Whether you got a hobby drone or a professional drone, you should know the regulations to use them legally without breaking any law. These rules and regulations do not just ensure your safety but also your drone’s and surroundings’. The rules are essential for every drone pilot to follow – this is why DJI also put a bounty of $145,000 on the drone pilots who were disrupting flights.
NOTE: Always check with the FAA for the latest regulations and guidelines on drone flying.
Following are different regulations of hobby drones and professional drones:
Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107)
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Part 107 for Small Unmanned Aircraft, covers a broad spectrum of government and commercial uses for drones that weigh less than 55 pounds. Highlights of these rules are:
Requirements for Operating a Drone:
When you are controlling a drone, you should always avoid manned aircraft and never fly it recklessly. Keep it within your sight. Moreover, if you use First Person View (FPV) or similar technology, you must always have a visual observer to keep your drone within unaided sight (for instance, without using binoculars).
Both you and the visual observer should only be responsible for operating one Unmanned Aircraft at a time. Following are the times you can fly your drone:
- During daylight – 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset
- Twilight – with appropriate anti-collision lighting
To operate a drone, minimum weather visibility should be three miles from where you are controlling it. The maximum altitude you can take your drone at is 400 feet above the ground – you can go higher if your drone remains within 400 feet of the structure. The maximum speed allowed is no more than 100 mph or 87 knots.
You should not fly your drone over anyone who is not directly participating in the operation (stranger), under a covered structure, or inside a covered stationary vehicle.
Registration of Your Drone:
If you are flying your drone under Part 107, you should register it immediately to avoid any penalties later. If the drone weighs less than 55 pounds, you can easily use the automated registration system to register it.
To meet the requirements for a Remote Pilot Certificate, you must be at least 16 years old. In order to obtain it, you can follow one of these two ways:
- You should pass an initial Aeronautical Knowledge Test at a knowledge testing center that is FAA-approved.
- If you already acquire a Part 61 Pilot Certificate (which you normally won’t), you must have accomplished a flight review in the previous two years to get a Remote Pilot Certificate. Also, you must take a small UAS online training course offered by the FAA.
You should make sure that your drone is safe before flying, but the FAA doesn’t require small UAS to comply with their current agency airworthiness standards or obtain any kind of aircraft certification. For example, all you have to do is a preflight inspection of your drone, which includes checking the communication link between your control location and the drone.
Being a pilot in command of your drone, you should have to comply with several other provisions of the rule:
- You must take your drone to the FAA for inspection when said so (on their request).
- You must provide any associated records against their requirements (it is just to inspect if your aircraft is under their regulations).
- In case of any operation that causes serious injury, loss of consciousness, or property damage worth at least $500, you should immediately report to the FAA within ten days.
Now, you are familiar with all the Part 107 regulations, here is the summary of all the rules that you must follow if you have a recreational drone (hobby drone) or professional drone (commercial drone):
Regulations for Recreational or Hobby Drones:
- First, register your drone with the FAA and mark the registration number outside the drone.
- Use your hobby drone only for fun/recreational purposes.
- Follow all the safety guidelines of a community-based organization.
- Keep your drone at maximum or below 400 feet.
- Never fly your drone in controlled airspace (above or around airports). However, in order to fly above or around any airport, you must have an airspace authorization for operations in controlled space through LAANC.
- Keep your drone within your line-of-sight.
- Avoid flying your drone over groups of people, public events, or over stadiums of people.
- Never fly near emergencies such as accident response, law enforcement activities, firefighting, or hurricane response efforts.
- Never fly under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.
If you violate any of these regulations by the FAA or carelessly operation your drone, you could be liable for criminal/civil penalties.
Regulations for Professional or Commercial Drones —Flying for Work
- You must have a Remote Pilot Certificate (RPC) issued by the FAA to fly your drone commercially.
- You should register your drone with the FAA through FAADroneZone website.
- Your drone must weigh less than 44 pounds at takeoff (including payload).
- You must operate your drone in Class G airspace only – It is the airspace where the FAA is not monitoring and controlling manned air traffic.
- You must keep your drone within your line-of-sight.
- You must fly your drone at or below 400 feet.
- You must fly your drone during civil twilight or daylight only.
- The maximum speed you can fly your drone is at or under 100 mph or 87 knots.
- You cannot fly your drone directly over people.
Certification for Remote Pilots including Commercial Operators
If you have a small drone that weighs less than 55 pounds, you can operate it for business or work by following the Part 107 guidelines that we have already mentioned above.
To fly under Part 107 Regulations, you should follow these three steps:
Step 1: Learn the Rules
- You should first understand the things that are allowed and not allowed under Part 107 rules (mentioned above).
- Some operations that are not covered in Part 107 Rules will require a waiver by the FAA.
Step 2: Pass the Knowledge Test to Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot
1. Here are the eligibility criteria to obtain your Remote Pilot Certificate:
- You should be at least 16 years old
- You should be able to read, write, speak, and understand English
- You should be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a drone
2. Review and follow the FAA’s process to get your Remote Pilot Certificate
3. Take help of the prep materials provided by the FAA to study and prepare for the Knowledge Test
4. Once you are prepared, go ahead and schedule your appointment and take the Knowledge Test at a Knowledge Testing Center (it must be FAA-approved).
5. Once you have successfully passed your Knowledge Test, you should complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a Remote Pilot Certificate, using the electronic FAA IACRA.
Step 3: Register your Drone with FAA
- Once you have acquired your Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA, you should register your drone with the FAA as well. It only costs $5 and is valid for three years. In order to register your drone, you should have a debit/credit card and the make/model of the drone you are flying.
- To register your drone, you should visit dronezone.faa.gov, select “Fly sUAS under Part 107”, and create an account.
- Once you have successfully registered your drone with the FAA, you will get a registration number. You should mark your drone with it on the outside in case it is lost or stolen.
Special Travel Considerations for Foreigners
If you are a traveler and coming to the USA along with your drone, you should consider these special considerations if you want to fly it:
- No matter you plan to fly for work or fun, you should register your drone with the FAA using the FAADroneZone.
- If you want to fly for fun, you should read and follow the regulations for recreational/hobby drones (mentioned above).
- If you want to fly for work, you should read and follow the regulations for commercial/professional drones (certificate by FAA is required).
- When traveling with your drone in the USA (domestically), you are only allowed to bring it in carry-on luggage (allowed by Transportation Security Administration). You should not pack it in checked luggage.
Flying a drone is definitely fun, but one must fly it legally to avoid any inconvenience later. Make sure to read and follow all the regulations for the type of drone you have (Hobby or Professional). Have a safe flight!