FAA flight rules for UAVs... aka 'Drones'

Sunday, July 13, 2014 | comments

As of now July 13, 2014, I am only familiar with these rules when it comes to UAV's or multi-rotor RC cameras (model airplanes - aka Drones).

The rules from the FAA so far say:
- No Commercial Use - except those the FAA has exempted. (as of July 13, 2014)
- Only for use by hobbyists
- No flying over 400 ft (period). Although class G flight rules say 600ft and under.
- NO Flying near airports without prior clearance. (5 miles from large airports - 1/4 mile from smaller ones)?
- No flying in National Parks
Must be within visual range (ie you can see it from the ground)
- Must be flown in a safe manner in all conditions for aircraft, vehicles & pedestrians on the ground.
Remember that the FAA is not the only government entity that can enforce rules against your activity. Local Police can certainly enforce laws based on the fact that you may be endangering people on the ground or causing a disturbance.
My rule of thumb is to not push the envelope when it comes to risking someone getting hurt. UAVs have a lot of tech in a small vehicle and it's easy to get a little overly sure of it's capabilities and then have a crash. UAVs are susceptible to pilot error and even erratic behavior when the pilots isn't at fault. If your UAV comes down and goes through someone's windshield or hits and hurts a pedestrian - the pilot is at fault regardless of why it happened.
I myself fly my quadcopters in the clear without any worry of being interfered with by local police. In fact, I have flown demos for them to show them the capabilities and everyone who has seen them are pretty fascinated. Again, if you handle yourself in a respectful way, minding the rules - law enforcement and local shop owners as well as pedestrians typically think it's the coolest thing they have seen.

Erik vonBartheld

written july 13, 2014

See this FAA page for guidance on the Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft
This is an excerpt defining what is considered a model aircraft Section 336 also prohibits the FAA from promulgating “any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft” if the following statutory requirements are met:
    - The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;
    - The aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;
    - The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;
    - The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
    - When flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower . . . with prior notice of the operation. . . .
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