Note: This blog post is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.
Will I need to register my drone?
If it weighs over a half pound, yes. As of December 2019, if you are flying a drone that weighs more than 0.55 lbs. (250 grams) and less than 55 lbs. (25 kg) you must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the Exception for Recreational Flyers. In the United States it’s the law and if you don’t register you potentially face heavy fines if caught flying an unregistered drone.
Thankfully the process is super simple and the registration cost is $5 per aircraft and is valid for 3 years. Registering your drone may seem excessive but it is the law and a law that isn’t going away any time soon. You can learn all about this at the FAA’s Drone Zone site.
What rules apply to flying a drone?
As a good rule of thumb you won’t be able to fly a drone if:
- You are within 3 miles of any airport.
- You are in restricted airspace (e.g., Washington D.C.)
- You are in the heart of a large city (e.g., New York)
- You are at a large public event (e.g., a stadium)
- You are near emergency operations or recovery efforts (e.g., hurricane relief, wildfires)
What are the regulations for flying drones?
The U.S. Federal government has well publicized laws for where and how you can fly a drone. All of which started in February of 2012 with the FAA Modernization and Reform Act.The most strict restrictions surround flying near government facilities (e.g., military installations), airports, and federal parks (e.g., Yosemite). Get familiar with these airspace restrictions to avoid any potential issues. State restrictions on flying drones do vary from one State to the next and don’t assume that if a flying location is not covered by regulations from the Federal government that you’ll be fine.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a wealth of information however, as legal language goes it can be difficult to interpret.
The rules around flying a drone can be confusing and change frequently. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a wealth of information however, as legal language goes it can be difficult to interpret. Here are just a few websites to help you stay on top of all things related to drone regulations:
Government info for recreational drone flyers
Official rules for drone regulations (documents)
Drone registration website
Can I fly my drone at a park?
This will vary from State to State and from park to park (read Federal vs. State drone regulations). First, check with your local Park Service and find out if any regulations for drones exist. Second, if there are none you need to consider if this is the right park to fly a drone. Why? Whenever you go flying at a public space it’s inevitable that you will be approached by someone who has a lot of questions. Rather than brush-off a curious onlooker, take this as an opportunity educate them about the drone community.
Most of the questions will be positive and about the drone itself but, there will be questions about the negative things they’ve heard. Use this encounter to dispel any drone myths or concerns they have and talk about drone safety, what drones offer, and where they could learn more about drone culture. Spread the love of your drone passion.
Rather than brush-off a curious onlooker, take this as an opportunity educate them about the drone community.
Can I fly my drone at night?
Yes, but only as a Recreational Flyer as it is established under FAA guidelines and all rules and regulations still apply to flying a drone at night, including:
“…you must keep your drone within your line of sight, or within the visual line-of-sight of a visual observer who is co-located and in direct communication with you.”
This statement is important because it means you will need to have some type of lighting system on your drone in order to maintain line-of-sight during your entire flight. And the camera on a drone does not constitute as line-of-sight rather it must be a light source visible to the naked eye. Some will interpret the FAA’s stance on night flying differently and argue that only non-recreational operators flying under Part 107 need to concern themselves with any rules or regulations for night flying. I will argue that from a safety’s perspective if you are having difficulty adhering to the rules of daytime flight, at night (see above line-of-sight), can you consider yourself a safe and responsible drone pilot?