It’s incredibly fun to fly a drone, no matter your age or experience level.
Drones are extremely useful both as recreational devices and as tools of work.
Before launching your drone, however, there are restrictions, requirements, regulations and rules that you need to be aware of and follow.
In this article we will break down each of the key requirements established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding the use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Drone Age Limits
The FAA states that pilots who fly drones that meet certain requirements must be 13 years of age or more to register their drone(s). This isn’t to say that an adult cannot register the drone and allow the child to fly it, and children under 13 are free to fly drones that weigh less than 8.8 ounces as long as they follow all applicable local, state and federal laws.
If you are going to put a drone’s remote control in the hands of someone who is younger than 13 then it is necessary to properly train and supervise the child.
Many drones use somewhat complicated control systems that a 13-year old may not be able to manage safely, so check the drone manufacturer’s age recommendations before giving a drone as a gift or allowing children to operate the device.
Drone Weight Limits and Registration
The FAA has imposed strict restrictions on the weight of drones that can fly in U.S. airspace. Under current FAA regulations, unmanned aircraft systems that weigh more than 55 pounds are strictly prohibited.
Large drones pose unique hazards to people on the ground, manned aircraft, and infrastructure.
To ensure the safety of everyone in the United States the FAA mandates that you must receive a special license for a traditional aircraft and permission before launching a drone weighing 55 pounds or more.
If your drone weighs between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds then you must register your drone with the FAA. Most recreational, racing and work drones fall into this category. Some micro-drones weigh less than 0.55 pounds (8.8 ounces) and such drones are not required to have FAA registration.
How Far from an Airport Can I Fly a Drone?
The FAA has made it very clear that drone pilots are never allowed to operate within five miles of an airport.
If you feel the need to fly a drone within that five mile radius then you need to contact the airport directly. Give them specific locations and times, and they may be able to accommodate your request.
National parks, landmarks, monuments and government buildings may also have special airspace restrictions, so if you are near one of these then protect yourself by finding out the rules before you launch the drone.
Even if you know that there is no restricted airspace in your area on most days you should make sure that no special events are planned, as cities often draft special drone airspace regulations for events like the Super Bowl and in other important circumstances.
Common Courtesy – Drone Manners
Some restrictions on drone piloting aren’t written down in the FAA’s guidebook, nor can they be found in any local city council’s charter.
Responsible drone pilots realize that even though drones can be fun to use, they come with a certain degree of responsibility.
Don’t fly your drone over someone else’s private property without their permission.
Don’t fly your drone around playgrounds or schools.
Avoid operating your drone directly above people who are unaware of the drone’s presence, and never fly a drone too close to people as they could suffer serious injuries, or even death.
Where Can I Fly My Drone?
Here are the most common restrictions in the US:
- Sporting events such as: Major League Baseball, Major League Football, NCAA Division One Football, and Nascars Sprint Cup, Indy Car, or Champ Series Races. You are forbidden to fly within three miles of these events.
- Restricted air space
- Temporary flight restrictions
Get more info here about where you can fly your drone.
Flying Beyond Line of Sight
You should never allow a drone that you are piloting to get out of your sight. Even if your drone’s camera can relay images to you in real time there is an ever-present danger of blind spots.
Your drone could lose power and hit someone, or it could fly into restricted airspace.
If your drone goes down but you don’t know exactly where it went down then you could actually lose the drone. You can however use drone trackers to find your lost drone.
Always keep an eye on your drone, and it’s preferable that you keep your drone within a few hundred feet of the controller.
Purpose of Drone
Depending on how you plan to use your drone there may be a few extra requirements and/or regulations. Individuals who are using a drone for work purposes, such as surveying land or filming a commercial, will need to pass a screening and vetting process through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and these pilots will also need to get a Remote Pilot Certification.
Many areas prohibit filming without a permit and/or the permission of everyone who may be recorded.
If your drone is a speed demon that is meant for racing then there may be more restrictions regarding where you can and cannot fly your drone.
Contact your local law enforcement team to find out which restrictions related to your planned activities exist in your area.
How High Can I Fly a Drone
According to the rather old FAA Advisory Circular, you are not allowed to fly model aircraft more then 400 feet above the surface.
These drone restrictions were put in place to protect you, manned aircraft and its occupants, and people on the ground.
These restrictions, ironically, are not very restrictive. Many of the restrictions listed above involve nothing more than common sense, and others are very easy to remember and follow.
Keep in mind that the items listed above are rules provided by the FAA. Many states, counties and cities have more restrictions than the ones we just discussed, so check with your local law enforcement team before launching a drone in your area for the first time.
Additionally, keep in mind that there might be special restrictions when it comes to piloting a drone in large cities, near historic or important landmarks, and on government property.
One last point that we want to make has to do with irresponsible drone operators. Maybe you are a responsible drone pilot but you observe someone operating a drone recklessly.
Don’t attempt to take matters into your own hands. Contact local law enforcement and let the professionals handle the matter.
Remember, we’re always looking for updated info so if you know about additional restrictions or requirements for a specific city, county, state or location then please let us know in the Comments section below.
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