Beginning August 29, 2016, new rules set forth by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding the operation of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) go into effect. The full text is 53 pages long and is about as tedious as you would expect a government document to be. Here are the highlights you need to know to fly safely and legally.
1. Do Not Fly Over People
This is important and applies to every sUAS, regardless of size or whether you are a pro or an amateur. You cannot fly a drone above anyone who is not under a shelter or in a vehicle. Exceptions are allowed for crew, visual observers (VO), cameramen, etc. Basically, if there are people around that are not involved in the flying of the drone, don’t fly over them.
2. Register Your sUAS
All sUAS over 0.55 lbs. must be registered with the FAA. For reference, this Pocket Drone weighs 0.14 lbs. There is a $5.00 fee to register your aircraft. Registration can be done online at https://registermyuas.faa.gov/.
3. Get a License (if necessary)
“Whoa, hold on. I have to have a license to fly a drone?!”
Possibly. The regulations vary based on the type of flying you plan to do. If you are flying commercially for any reason (photography, surveying, inspections), you have to have a certification from the FAA. For those flying for fun or education, the certification is not necessary. There are other rules based on whether you’re flying for fun or flying for work as well, including altitude limitations, proximity to airports, and more. See the links below for more details.
Below are some references to better understand the regulations. I’ve tried to put them in order from simplest and most applicable for recreational flyers to the most complex and commercial specific.
- Getting Started – A simple table format of what you need to know
- Fly for Fun – Links, resources, and safety guidelines
- sUAS Weight References – Some sample drones and their weights to determine if you need to register yours. You can also usually find the weight of your drone on the manufacturer’s website or on Amazon.
- Register Your Drone – The sUAS registration page
- Summary of AC 107–2 – The summary of the FAA regulations
- AC 107–2 Advisory Circular – The full text of the FAA regulations
- Fly for Work – Resources for commercial sUAS pilots
- Become a Pilot – Resources for becoming a pilot, a requirement for flying sUAS commercially