Drones are more than fun. They are useful. But, before one is ready to hover into the sky, be aware of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations protecting the rights of drone owners and those around them. As drones become more popular and are used for more applications, the laws governing them are changing. If you are flying a drone for any reason, it is important to be aware of the various laws relating to drones, including drone privacy laws.

Drones overall will be more impactful than I think people recognize, in positive ways to help society. — Bill Gates

Drone Registration Laws for Recreational Flying (Fun!)

The back and forth in the court system about drone registration has finally landed. Recreational drone pilots in the United States must register the identified flying object with the FAA for a $5 fee before its first flight.

Are you flying more than one drone? The one-time registration price covers every drone owned by the pilot and is valid for three years. The FAA issues an identification number that requires a placement on the outside of the aircraft. Using printable stickers makes it easy to display the ID number and replace it after it expires.

Before February 23, 2020, the registration number need to be inside the battery compartment. Now, its placement should be on the exterior of the drone.

If the drone is a toy or tiny and weighing less than 8.8 ounces (ca. 260 cm³), registration is not required. Quadcopters that weigh more than 55 pounds (ca. 25 kg) cannot be registered. The heavier versions are considered industrial aircraft and require a bit more paperwork.

Couple Launching a Drone over a pasture.

Flying for … Not Fun

If a drone is not flying recreationally, but for money, the rules differ. Stock imagery, for example, falls under using a drone to make a profit. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) requires a Part 107 certification, and it must pass an FAA test to get it.

Other than grabbing stock pictures, drones that require the Part 107 certification are those taking video, film production, real estate, and even aerial images of weddings and events. If the drone produces pocket money, consider it “special.”

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    Flying for Protection

    Drones may feel like overkill for home security, but the information they provide is far more than just who rings the doorbell.

    Home security UAV’s utilize sensors that detect movement from both humans and animals. The base of the security system will send alerts based on the homeowner’s preference. The station deploys a drone to check it out. Should you utilize a drone for home security, be sure to discuss drone privacy with your neighbors. They may have concerns about your drone.

    Just like with recreational and commercial drones, the FAA requires specific things from homeowners. When flying a drone at night or out of human sight, a waiver is required. When someone lives close to an airport, it involves further notices and registration.

    Most drones are programmable only to fly within the perimeter of the property with cameras and only points towards the house it is protecting.  You should consult the National Conference of State Legislatures to learn more about how individual states govern drones.

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    The Basic Rules of the Sky

    Yes, there are rules to drones in the sky outside the registering process.

    The regulations include:

    • Always keep eyes on the drone
    • Stay aware of air space changes and abide by the rules
    • Do not fly any unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) while under the influence
    • Do not fly above 400 feet (0.12 kilometers)
    • Do not fly over sports events, especially those in stadiums
    • Avoid flying near other types of aircraft, especially avoid airports
    • Avoid flying over groups of people
    • National Parks are off-limits

    The general rule about airports is a five-mile guideline. If a drone is close to an airport, notify the air control tower. Websites and apps are available to help owners with safe flying zones. The information provided covers both commercial pilots and recreational. All aviators need to know where they can and cannot fly.

    A lot of the directives are common sense. But, it is better to be safe than sorry.

    Aerial Photo of a town at sunrise

    Conflict When Flying

    Flying a drone in public places comes with the possibility of conflict with people. If someone uses a drone as target practice, calling the police is the first order of business

    Not every one that shoots down a quadcopter is doing it for giggles. Some believe spying is happening, and it is a good practice to show the video to let them know invading their personal space was not the objective. Always respect drone privacy laws.

    Regardless of the conflict, knowing the rights of a pilot is crucial to stay out of trouble. When flying in personal or public property, it is within the rights to operate. Private property is generally off-limits. Security guards and property owners have the right to ask a pilot to land their drone and leave.

    Photographers should have a copy of The Photographer’s Rights on them at all times. It keeps people from demanding memory cards.

    Drones should provide enjoyment. Knowing how to defuse conflict is one way to guarantee it. The other is following the FAA rules and Drone Privacy Laws. The temptation to fly over events or crowds will always be there but avoid the worst human instincts. Curiosity is both grand and a downfall.

    Should you be researching drones for the interest of home security, contact Protect America to find out which security systems and features will complement your drone.