Drone Laws in USA A Complete Guide (2020)

Have a drone in the USA? Amazing! So, this blog is for you. First of all, you should know the drone laws before taking flight.

These laws apply to everyone taking to the skies – for educational, recreational or commercial purposes. It is mandatory to obtain a remote pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).

If you have years of experience or a new drone pilot, set rules and regulation will help to fly the drones with cameras safely in the domestic airspace.

Drone Laws in USA A Complete Guide (2019)

Which type of drone user you are? Will decide what rules and regulations apply to you and your drone. You need to chronicle your copter with the FAA.

The FAA registration applies to both commercial and private drone users. Though, $ 5 processing fee will be applied to commercial pilots.

When the registration gets completed, a specific registration number has been given that will be attached to your drone.

Here is the overview of set rules and regulation applied in the USA:

Drone Laws in USA

1. Drone Regulations in the US

  • Maximum Height allowed: The maximum height from where you can fly the drone is not defined for home users in the USA. There used to be a limit of 400 feet. So, It is sagacious to keep your drone at this limit. For commercial users, other rules apply.
  • Maximum take-off weight (MTOW): MTOW is simply the maximum weight that a drone can carry under its own power, take off and achieve it’s designed specifications like range or endurance.
  • Most FPV systems work on the 5.8 GHz while FPV is possible with a spotter by holding visual contact.
  • Drone insurance: If you want to take your drone in the sky, you will need to have drone insurance in many countries. But, in the case of the USA, there is currently no compulsory insurance regulations in this regard.

Conversely, you have the right to protect your flights accordingly. In general, two types of drone insurance are offered drone hull insurance and drone liability insurance.

The drone liability insurance is also known as aviation liability insurance. This insurance will cover all the costs, in case, you cause damage to another person due to an operator error or a technical defect.

  • Distance to airports: At airports, a distance of 5 miles (8,047 meters) is required.
  • Other safety distances: Further safety distances in the USA do not exist as per available information.
  • Flight bans: In USA, Drone flight bans apply in all national parks. Also, you cannot fly in New York City. Washington.
  • Operating Times: Drones may only be used during the day and at twilight.

Specifically, this is the time from 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.

  • Rules for Commercial Pilots: If you want to upgrade a copter for commercial use in the United States, you will need to take a test and qualify for a Remote Pilot Certificate (there are preparation materials here).
  • Special regulations: At present, the rules in the individual states or even cities may differ from the laws at the federal level. You should beware the local rules during a USA trip.

For example, the use of drones is completely prohibited in New York City. Exceptions are only possible for TV stations. 160 kmh is the maximum allowed speed of the drone.

2. Recreational Drone Laws

Before flying a drone, you need to register it with the FAA on the FAADroneZone website. All drone owners are directed by the FAA to register their drones having weighs between 0.55 and 55 pounds. Registration costs only $5 and is valid for three years.

  • You need to maintain sufficient distance from populated areas and respect others’ privacy. It is prohibited by the FAA to fly over public events, groups of people or the recreational stadiums during people gathering.
  • You cannot fly on the territory of military or power installations, airports, vulnerable property, national parks, or within Washington DC.
  • You can fly your drone no higher than 400 feet from the earth.
  • You must fly within maximum visual capacity.
  • You drone weight should be less than 55 pounds.
  • You cannot fly near emergency situations such as fires or hurricane recovery efforts.
  • You cannot fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

3. FAA Drone Regulations

  • United States FAA Report for 2020 reported that a number of unmanned drones are expected to double in the till next year from roughly 1.2 million aircraft to nearly 2.4 million aircraft.
  • On the other hand, commercial drone activity continues to grow. A new wave has been seen that recreational-use drones benefit from the same price and performance curve as commercial drones. Many recreational drones are now being used for commercial filming and real-estate use.
  • The FAA treats both commercial and recreational flying contrarily. Drone less than 55 pounds for commercial use must qualify for a Part 107 license and get an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate.
  • Drones are much easier to fly and can be virtually launched from any location, they are proliferating — and causing accidents. FAA modifying their rules regularly to find the right balance for safety and recreational drone use.

3.1 Drone Laws 2020

  • Last week FAA induced the major changes in recreational drone flying rules to date. Currently, recreational drone flying was governed under Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 that is previously known as the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Section 336 controlled special rules for model aircraft.
  • Under FAA rules, small drones fewer than 55 pounds were classified as model aircraft and could not be required to register with the FAA. However, it became Public Law 114-328, when President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization of 2017.
  • As confusing as all that is, you can ignore it. That’s because, when President Trump signed H.R. 302, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 last October, it became Public Law 115-254. That law went into effect on May 20, 2020, and marks quite a few changes in how recreational drones are managed.
  • Another new law is added known as “limited recreation operations that some interesting new restrictions and operations to recreational drone flying.

3.2 DRONE REGULATIONS BY STATE

As per federal drone regulations, states also have passed laws regulating the use of drones by individuals, businesses, law enforcement, and other interests. Below are summaries of drone laws by state.

Following state has no rules regarding the drones:

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and South Dakota

Remaining states have own regulations for drone flying. Some major states rules and regulations are as under:

3.2.1 Arkansas

As per Act 293, the use of drones to commit video voyeurism is prohibited. Class B misdemeanor; Class A misdemeanor if images were distributed or transmitted to another party, or posted to the Internet.

Act 1019: Prohibits the use of drones for surveillance and/or the gathering of information on “critical infrastructure” (oil refinery, chemical manufacturing facility, power plant, etc.) without written consent.

3.2.2 California

As per Civil Code Section 1708.8, it is prohibited the use of drones to capture video or a sound recording of another person without their consent (invasion of privacy). Violators are liable for up to three times the amount of damages related to the violation, and a civil fine of between $5,000 and $50,000.

3.2.3 Florida

As per Criminal Code Section 934.50 of Florida, Drones may not be used for surveillance in order to maintain privacy; this includes law enforcement. However, the police may use drones with a valid search warrant. Violators may be ordered to pay legal fees and compensatory damages; victims may seek injunctive relief.

3.2.4 Hawaii

Act 208 of Hawaii, it is required to establish a drone test site advisory board and creates the position of a chief operating officer to oversee the test site.

3.2.5 Michigan

As per Laws Section 324.40112: it is Prohibited the use of drones to harass or interfere with a hunter (charged as a misdemeanor; up to 93 days incarceration and/or up-to $1,000 fine per offense).

As per Laws Section 324.40111c: it is Prohibited the use of drones to take game or fish (i.e., locating, hunting, catching, or trapping animals).

3.2.6 North Carolina

Section 7.16(e) of S.L. 2013-360: Gives the state’s Chief Information Officer authority to approve (or disapprove) the operation of drones by state agencies, requires a test for the operation of drones.

4. FAA Regulations for Drone Near Airports

FAA induced two new rules that are particularly interesting and important:

  • First, recreational drone keepers are forbidden to fly in any sort of controlled airspace.
  • Second, if anyone wanted to fly in controlled airspace, he/she had to notify the air traffic authority of where you intended to fly in order to confirm there would be no other craft in the sky at the time.
  • The FAA introduced LAANC ( Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability) system. This system provides the right of entry to controlled airspace through near real-time processing of airspace authorizations below approved altitudes.

5. Drone Registrations

Drone registration is mandatory when you fly a drone in the US. So, check what kind of a drone flyer you are. As per FAA requirement:

  • Register the drone under Part 107 whenever you fly.
  • The label registration number on your drone before fly dive.
  • List item

    Proper registration requires the following documents:

    • Email address
    • Make and model of your unmanned aircraft
    • Credit or debit card
    • Mailing address and Physical address

    6. Recreational Drone Registration

    • You should register as a “modeler”, If you are flying for hobby or recreation
    • Label your aircraft with your registration number

    In order to register, you should be:

    • 13 years or older age
    • A U.S. citizen
    • Email address
    • Credit or debit card
    • Mailing address
    • Register online (must weigh less than 55 pounds).
    • Register an unmanned aircraft by paper.

    7. FPV Drone Laws

    For FPV drone flying, you want to make sure you’re doing it lawfully. The FAA is continually evolving its rules for this hobby as it is relatively new.

    • Register with the FAA

    Registrar your drone above 0.55 lbs and at this time the cost is $5.00 for 3 years. If you’re flying commercially you must also pass a test and undergo TSA security screening.

    • Maintain Line-Of-Sight (LOS) 

    This law emphasizes to maintain Line-Of-Sight (LOS) with your aircraft. It means if you’re wearing FPV goggles you MUST have a spotter that can maintain LOS with the aircraft.

    • Never fly near/over people

    Drones can be dangerous and many people are afraid of them.so, Flying directly over people will be considered assault.

    • Stay below the maximum altitude

    In the United States, you can’t fly more than 400 feet off the ground, or 400 feet above any

    structure. Going above 400 feet could put you into the paths of helicopters and small airplanes, which poses a great risk to their safety.

    Sometimes this is hard to judge the height, so it’s recommended to install some kind of altitude sensor on your aircraft.

    • Never fly near an airport

    You can’t under any circumstances fly within 5 miles of an airport without permission from the air traffic controller.

    To tackle this issue, you must register with a local flight club. Many towns have a field that is used to practice flying hobby aircraft, and they handle the legal matters to make that area safe to fly. Then you just have to work within the flight club’s rules.

    • Don’t fly after dark

    Don’t fly 30 minutes after sunset or 30 minutes before sunrise. You can look up when the official sunrise and sunset times are for your town and make sure you fly during safe times.

    8. Suas Drones

    Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) is a form of unmanned aerial vehicle. FAA categorizes this system into the following categories.

    8.1 Recreational Flayer

    Some basic parameters for recreational flayer are

    • Register your drone and properly mark the registration number
    • Fly only for recreational drives.
    • Follow the safety guidelines with the knowledge of no go area

    8.2 Commercial Operators

    Some basic parameters for recreational flayer are

    • He/She must know the Part 107 rules.
    • Drone registration with FAA
    • He/She should be an FAA-certified drone flayer

    8.3 Public Safety / Government uses 

    Public Safety Agencies uses the drone to spot and investigate unauthorized or unsafe UAS operations. So, drones may serve as a valuable tool for these agencies

    8.4 Educational uses

    Some basic parameters for recreational flayer are

    • Drone registration with FAA
    • He/She must know the Part 107 rules.
    • He/She should be an FAA-certified drone flayer

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    Muhammad Kaif

    Muhammad Kaif is a 15 years old blogger and SEO professional from Pakistan. He is working online from 2015 and also studying.

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