Coddington, Hicks & Danforth

FAA rules and regulations to follow to keep your drone legal

Drone technology is advancing at such a rapid speed that existing laws can feel restrictive. However, understanding how current law works can protect users from legal issues.

In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration has a “line of sight rule,” which is important for anyone operating a drone to understand. This rule mandates that drone operators keep the unmanned aircraft within eye shot at all times.

Locally, California Civil Code Section 1708.8 forbids drone use to record another person via sound and/or video without their consent.

Recreational vs. commercial use

Recreational and commercial drones are both subject to the line of sight rule. However, the FAA regulations for recreational drones and commercial drones differ, and are typically more lax for recreational use.

For instance, there are no pilot requirements for operating a recreational drone, but commercial drone pilots must have a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate, be at least 16 years old and pass a Transportation Security Administration vetting process.

In both applications, drones must be registered if they weigh more than 0.55 lbs, but commercial drones are also subject to a pre-flight check for safe operating conditions.

Recreational drones must be five miles from airports if they aren’t providing advanced notification to airport and air traffic control. Commercial drones can only operate within Class G Airspace, which is all airspace below 14,500 feet and typically anything very near the ground (1,200 feet or less).

In regards to operating regulations, while all drones must yield right of way to manned aircraft, commercial drones are additionally not allowed to fly over humans or a moving vehicle, and must remain under 400 feet and fly at or below 100 mph.

Drone law is ever evolving, but following existing FAA rules and regulations can keep operators of any kind from facing unexpected legal issues. 



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