Q: What are the laws covering drones? My neighbor woke up one morning at 5 a.m. last week and saw one flying outside her window. What could it have been doing? Is there a way to find out who owns it? Have there been any reports of them being used as "surveillance" tools?

A: Thank you for your question as drone recreational use has increased over the years and may be on some Christmas lists this year!

The Federal Aviation Administration maintains primary control of airspace and drone operations. Recreational drones must be registered with the FAA, and their registration number displayed on the drone. If flying within five miles of an airport, the drone pilot must let the airport know. This can be accomplished by going to the Red Wing Regional Airport website and following the instructions provided (online form available).

Drones are restricted from operating over nuclear plants and correctional facilities (including the Goodhue County Adult Detention Center). Recreational drones should not be flown over crowds or large groups of people. For more information and registration, go to www.faa.gov/uas.

Regarding your friend's situation, this possibly could be a violation of Minnesota Statute 609.746, Interference with Privacy, in this situation or whenever you believe a drone is being operated in an unsafe/questionable manner, please contact either 911 or the nonemergency number 651-385-3155 to file a police report.

Also, depending on how close the drone is, try to obtain the registration number on the drone to allow officers to locate the registered owner.

The Nov. 27, 2019, Ask the Chief also discussed taking photos and videos in public, which would apply to observation/recording devices on the drone. Previous Ask the Chief articles can be located at www.red-wing.org/police and www.rivertowns.net.


1. Federal Aviation Administration – Recreational Unmanned Aircraft Systems, located online at: https://www.faa.gov/uas/recreational_fliers/

2. City of Red Wing Airport, Drone Flying Information and Notification, located online at: https://www.red-wing.org/…/UAS-Drone-Flying-Information-Not…

3. Minnesota State Statute 609.746 Interference with Privacy, located online at: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/609.746

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