What are the Legal Limitations of Drones?
What is Part 107?
As of August 2016 the Official Rules and Regulations (Part 107) from the Federal Aviation Administration are in affect and they are AWESOME! The FAA was only 3 years behind schedule from the original estimates, but we have them now! They require every commercially operating drone pilot to go through training and pass a federal test to be a licensed drone pilot. It also mandates drone registration for all drones (even personal drones above 0.55lbs) and also clarifies operating rules. Read more about Part 107 here.
More on Drone Registration
The registration requirement applies to all drones operated commercially or for fun weighing more than 0.55lbs but less than 55lbs. This is similar to gun registration where incidents of misuse can be traced back to the original owner. Good or Bad? Adding a level of accountability is good for accidents and to ease public concerns, but it doesn't stop someone from intentionally doing something illegal as is the problem with guns. That being said, It's very easy to register and there's no fee so I think it's great. And maybe it will cut down on the amount of "buy and fly" people out there who don't do proper training before crashing into downtown Manhattan buildings (watch below). To see a better comparison of commercial and for fun rules go here.
What is Pertinent Need to Know?
There's a few things you should know to better be prepared for any upcoming operation:
- Night flying is not allowed (30min before and after sunrise/sunset is allowed)
- Operating over 400ft above ground level is not allowed unless you are within 400ft of a building (then 400ft above the building height)
- 5mi around any airport is a no fly zone
- The drone must be in Line-Of-Sight at all times. Visible to the naked eye
That being stated, most of the above rules can be waived by the FAA by applying for a Certificate of Waiver (COA) authorization if it can be shown the operation can still be completed safely. More about COA's here. This process can take up to 90 days so it must be done well in advance. Login to the FAA's website to apply for a COA, or create a new account to start your COA. Also, operations around airports can be permitted by contacting the Airport's Traffic Controller directly and asking for permission.