If you live (or plan to fly) in the United States of America, and piloting drones is your thing, even as a hobbyist, you must know the Federal Aviation Administration drone rules and regulations to fly safe and stay out of trouble. These can be overwhelming, but to help you simplify this, I created a friendly infographic with 10 of the most important FAA drone rules that will keep you in the air legally. This post will help you better understand these FAA regulations and rules
Anything from registration, airspace restrictions, and safety recommendations can be found here. FAA laws change constantly and that is why I recommend you to keep an eye on the FAA website, yet, the tips illustrated here are evergreen and will always be a good starting point.
These drone rules have been here since day 1, and it is unlikely they will change, so keep them in mind when you decide to fly your drone.
A few more words on the FAA Drone rules and regulations
Like I previously said, these drone rules have been here since day 1, and this is why I consider this post and infographic really valuable, because with the pass of the years, the FAA will still require these from us in the future. It is very likely they will require more stuff, but in the end, these will be at the very core of FAA rules and regulations for drone hobbyists.
Expanding more on these rules and their meaning to you as a drone pilot, the first thing you have to know is that these apply only for recreational pilots, so if you are flying for business, or create amazing aerial footage that later you post on a monetized website, you are automatically discarded as a recreational pilot and the requirements for you are a bit different.
Again, check the FAA drones site to learn more.
Going back to hobbyists and the rules mentioned above, let me offer a bit more of detail for each of them.
Do I need to register my Drone?
In all honesty, when I finished the infographic, I kind of noticed that advice #10 should probably be #1 😀
The thing is that as a recreational pilot, you are required to register your drone if this weighs between .55 lbs (250 grams) and 55 lbs (25 Kg). This is (I think) the 1st step you have to take in order to comply with FAA requirements.
Go and determine the weight of your drone, if it falls under the previous range, go back to the infographic #1 advice and follow from there. The truth is, even if you have a mini or nano drone that weighs less than .55 lbs or 250 grams, you are still required to follow what has been called, the safety rules, which in essence are all included in the infographic
For instance, just because you have a drone that does not require to be registered, that doesn’t mean you can fly near airports or in no-fly zones. Nor you are able to fly under the effects of drugs and alcohol.
So, in reality, this is why I included this “1st” step at the very end of my infographic. Some people could think that just because their drone is not required to be registered, they are not required to follow all the safety flight rules, yet these are common sense stuff that needs to be in our minds every time we fly.
Fly your drone at or below 400 feet when in uncontrolled or “Class G” airspace
This is airspace where the FAA is not controlling manned air traffic. To determine what type of airspace you are in, refer to the mobile application that operates your drone (if so equipped) and/or use other drone-related mobile applications. Knowing your location and what airspace you’re in will also help you avoid interfering with other aircraft.
Do NOT fly in controlled airspace (around and above many airports) unless:
- You receive an airspace authorization for operations in controlled airspace through LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability), before you fly. Learn more about approved LAANC UAS Service Suppliers for recreational flyers.
- You are flying at a recreational flyer fixed site that has a written agreement with the FAA. The FAA has posted a list of approved sites (MS Excel) and has depicted them as blue dots on a map. Each fixed site is limited to the altitude shown on this map, which varies by location.
Keep your drone within the line of sight
As a drone pilot, and even if the FAA wouldn’t require it, it is very important to know where your drone is. The FAA is reinforcing this matter by requiring it to recreational flyers.
Also, you can have a separate observer who is co-located at a strategic point so that he or she can report back on the position of the drone.
Probably some of the most advanced drones have features that give feedback to the pilot about their speed, altitude, and position all the time, but in the case of less advanced gadgets, you may not be able to tell if the drone is still flying, and even if you know it crashed, it is important to know where the drone falls, since avoiding injuring others is the primary goal.
Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
Again, common sense is very much needed here. As a hobbyist, there is no reason why you’d need to fly over groups of people or public events. This by all means threatens everybody around since the drone could potentially fail, fall, crash, and injure someone.
Never fly near emergencies such as any type of accident response, law enforcement activities, firefighting, or hurricane recovery efforts
I know that many people may think that in case of an emergency, a drone could facilitate search and rescue tasks, and while this is true, I bet you that the emergency services teams will bring their own drone if needed.
The truth is that you as a recreational flyer may do more bad than good, since you’ll interfere with the rescue activities. Besides, in case of an emergency, a rogue drone (that is what these teams would see your drone like), would only scare everyone and make everything more difficult.
So do everyone a favor and don’t fly during any of these events.
Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Again, you don’t need to be a genius to know this. Among the many things you shouldn’t do under the influence of drugs and alcohol, guess what…? Flying drones is one of them.
Yes, never do this, it is a big no no and something that will only make you subject to criminal penalties.
Final words on the FAA Drones rules for recreational flyers
If you are willing to follow these rules while flying your drone, then welcome to this fantastic hobby, if not, do us a favor and stay out of the game, you’ll simply make things worst for everyone.
Like I said at the beginning, it is unlikely these rules will go away, as they are basic and core elements of drone safety, and safe flights with drones. This is why it is a good idea to remember them.
Last but not least, help me spread the word about these using your social channels, and if you have a comment or question, drop me a line below.
Remember, in the end, even if these rules and regulations seem hard to follow, they are there for the safety of everyone and to ensure that drones are not a threat for anyone. Also, remember that failing to comply with these, could make you subject of criminal penalties, so don’t take the risk and ensure you have everything in place before taking off.