If you have received or given a drone during this holiday season, new drone pilots must observe and follow important rules. We asked an FAA representative to highlight the top 10 things new flyers should be aware of.
Part of an occasional series, “Things the FAA Wants More Pilots to Know”. This article describes 10 important rules that you need to understand before flying your drone.
This fall, DRONELIFE had the privilege of speaking on a panel with representatives from the FAA. After some discussion, we decided to work together on a series of articles that highlight some of the most common mistakes and misunderstandings related to drone regulations. We know that the vast majority of drone pilots make an effort to obey the rules: we do our part by making known some potentially unclear topics.
Read our previous articles about registering your drone and flying over people.
Things the FAA wants more pilots to know: 10 rules for new drone owners
The first and most important step, says John Meehan, FAA Aviation Safety Analyst, is to determine what rules govern your activities. FAA Circular 91-57B, which outlines guidelines for operating recreational drones, and 107-2 may provide more information on whether or not your flight is recreational or commercial. Remember that the definition of recreational flying is very limited: you are flying for your own pleasure. Flying for any other purpose, whether or not cash changes hands, is generally commercial and falls under Part 107.
Here are 10 more rules for new drone pilots the FAA wants you to know:
- All flights outside are regulated by the FAA. Pilots operate outdoors in the National Airspace System (NAS), even when the flight is close to the ground. All outdoor flights are regulated by the FAA. Private property, public land, low level, etc. are not exceptions to the rule.
- Most civil flights are regulated in Part 107. Most drone pilots either do not fly for recreational purposes or according to the safety guidelines of an existing flight modeling organization or Community Based Organization (CBO). (If you are unsure, read the circulars above.) Part 107 flights must follow these rules:
- Drones must be registered and labeled with the FAA regardless of their weight. See our previous article on registration. You can register your drone in the FAA Drone Zone here.
- The pilot must have an FAA-issued remote pilot certificate (Part 107.12). In order to receive a Part 107 certificate, a knowledge test must be passed at an FAA testing center. For more information on how to get your Part 107 and educational resources to help you study, please visit here.
- Drones are limited to 400 ‘altitude in uncontrolled airspace.
- Drones are only allowed to operate in daylight (or follow the new rule for night operations). The FAA just released a new rule for night operations that will go into effect shortly. Use the article linked above to find the relevant documents and requirements if you plan to fly at night.
- Drones must be flown with Visual Line of Sight (VLOS). While there is a lot of news about BVLOS (Flight Beyond Visual Line of Sight) waivers. However, unless you have a special direct permit from the FAA, you must be able to see your drone at all times. This includes a flight in your area, but it is not visible behind buildings or other structures.
- Pilots must obtain an airspace permit when flying in controlled airspace.
- Appropriate exceptions are still required for the flight over people and operations at night. You want to keep abreast of new regulations – but for now you still need to get these advanced processes off the ground.
- Give manned aircraft space at all times and do not disturb other aircraft or emergency services.
“Drone pilots must also be aware that some rules will change shortly after they have been published by the federal register,” says Meehan, like the flight over people and operations at night. Change is a constant in the rapidly evolving drone industry. Subscribe to the FAA social media channels and visit the FAA website regularly for the latest news. The FAA “Know B4UFly App” is also a valuable resource.
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has written over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For advice or writing on the drone industry, email Miriam.
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