Before you test flight your newest UAV, you will need to follow the laws that govern drones. Unlike RC cars and boats, drones are strictly prohibited unless you have a permit and abide by the rules of the Federal Aviation Association (FAA). While flying drones are very fun, know that not following any of the rules will result in a fine, or worse, apprehension. Just follow these drone laws in the USA and you’ll be alright.
Disclaimer: Please do not refer to this article as legal advice. We are not responsible if you ever break the US laws on drones as these gradually change from time to time.
There are two sets of rules for each drone: the regulations for the recreational/consumer drones and another for the commercial/industrial drones. For recreational drones, there is one important rule to follow: the “line of sight” rule, also known as keeping the drone within visible sight at all times. This also means keeping your drone away from the delivery space of commercial drones. I will discuss this in the next segment.
Before getting started, do note that you will need to register your drone at the FAA before anything else. I will post the exact rules stated by the Law. Just remember that they are subject to change. According to the FAA:
Recreational flyers should know that if they intentionally violate any of these safety requirements, and/or operate in a careless and reckless manner, they could be liable for criminal and/or civil penalties.
If you never understood the obvious yet, flying at certain restricted areas such as airports and police business will result in a penalty (civil or criminal).
A drone near the airport within 5 miles may turn into a fatal accident for an incoming plane. Also, your drone will show up at their comm center.
Flying over security-based areas such as criminal investigations, firefights and law enforcement as this will count you as a suspicious person or interfering with police business.
You also cannot fly over large events such as sports and concerts as any recording that you have done with a drone will result in piracy; equivalent to jail time.
You cannot fly over 400 feet as this will also trigger the FAA’s radar, targeting your drone as an obstruction in the US air space and drone deliveries. Failure to comply with the rules may cause the FAA to charge you at least $27,500 for civil penalties and $250,000 for criminal penalties.
If you want to test out your drone’s altitude but want to go beyond 400 feet legally, you can always join drone festivals and races where you can freely fly your UAV anywhere as long as you are in the zone. These happen commonly around the country so you should be able to join one easily as long as you live in a major city. Also, there are some certain drone hotspots located around too - dedicated spaces where you can freely fly your drone. You can check out the hotspots here.
As long as you stay true to the guidelines, you’ll be alright. After all, it’s not much different as driving a car or sailing a boat since any vehicle includes rules and regulations.
According to many drone users, yes, USA does have the most strict drone laws compared to other countries due to many restrictions according to the FAA.
You may either register to the FAA in their physical department or on their website. Signing up should only take you a few minutes to finish.
The skies in USA have tight security. Once you go past 400 feet, the FAA will automatically detect your drone and will immediately send authorities to speak with you.
Currently, there are 24 states with drone laws since 2013.
Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.