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Drone Regulations in the USA! What are the Drone Rules to follow?

Now that you’ve shelled out some cash to get a high-quality drone for your needs, we’re pretty sure you’re ready to start flying and capturing some amazing aerial photographs. The point is that owning a drone can be fun and exciting; however, there are a number of rules and regulations you’ll want to check out before your first test flight. Essentially, you need to aware of the general rules that have been put in place by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and of course, endeavor to work with them.

First Things First — Are You Flying For Fun or Flying For Money?

Ready to learn more about drone flying rules and regulations? If yes, it’s great to determine exactly how you’ll be using your UAV before taking the next step. For the most part, there are less strict requirements for the hobbyists, but those looking to make money off their UAV will have to pass an FAA test. And of course, receive Part 107 certification. These are pretty much what you need to know if you bought your drone for commercial use.

Drone Rules and Regulations for Recreational Users

Now, there’s a good chance that you got your drone for fun — it could be that you’ve always wanted a drone to fly around your neighborhood or some other place. But how would you feel when you discover that your chances of flying it around are extremely limited? We’re pretty sure you’ll be disappointed and even heartbroken. The good news is, you can avoid this bummer by learning about the rules and regulations that surround drone flight. In essence, it’s in your best interest to know how to fly your UAV safely and of course, legally.

How to register drone with FAA?

Before we explore the rules, it’s important to mention that some countries require pilots to register their drones prior to taking it out for a flight. For the most part, registration makes it easy to locate your drone if it disappears while in the air and that’s huge. Essentially, it’s recommended to register your drone with the FAA if it weighs over 0.55 lbs — this is just how it works in the USA.

Registration is pretty easy and cheap; it only cost $5 on the FAA website. After you create an account, a code will be sent to you, one which you’ll have to mark somewhere on your drone. Just write the code on a small sticky paper and place it on the drone; it could be on the side or somewhere that won’t affect operation.

Here are the rules you’ll want to abide by if you’re planning to fly your drone for fun:

  1. Stick To The Maximum Allowable Height — 400 Feet or Less

First off, it’s in your best interest to know just how high you can legally fly your drone. According to aviation authorities, it’s recommended to fly below 400 feet — this prevents your UAV from coming in contact with manned aircraft including airplanes or helicopters. It’s important to note that the maximum allowable altitude in the US may be quite different from that of Canada, so be sure to check with your local aviation authority and of course, ensure that your drone stays within the recommended safety limit.

  1. Never Fly Over People or Near Emergencies

It’s also in your best interest to practice good judgment by resisting the urge to fly over people. This could be just one person or a group of people who are not part of your flight crew. Generally speaking, you can fly in a lot of places (forests, parking lots, parks and more) but just be sure to stay away from people and problems — it’s as simple as that. For example, you wouldn’t want to fly your drone in places like the beach, stadium or other public/community events.

What’s more, try not to fly near emergency sites. There’s a good chance of you trying to get a glimpse of a wildfire, but your actions will obviously get in the way of relief efforts, and that could cause another scene.

  1. Keep Your Drone Within Sight

This is pretty simple and straightforward — always ensure that you can see your drone in plain sight anytime you’re out flying. Essentially, keeping an eye on your drone at all times during flight is the surest way to prevent accidents; so you may want to go beyond watching the camera view on your smartphone or tablet. It’s pretty obvious that you won’t be able to see what’s around your drone if you only rely on your FPV camera — so be sure to use your eyes! It’s also important to check your local weather conditions before flying; for example, fogs and clouds can impede both you and your drone’s vision — we’re pretty sure you know what that means.

  1. Always Give Notice to The Airport If You’re Flying Within 5 Miles

Most recreational drone pilots believe that it’s illegal to fly within five miles of an airport in the USA. Well, you’ll be glad to know that this is entirely false. According to the FAA (in the United States), drone pilots can fly within five miles of an airport after giving notice to the Airport Manager and Air Traffic Control.

  1. Avoid Flying in the Dark

It’s also in your best interest to keep your drone in its case after dark — just don’t fly by this time regardless of whether it has night lights or not. So when exactly is “dark”? Well, just follow the civil twilight — 30 minutes before official sunrise or 30 minutes after official sunset.

US Drone Flight Regulations in A Nutshell

  • Maintain an altitude of 400 feet or below
  • Keep your eyes on your drone
  • Avoid flying near manned aircraft
  • Be aware of airspace requirements and restrictions
  • Avoid flying over stadiums or sports events
  • Never fly over people
  • Stay away from emergencies including fires and the likes
  • Never fly your drone while drunk or intoxicated

The United States No-Fly Zones

The very first thing drone pilots should know is that the United States has the most complex airspace in the world, so it’s critical to learn about its “No Fly Zones” before taking flight.

First off, it’s not allowed to fly your drone near an airport. For the most part, you can actually fly five miles away if you’re not willing to notify the control tower of your adventures. It’s however in your best interest to give notice to the airport manager or air traffic control tower if you’re planning to fly closer.

It’s also important to note that drone operation is prohibited on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service. Need more information? Just head to their website to learn more about the NPS drone ban — you’ll get to know about the parks and their no-fly zones. What’s more, drone pilots should avoid flying around the White House and Camp David.

Just so you know, it’s crucial to check with the Secret Service if you’re planning to fly in high-security areas like Washington DC. You should also be aware that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration frowns at the use of drones in marine protection areas.

To sum it up, it’s not allowed to fly drones within a radius of three miles of a stadium or events like NFL, MLB, NASCAR Sprint Cup, NCAA Division One Football to name a few. The bottom line: do not fly your drone in huge events or around a large gathering of people.

Are There Other Restricted Areas in the United States?

Well, these are the official no-fly zones in the US, but you should also be aware of Temporary Flight Restrictions or TFRs. In the US, the FAA uses this temporarily restrict drone flights in some areas. It’s however important to note that some TFRs have become permanent including those around Disney World and Disneyland. What’s more, It’s great to download the FAA’s B4UFLY app from App Store or Google Play store; it will help you know if there are any restrictions or requirements in your chosen airspace.

How To Deal Conflicts

Planning to fly your drone in public? If yes, there’s a good chance that you’re going to have issues with people — this is just how it is. Now, some folks believe that they have the right to shoot down your drone or use it for target practice; this can be really annoying. At such times, it’s best to call the cops or just settle the situation before it gets out of hand. For instance, you can let the person know exactly what you’re doing and of course, let them see that you haven’t been spying on them with your drone. However, don’t hesitate to call the police if you happen to have a conflict with an unreasonable person.

What’s more, aerial photography has a lot to do with your rights to operate and fly your drone. For the most part, you’re completely within your rights if you fly and of course, take shots on your own property or public property. However, the situation won’t be in your favor if you do the same on private property. In such cases, there’s a good chance that the property owner will ask you to land your drone and vacate the premises. If this happens, it’s in your best interest to just do what they say and leave. Essentially, it’s great to always carry a copy of The Photographer’s Right with you; it’s sure to come in handy when you’re looking to capture aerial photographs or videos.

Wrapping It Up

All in all, flying your brand new drone is sure to be super fun; for one, it makes it possible to capture stunning images and video you’re unlikely to get on a normal day (on ground level). The good thing is, you can make the experience more enjoyable by abiding by the FAA’s rules and avoiding conflict with others. As mentioned earlier, it’s only normal for you to avoid flying your drone over public gatherings like sporting events and the likes. It’s crucial to choose the right time of the day and place to fly — doing this will minimize your contact with other people and of course, improve your overall experience.

The bottom line; just do your best to understand and follow the FAA rules, and never forget to add a bit of common sense to the mix. Once you get things right, you’ll definitely enjoy your drone, and everyone will be happy! Have fun!

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