Summary of FAA Drone Rules and Regulation

Recreational Use of Drones

As of now, drones and quadcopters may be flown for recreational purposes under the same safety guidelines as those for model aircrafts. To read an overview of those rules, check out this FAA hobby flying guide.

Recreational/hobby utilization of drones and quadcopters is the operation of an unmanned aircraft for personal use only. Taking photos with a quadcopter for your own enjoyment is recreational; but using the same quadcopter to take photos for payment would be viewed as a business operation.

The general guidelines for recreational flight are as follows –

  • Do not fly higher than 400 feet.
  • Try not to fly over any obstacles when possible.
  • Keep your drone within eyesight at all times (FPV streams do not count as “in eyesight”)
  • Remain a safe distance away from others property and unprotected people.
  • Notify any airports ahead of time if flying within 5 miles of an airport.
  • Do not fly in adverse weather conditions or under the influence of substances.
  • Don’t fly near any sensitive areas (power plants, water treatment plants, prisons, major highways, etc.)
  • Don’t invade other’s privacy with photos or videos.


Commercial/Business Use of Drones

The FAA has released a proposal for the use of drones and quadcopters (under 55 pounds) for non-recreational drone operations. The proposal would limit use to daylight hours, and the craft must remain in eyesight of the operator.

The individual flying the drone would need to be at least 17 years of age, complete an aeronautical learning test, and acquire a FAA UAS operator certificate. The operator would need to re-certify every 24 months.

Actual operator procedure is very similar to the recreational guidelines. The quadcopter must remain below 500 feet and no faster than 100 MPH.

To find the latest details, check the FAA website, or the very informative Before You Fly site.

2 thoughts on “Summary of FAA Drone Rules and Regulation”

  1. Note – these are guidelines. they have no value as “law” so if you fly over 400ft you are NOT BREAKING any laws.

    example. it is perfectly legal to fly my rocket to 5000ft with no waiver and no notification. unless near an airport of course.

    Line of sight is also not required and fpv is not illegal even 5 miles away from the pilot. these are guidelines not laws.

    do it safely however or you can and will be spanked legally. (there are plenty of others laws they can spank your hineey with so use your brain please)

    ie do you really think it is smart to fpv fly between the skyscrapers of ny? hint. don’t. same with flying over a major sports event etc..

    fly off to the side? with no people underneath? safe but you might still get unwanted attention.

    as for ? “for business use” I don’t recognize the FAA interpretation as lawful or applicable.

    if I want to sell a picture it is legal for me to sell that picture HOW I GOT THAT PICTURE is not relevant legally or to the FAA or to anyone else.

    now flying “for hire” is different. that is legitimate commercial usage. (so being hired to do aerial filming would be different than you taking a pretty picture and someone buying it)

    again though. legal or not it comes down to who has the bigger stick and who is willing to swing that stick.

    don’t do anything that would make them desire to swing their stick at you. you will lose. Even if your right.

    • One more thing. on private property below the roofline of your home is OUTSIDE THE JURISDICTION of the FAA completely. they have no lawful authority to dictate anything for this airspace/property no matter what your flying or why your flying it.

      technically (it varies place to place) once you go more than a few feet above the highest object on the property your in “regulated airspace” in most of the united states.

      SO filming a wedding for hire would be “for business usage” but would not be lawfully governed by the FAA and completely outside their jurisdiction if you kept the altitude low enough (lower than the highest object or tree on the property)


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