Easy Guide to Drones – Guidance from the FAA

The law just made it easier for aerial photographers and film producers interested in using a drone to create stellar aerial shots! As of August 29, 2016 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued new commercial drone rules. The FAA mirrored the new rules significantly to reflect the recreational drone rules, allow there are a few differences. Read on to learn more.

Commercial Use

The Basics

Under the new commercial-drone rules, operators must keep drones within their visual line of sight—in other words, the person flying the drone must be able to see the drone with the naked eye—and can only fly it during the day. Drones cannot fly over people who are not directly participating in the operation or go higher than 400 feet above the ground. The maximum speed is 100 mph.

No Need for a Pilot’s License

Before August 29, 2016, a commercial drone operator needed a pilot’s license to fly a drone for commercial purposes. Under the new rules, individuals over the age of 16 can qualify for a remote pilot certificate when they pass an aeronautical knowledge test at a FAA-approved facility and pass a background check.

Hobby or Recreational Use

No certificate needed for those flying strictly for hobby or recreational use with a less-than-55-pound drone that complies with safety guidelines. These guidelines include flying below 400 feet, remaining clear of obstacles and people, and keeping the drone within visual line of sight at all times. Small drones weighing under 250g (0.55 pounds) can fly over people, depending on their design, while larger drones up to 4-5 pounds could do the same as long as they stay 20 feet overhead or 10 feet away laterally. Moreover, the drone must not interfere with any manned aircraft and you must provide proper notice when flying within five miles of an airport.

What Happens If I Break the Rules?

The FAA can pursue an enforcement action for operators who break regulations. Federal agencies may also punish a pilot for intent to endanger the safety of a person and reckless disregard for human life. Additionally, under state law, local governments can bring charges of reckless endangerment against pilots for operating drones below prescribed federal altitudes or in a way that is “imminently dangerous to persons or property.”

As you can see, the new legal and business opportunities that drones present bring with them a word of caution. Make sure you operate drones within the FAA’s restrictions, and you’ll be safe to enjoy the new artistic perspectives that drones bring!


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Photo Credit:  Liane Metzler.