 Limitation on the operation of drones.
114.09 Intoxicated and reckless flying; penalty.

State Statutes Specific to Unmanned Aircraft

175.55 Use of Drones Restricted.
941.292 Possession of a Weaponized Drone.
942.10 Use of a Drone.

Resources for Law Enforcement

Understanding your Authority: Handling Sightings and Reports
Public Safety and Law Enforcement Toolkit