Just Bought a Drone? Make Sure You Know the Laws Before Flying

A couple recent incidents highlight the importance of knowing the dos and don'ts of flying your drone.

So you just bought your first drone. And it’s all charged and ready to go. I know you’re excited, but it might be a good idea to get up to speed on drone regulation before you start flying.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently launched its “Know Before You Fly” campaign to help new drone users understand where you can and can’t fly your new toy. The video, which you can watch below, goes over some of the basics you need to know. There’s also a “Know Before You Fly” website that recently launched. It’s not endorsed by the FAA, but it has certainly backed it and have encouraged users to check it out.

So here are the basics you need to know.

  • You have to fly your drone below 400 feet at all times
  • Don’t fly your drone beyond your line of sight
  • Don’t fly within 5 miles of any airport
  • Don’t fly near any manned aircraft
  • Don’t fly within 25 feet of people
  • Between an hour before and after an event, all aircraft aren’t allowed less than 3,000 feet above and within three miles of stadiums
  • Don’t fly anything that weighs more than 55 pounds
  • Don’t fly for payment or commercial services unless you’ve been authorized to do so by the FAA
  • Don’t conduct surveillance or photograph people without their permission in areas where there is an expectation of privacy
  • Don’t be reckless
  • Do fly with local drone clubs
  • Do inspect your drone before you fly

The FAA’s guidelines are in line with the National Model Aircraft Safety Code of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). It’s also not a bad idea to avoid flying near power lines, water treatment facilities, military bases, national parks, schools, heavily traveled roadways or government facilities.

These guidelines shouldn’t be taken as legal advice. When in doubt, check with local officials to get the OK to fly. And, unfortunately, knowing the rules probably won’t help you get away from the Rapere Intercept Drone that is out to destroy your shiny new toy.

Photos: The Best Drones of CES 2015

Some drone manufacturers are helping their users out. DJI’s Phantom 2 series uses GPS to avoid flying near airports. And DJI created a global “No Fly Zones” map. There’s also a “Don’t Fly Drones Here” map for U.S. users from custom map developer Mapbox.

A couple recent incidents highlight the importance on knowing the rules. A man found near the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo. was charged with reckless endangerment, a class 3 misdemeanor, Thursday for flying a drone in the vicinity of the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. ESPN, which is airing the Winter X Games, received special authorization to use drone-mounted cameras to capture footage of the event, so flying within five miles of the airport was OK. The man charged, 20-year-old Auguin Maurcio Christian, does not work for ESPN, so his Phantom 2 Vision+ drone was confiscated after witness saw it flying in the general vicinity of a private aircraft that was also in flight. Christian was summonsed and released without incident.

According to CBS News, the FAA receives about 25 reports each month about drones flying near planes and helicopters.

In another incident, a man from Australia was fined $850 for breaching a number of drone regulations set by the country’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). The tough part to swallow, the Queensland man wasn’t caught in the act. CASA only fined him because they saw him breaking the laws in footage of the flight he uploaded to YouTube, which is something many drone users do. The fines in Australia can range anywhere from $850 for breaches of the basic guidelines to $8,000 for reckless operation.

“Don’t Fly Drones Here” from Mapbox

The website EFTM obtained a copy of this infringement notice and spoke with Peter Gibson, a spokesperson for CASA. “I’m not going to pretend we sit there every day trawling through YouTube because that would be ridiculous,” Gibson tells EFTM. “However, where we see things, or where people bring things to our attention then we will investigate”.

Gibson continues, “... if you injure someone, CASA can also seek prosecution. We’re not trying to penalise people, but if you behave stupidly, then you certainly run the risk.”

Again, when in doubt, check with your local officials. Maybe even consider joining the AMA or a local aeromodeling club to talk to other drone hobbyists.

Here’s an image courtesy the FAA explaining some of the basic rules.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.


Log in to leave a Comment

Article Topics

Robot Fun · Drones · News · All Topics

Editors’ Picks

10 Best Robots of CES 2018
Self-driving cars were the talk of Las Vegas during CES 2018. We recap...

Top 10 AI & Robot Stories of 2017
2018 is shaping up to be a massive year for automation. But first,...

Robots are Learning to Pick up Objects Like Babies
UC Berkeley has developed a technique that enables robots to complete tasks...

Self-Driving Taxis Giving Rides During CES 2018
Aptiv and Lyft have teamed up to give CES 2018 attendees self-driving taxi...