UAS: Know Your Responsibilities

mac metro drone

Drones and hobby aircraft are examples of unmanned aircraft systems(UAS) as defined under federal aviation regulations.

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates the use of these aircraft, just as it does manned aircraft, in order to manage the national air space. To register your UAS and to learn more about your responsibilities as a drone operator, visit the FAA's website at
  • The Minnesota Department of Transportation requires UAS' to be registered with its Office of Aeronautics. Learn more about your responsibilities to the state on the department’s web page at
  • You are also required to notify the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) if you are planning to fly a UAS within five miles of one of its airports, as well as obtain approval from the FAA air traffic control tower (when one is present at the airport) prior to operation. See sidebar for instructions for notifying the MAC.

Good-to-Know Information

Drones are unmanned aircraft systems flown for reasons other than hobby or recreational purposes. These aircraft are subject to more stringent regulations than model aircraft. Such aircraft must be authorized (certified or exempted), have a valid registration number, and be operated by a certified pilot with specific FAA authorization (certificate or waiver authorization). 

All drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds must be registered with the FAA. The registration number issued by the FAA must appear in a readily visible area of the aircraft, and the operator must carry a certificate of aircraft registration and make it available to law enforcement upon request.

The FAA has authority to take legal action against anyone operating aircraft in a way that endangers people or property on the ground or in the national air space.

Regulations differ for model aircraft and drones. However, regardless of the type of UAS, all operators must operate safely and abide by all applicable laws. 

Model Aircraft

Model aircraft are defined in law as unmanned aircraft that are:

  1. Capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere
  2. Flown within the visual line of sight of the operator
  3. Flown for hobby or recreational purposes only

Unless you are flying within five miles of an airport, you don’t need federal approval to fly model aircraft for recreational use, but you are required to operate the aircraft safely in keeping with applicable laws. You can find more information on the FAA’s website.

Use on MAC Property

No drones may be operated on Metropolitan Airports Commission property without prior approval of the FAA and the Commission.


To file a complaint regarding drone operations, please contact law enforcement in the jurisdiction where the operation is occurring.

When and how to notify the FAA and the MAC

Obtain FAA approval by calling the Air Traffic Control Tower listed below, if you plan to operate within five miles of one of these MAC-owned airports:

  • Anoka County-Blaine Airport (ANE)
  • Crystal Airport (MIC)
  • Flying Cloud Airport (FCM)
  • St. Paul Downtown Airport (STP)
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

Notify the Metropolitan Airports Commission by calling 612-726-5111 if you plan to fly within five miles of the following airports:

Be prepared to provide:

  • Your name and contact information
  • Description of your unmanned aircraft system and registration number
  • A precise description of the desired flight location, the time the flight will start and end, the altitude at which it the aircraft will fly, the purpose of the flight, and the type of operation (including the authorization number if a commercial or public flight).