AMA District I 
Academy of Model Aeronautics

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont

AMA District I “New England State Drone Laws”  


Vermont law defines a “drone” as “a powered aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator and is able to fly autonomously or to be piloted remotely.” Additionally, it defines “law enforcement agency” broadly to include any of the following: “the Vermont State Police; a municipal police department; a sheriff’s department; the Office of the Attorney General; a State’s Attorney’s office; the Capitol Police Department; the Department of Liquor Control; the Department of Fish and Wildlife; the Department of Motor Vehicles; a State investigator; or a person or entity acting on behalf of an agency listed in this subdivision.”

The statutes generally prohibit any of these law enforcement agencies from using a drone “for the purpose of investigating, detecting, or prosecuting a crime” or to “gather or retain data on private citizens peacefully exercising their constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.” Law enforcement agencies may still use drones in the following circumstances, which serve as exceptions to the general rule: (1) if the agency has obtained a warrant pursuant to Rule 41 of the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure or (2) for public safety reasons that do not include collecting and keeping data.

Further, a law enforcement agency may use and keep information gathered with a drone if such drone was utilized for: (1) search and rescue missions, aerial photography for the evaluation of “accidents, forest fires and other fire scenes, flood stages, and storm damage”, and for reasons other than the “investigation, detection or prosecution of crime” or (2) in accordance with a warrant obtained under Rule 41 of the Vermont Rules of Criminal Procedure or a “judicially recognized exception to the warrant requirement.” Under a judicially recognized exception to the warrant requirement, the agency shall obtain the search warrant within 48 hours after the drone use has begun.

The statutes establish reporting requirements for law enforcement use of drones. “On or before September 1 of each year, any law enforcement agency that has used a drone within the previous 12 months shall report the following information to the Department of Public Safety”: (1) the number of uses during that period, the type of incident, the nature of any information collected as a result, and the rationale for the use; (2) the number of criminal investigations the use aided, as well as the number of arrests made through any use during that period, including a description of how the drone aided the investigation or arrest; (3) the number of uses during which a drone “collected data on any person, home, or area other than the target of the surveillance” within that period, as well as the type of any such data; and (4) the cost of the agency’s unmanned aerial vehicle program, as well as the source of funding. In turn, the Department of Public Safety must report the information it receives from these agency reports to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary and on Government Operations on or before December 1 of each year.

The statutes also prohibit any person from equipping a drone with a dangerous or deadly weapon, as well as firing a projectile from a drone. Violators shall be imprisoned not more than one year or fined not more than $1,000, or both. “Drone” has the same meaning in this section as defined above, and “dangerous or deadly weapon” refers to “any firearm, or other weapon, device, instrument, material or substance, whether animate or inanimate, which in the manner it is used or is intended to be used is known to be capable of producing death or serious bodily injury.”

The statutes provide that use of drones by any person (including law enforcement agencies) “shall comply with all Federal Aviation Administration requirements and guidelines.” When such a person uses a model aircraft, as defined in the Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the use must comply with the Academy of Model Aeronautics National Model Aircraft Safety Code and other “guidelines of community-based organizations.”

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board has enacted drone regulations regarding “aerial hunting.” The regulations define “unmanned aerial vehicle” as “any device capable of flying in the air which is remotely, automatically, or otherwise piloted without an occupant, including but not limited to drones.” The expressed purpose of the regulation is “to restrict the taking of wild animals by the use of aircraft and drones.” The regulation makes it “unlawful for any person to take or attempt to take wild animals while a person is in an aircraft,” as well as “by use of an UAV.” In addition, it is “unlawful for any person within an aircraft, or with the use of a drone or UAV” to do either of the following: (1) “attempt to locate, surveil, or aid or assist in attempting to locate or surveil any wild animal, for the purpose of taking or attempting to take the wild animal” or (2) “drive or harass any wild animal, or otherwise aid or assist in taking or attempting to take a wild animal.” Finally, “nothing in this rule shall be construed to relieve or modify the requirement to comply with applicable state and federal regulations, regarding aircraft and UAVs or, to apply to qualified personnel carrying out their lawful duties, in compliance with applicable state and federal regulations and permits, regarding aircraft and ‘UAVs.’


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