You are now the hip and proud new owner of a drone. After anxiously waiting days for it to arrive in the mail, you tear the drone out of the box, put in the batteries, and rush outside to take to the skies.
Naturally, you gather up your friends and neighbors and begin flying right away. Everyone is impressed with your mad skills. It’s everything you’ve dreamed of! Well…until you fly somewhere you weren’t supposed to, get fined, and have your drone taken away by the local authorities. That’s no fun.
But fear not! We’re here to offer some information to get your drone up and flying as fast as possible and help you avoid potential legal hassles.
What are the basic rules of flying a drone?
The FAA has laid out some rules of what you can and can’t do with your drone. There’s nothing too crazy, just a few things to remember and take note of:
- Make sure you fly at or below 400 feet.
- Keep your drone within your line of sight. And just a heads up, having a spotter doesn’t count!
- Do not fly near other aircraft or within 5 miles of airports.
- Do not fly over groups of people (that’s just rude and potentially dangerous).
- Do not fly over stadiums or sports events (again, rude and really dangerous).
- Do not fly near emergency response efforts such as fires (most dangerous here).
- Never fly under the influence (that’s asking for trouble).
- Be on the lookout for “No Drone Zones” in the area you’re flying (those will be the signs with “No Drone Zones” written on them).
- Know your local laws. Unfortunately, these can change from city to city, so when you fly in a new location, it’s worth looking into to avoid any potential problems.
- National parks have banned the use of drones within their confines (Remember… Only YOU can prevent your drone from flying in a national park).
Do I need to register my drone?
Basically, if you fly purely for fun, then no. Have fun! Yes, if it’s for commercial purposes of any kind (even if a neighbor offers you $5 to take photos of their house…for some reason).
Most hobbyists and recreational users do not need to register their drone if they fall under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. If you do not fall under the Special Rule, federal law requires that small unmanned aircraft weighing more than .55 pounds and less than 55 pounds (which is incredibly big for a drone) must be registered with the FAA. So the first thing you should do is register your drone here, label it with your registration number, and read and understand all the safety guidelines. It’s $5 to register your drone and the registration lasts for three years. Also, make sure to always keep your Certificate of Aircraft Registration with you while flying.
Do I need a pilot certificate to fly?
If you are looking to use a drone for commercial use, then yes, to act as a remote pilot in accordance with FAA regulations under Part 107 a person must obtain a remote pilot certificate.
How do I obtain my pilot certificate?
Ahhh time to go back to school. Lucky for you, it won’t take four years to graduate! Just be ready to take an exam if you wish to obtain your pilot certificate. There are many online resources to help you prepare for the exam. Here are a few to get you started:
Cool. Now, if you are ready to tackle the exam, you can sign up for a time at a Knowledge Testing Center closest to you. Most Knowledge Testing Centers charge approximately $150 to take the test. Make sure to bring a valid and current form of identification that includes a photo, DOB, signature, and residential address.
If you pass, congrats! You’re one step closer to getting your certificate. If you fail the exam, well…you are out of luck. And $150. But only for 14 days (except for the money, you’ll have to pay that again). You’ll then be able to retake it again. For now, we’re going to assume you will prepare for the exam and end up passing with flying colors (be positive!).
After passing the exam, you must then complete the FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application (known as IACRA) to receive your remote pilot certificate. Applications are typically validated within 10 days. Applicants then receive instructions for printing a temporary airman certificate, which is valid for 120 day. The FAA will then mail a permanent Remote Pilot Certificate within that 120-day window. That certificate is valid for 2 years.
Once I obtain my pilot certificate, how do I know where to fly my drone?
Don’t know where you can fly? The FAA has an easy-to-use smartphone app that helps unmanned aircraft operators determine whether there are any restrictions or requirements in effect at the location where they want to fly. It is called B4UFly and you can find it in the App store for iOS and Google Play store for Android. If you don’t use the app, make sure to use common sense and follow the basic drone rules and regulations stated above.
Planning to use your drone for commercial use?
You’ve come to the right place! Botlink provides an end-to-end drone solution designed to help people use drones to make their jobs easier. Botlink combines flight planning, image capture and data processing, analysis, and unparalleled customer service. You don’t even need to worry about flying your drone, because the Botlink App can fly it autonomously within your flight plan and captures the data you want. After your drone autonomously lands, you can upload your data to the cloud to begin creating valuable maps, which include orthomosaic, vegetation index, terrain, and even models.
Well, there you have it, the answers to most common questions regarding drone rules and regulations. We urge you to research more if you have any additional questions or concerns regarding the drone rules and regulations. For more information, visit FAA.gov or knowbeforeyoufly.org/.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal advice. These laws are continually changing, and you should not rely solely on the lists above. Please look up your state’s current laws and/or contact an attorney to determine what, if any, legal requirements or restrictions apply to the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in your area.