As Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) technology has developed, drones have become more accessible than ever. More and more people are using drones for personal enjoyment and professional use and the laws regarding the operation of unmanned aircraft are changing to reflect this. As of August 29, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration has put into effect its most up-to-date regulations, specifically regarding “small unmanned aircraft.”
The newest rule, part 107, clarifies the use of small unmanned aircraft and defines them as unmanned aircraft that weigh less than 0.55 lbs. The regulations regarding drones are divided between drones flown for personal enjoyment and drones flown for professional uses.
Flying for fun
If you are flying an unmanned aircraft, no pilot registration is necessary as long as the aircraft is 0.55 lbs or less. As soon as an aircraft is over 0.55 lbs. it must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). You cannot fly your aircraft within 5 miles of an airport without first notifying the airport and air traffic control. Unmanned aircraft must always yield airspace to manned aircraft and must always stay within the sight of the pilot. Different areas may also have local regulations regarding unmanned aircraft flight, so before you fly, be sure to check any local laws and ensure that you operate in accordance with them.
Flying for business
The use of unmanned aircraft for professional purposes is subject to significantly more regulation. As previously stated, any aircraft weighing over 0.55 lbs. must be registered with the FAA. They have set up a convenient website so you can register your aircraft online. You can also register by mail if you prefer.
The operator must be Remote Pilot Airman certified, must be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and must be at least 16 years of age. Before the aircraft can leave the ground it must pass a pre-flight check. They cannot be legally flown unless they have passed the check and are considered safe.
Once the unmanned aircraft is in flight, it must stay within 400 feet of the ground, it can only be flown at speeds of 100 mph (87 knots) or less, and can only be flown during the day in Class G airspace (unless given permission by Air Traffic Control). Right of way must be given to any manned aircraft and you are not legally allowed to fly over people. Operating the unmanned aircraft while in a moving vehicle is illegal unless “operation is over a sparsely populated area.”
These are the basic regulations that are currently in effect. The use of drones and other assorted unmanned aircraft have provided entertainment and professional help for many. Even so, there are potential consequences for their misuse. If you find yourself in a legal situation regarding the use of unmanned aircraft or aircraft accidents, you will want to seek out the assistance of a legal professional who is familiar with aviation laws and it qualified to take on any such case.