With the increasing popularity of drones and quadcopters, the FAA has implemented a number of drone laws and guidelines in order to ensure that these aircraft are used safely and appropriately. Obeying drone law is important if you are to successfully enjoy your drone and avoid penalties which, at times, can be quite severe. Following is an overview of drone law, though you should also read the regulations available on the FAA website in order to get the most detailed and up to date information possible to guide your own drone usage.
Obeying Community Guidelines
In addition to the drone laws outlined below, you should also find and follow a set of community guidelines. For instance, the Academy of Model Aeronautics has created such a set of guidelines to help you safely operate your drone. If you do not follow a specific set of community safety guidelines, there are guidelines available through the FAA that you can read and follow instead.
One of the first drone laws you will need to obey when you purchase a drone is registering that aircraft with the FAA. Drones that weigh more than .55 pounds must be registered either online or through the FAA’s paper process.
The specific guidelines regulating the registration of drones can be found online. However, following are the most important points:
- All drones must be registered before they are used outside.
- Drones that weigh more than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds must be registered online.
- Drones that weigh more than 55 pounds must be registered through the paper process.
- Drones that are going to be used outside the U.S. must registered through the paper process.
- All trustee-owned drones must be registered through the paper process.
- If the owner meets the requirement to be a U.S. citizen through the use of a voting trust (A voting trust is an arrangement in which the shares of a company are given to a trustee for a certain period of time), they must register the drone through the paper process.
- If the drone needs an N-number to be operated outside the United States, the paper process must be used.
- If the owner wants a public record of the registration, the paper process must be used.
- Registrants must be 13 years old or older. Drone owners who are younger than 13 must have someone 13 or older register the drone for them.
- Registrants must also be United States citizens or legal permanent residents in order to register their drones. Otherwise, they receive a certificate of ownership instead of a certificate of registration.
- The drone registration fee is $5.
- Drone registrations are valid for 3 years.
- Your drone registration must always be available, and you must write the drone’s registration number on the drone.
Height of the Drone Flight
Of course, registration regulations are not the only drone laws you must follow. There are a number of other laws that govern how and where you use your drone. For instance, the FAA requires drone operators to keep their drones at an elevation of less than 400 feet. This regulation exists primarily to reduce the chance that your drone will encounter other aircraft (such as helicopters or planes).
In addition to requiring you to fly your drone at a certain height, the FAA also requires you to keep your drone within sight at all times. This means that no matter how far or how high you fly your drone, you should always be able to see it. If necessary, you should use a spotter to help you keep an eye on your drone while it is in the air. This regulation is in place to ensure that you avoid flying your drone in prohibited spaces and to keep you from inadvertently endangering others during the course of the flight.
Fitness for Flying
The FAA also wants to ensure that every drone operator is equipped to safely and responsibly fly the quadcopter. As a result, drone laws require operators to be free from the influence of drugs and alcohol while they fly the drone.
In addition, you should also make sure that you or anyone else who flies your drone is familiar with the drone and how to fly it. This means that anyone who is too young or inexperienced to know how the drone works or to control it in the air should not be flying your drone. The goal is to make sure that the drone is always under control in order to prevent injury and property damage caused by out of control aircraft.
Drone laws prohibit you from flying your drone when the weather is bad. In particular, you should not fly your drone when there is poor visibility that might make it difficult to see your drone or where your drone is flying. This drone law prevents accidental damage and injury from flying a drone you cannot see. It also prevents damage and accidents from drones crashing thanks to high winds or other inclement weather.
Avoiding Airports and Other Aircraft
One danger that drones and quadcopters pose is as a distraction or potential collision hazard for aircraft. As a result, you are not allowed to fly your drone within 5 miles of an airport unless you alert the airport before you fly.
In addition, you should always look for other aircraft while you are flying your drone. If you spot any, you should take steps to keep your drone away from the other aircraft in order to avoid causing alarm or risking a collision.
In particular, the FAA advises drone operators to look out for low-flying aircraft in rural or agricultural areas. These places are more likely to have low-flying aircraft around (such as crop dusters, for instance).
Appropriate General Conduct
Drone laws also require you to conduct yourself in a careful and responsible manner. This means that you should avoid any reckless or impulsive action that might cause you to endanger others with your drone.
Respecting Others’ Privacy
Drones possess a great deal of potential when it comes to their capabilities. For instance, they can take video and photography, sometimes of exceptional clarity. While these abilities can be useful and fun, they can also be used to invade others’ privacy if these pictures are taken without their consent. As a result, drone laws prohibit you from taking photos or videos of others without their consent anywhere they have the right to expect privacy.
Respecting Others’ Property
You should also make sure you follow your local guidelines regarding flying over others’ property. These laws will depend upon your area, so familiarize yourself with your local regulations before operating your drone outside your own property.
You should not fly your drone over other people or vehicles. In addition, you should keep your drone a minimum of 25 feet away from other people or private property.
Most drone laws refer to model aircraft, which is aircraft that is used for recreational purposes. If you plan to use your drone for any other purpose (such as part of a wedding, to take photos for money, and so forth), you must receive special permission from the FAA to fly your drone.
Drone laws provide parameters you can use to safely and legally operate your drone. If you have any questions, you should make sure to consult the FAA website and/or contact the FAA to make sure that you are following the law when it comes to using your drone. By obeying drone law as it applies to your situation, you will enjoy a safer, more enjoyable, and less disruptive flight.