Flying a drone isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially if you’re in countries like U.S, India, China, etc. The aviation authorities have recently strengthened their drone policies and have introduced several new norms for commercial drones. The U.S brought its drone policies into effect in the year 2015. The U.S Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made sure no drone goes unchecked. In a recent law which was passed in accordance to drone security was that drones can be shot down by legal authorities if they were to enter any restricted airspace. Consumers who are aware of the drone laws must be cautious and  must have a thorough knowledge of the steps required to fly a drone in the U.S. Otherwise a casual flight might result in receiving heavy penalties or even worse.

Registration

Registering a drone with the FAA is the first and foremost step which will ensure the legality of the drone. Post-registration the applicant receives a number for their drone, this number must be attached to the drone, the controller or any module directly or indirectly connected to the drone. This is like a number plate for the drone. The registration fees is $5. The registration of the drone is valid for up to 3 years after which the applicant can renew his/her registration for an additional 3 years for the same price.

Registration is important for all drones from 0.55 pounds (250 grams) to 55 pounds (25 kilograms). Any drone below the 0.55-pound limit may not be registered.

There is no age restriction for flying a drone but there is an age limit for getting a drone registered. The drone can only be registered by a person greater than 13 years of age.

All registrations are done via a web-based system on the FAA Drone Zone website. For drones greater than 55 pounds there is a paper (N-number) based registration process.

Remote Pilot License

For people who want to fly drones for commercial purposes or non-recreational purposes, they require a Remote Pilot’s Licence or also called a Remote Pilot Certificate (RPC) issued by the FAA apart from the general registration. The commercial drone flyers include 3D mapping drone companies, real estate photographers or anybody who would use the footage of their drone for commercial purposes. The applicant must be over 16 years of age and is required to give the aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA approved test center. The license is valid for up to two years after which the pilot can go for a re-evaluation to extend the license.

Maximum Altitude

The maximum altitude mentioned by the FAA is 400 feet. All drones below 55 pounds must fly below 400 feet. This altitude is also known as the G Airspace.

Maximum Horizontal Distance

The maximum horizontal distance for a drone is restricted to the line of sight of the pilot. The drone must at all times be flown in the line of sight of the pilot, in case the pilot wishes to fly the drone via FPV (First Person View) he/she may do so with the help of a spotter.

Model Aircraft

Model aircraft refers to a small-scale replica of an actual aircraft. It can be a non-flying replica or a flying one. These aircraft are also unmanned but they have a different set of rules. These aircraft require registration under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Section 336)  by the FAA and they must always be flown within line of sight and cannot be flown for a long range FPV, according to the 2018 repeal of Section 336 by the FAA. The latest annulment also describes that model would not only include hobby planes but also smaller RC planes or unmanned toys. All the model aircraft would have to contain a remote ID number on them at all times. The new regulations also state that children below 16 years of age cannot fly an unmanned aerial vehicle and the eligible pilots have to pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA approved test center providing them with a license. Registration for model aircraft requires a U.S citizenship.

Additional Regulations

Apart from the general formalities, here are a few rules to keep in mind:

  • Drones must be flown at least 5 miles away from an airport.
  • Drones can be flown during the day and till dusk. (From 30 mins before sunrise to 30 mins after sunset).
  • Flight bans: All drones are prohibited from flying over all national parks, New York and Washington DC. The two cities have restricted the usage of drones except for T.V stations.
  • Laws regarding drones may slightly vary in different states of the U.S
  • The maximum speed allowed for a drone is 160 Km/h (100 miles per hour).
  • Recreational drone flying must not be done over large crowds.

The drone laws in the United States are fairly simple and very user-friendly as compared to the rest of the countries. With a normal FAA registration which costs a mere $5, almost all consumer drones would be legalized to hit the skies.