US Drone Laws – Know Everything About Drone Regulations in USA
US Drone Laws and Regulations help drone users understand and comply with the legal requirements for flying drones in the United States of America.
Drones are becoming increasingly popular with the passage of time. Also known as Quadcopters, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), these mobile and small robotic machines can soar up in the air and capture images and videos from various angles, which are impossible otherwise. The mass adoption of drones has inevitably created many legal and privacy-related issues, which governments around the world have attempted to resolve through increasing legislation aimed at regulating this burgeoning sector.
The government of the United States of America is one of the keenest in terms of drone regulations, as the country has witnessed mushrooming growth in the UAS sector. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) has designed a number of regulations in order to make drone flights secure and legal.
Recreational vs. Commercial US Drone Laws
The first order of the business is to decide whether you want to use drones for fun or professional purposes. If all you want to do is to capture pictures and videos from the air that you could share with your friends and family later on, then you can get a fairly straightforward test called The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST), and be good to go. You can take this test for free within an hour right here. This allows you to use drones for fun and recreational activities ONLY. If you are caught doing anything with your drone that could be considered a commercial activity inside the USA, do not expect TRUST certification to come to your aid at the courthouse.
If you have more commercial pursuits in mind regarding your drone, then prepare for a thorough examination: the Part 107 Certification. This particular test may cost you around $110, and you will be learning about things like types of airspace, maximum height the drones are allowed to fly at, flight safety, and more. If this sounds intimidating… it should, because it is. But on the bright side, once you have the Part 107 certification in your hands, you are free to take your drone anywhere inside the USA and use the captured footage to earn money, as long as you do not violate security and privacy laws.
Registration of UAS
The next step towards enabling legal drone flights is Registration. Every drone owner must register their UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) at the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Registration portal. There is a token registration fee that hovers around the $5-10 mark if the drones weigh more than 250 grams. The registration remains valid for a period of 3 years, so it is fairly cheap.
Federal Aviation Administration will bestow your tiny robot with a registration number and will demand that you display it on your UAS where it is always clearly visible. You can use any method such as stickers or labels to achieve that.
The Federal Aviation Administration has also mandated the use of Remote ID for drones. These are virtual nameplates that your drones will be able to transmit to the National Airspace System (NAS) for smooth identification on the fly. Remote IDs are not yet operational however and will come into force starting 23rd of September, 2023.
Your drones are not the only machines able to fly in the sky. There are other aircraft (and other drones) that might be in the air at the same time. A miscommunication between aerial objects, no matter how small, can cause serious incidents. The FAA’s sole purpose is to stop that from happening. They will demand that write down those rules, keep them close to your heart at all times, and take them to your grave. Well, they’re not going to do any of that, but you get the picture.
You’ll be provided a booklet containing basic flight safety rules, and will be expected to rigidly follow those rules every time your drone becomes airborne. FAA (and all US authorities) are dead serious about flight safety, and you should not expect any leniency from them if found to be in violation of those rules.
The detailed rules can be read from the booklet. But brief details are:
- The maximum height for drone flight is capped at 400 feet. You can fly them below this height, but not above.
- Always keep your drone in sight. Meaning that you always be able to look at your airborne drone with the naked eye.
- Avoid flying in restricted space. That includes spaces around airports, police stations, prisons, military bases, or any other government facility that has been declared a restricted and forbidden area.
- Do not capture footage of a group of people without their consent.
- You cannot capture footage of an event to which another entity holds the copyrights. For example, a sporting match, or the filming of a movie.
- Do not fly your drone while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Respect other people’s privacy. The laws surrounding privacy are murky, and any good lawyer can make you look like paparazzi in court and ask for astronomical sums in compensation, so mess with people’s privacy at your own risk.
None of these rules are that hard to follow (unless you are actually paparazzi, then it’s another story) and are aimed at securing American airspace from any untoward incident. Also, keep in mind that many places and facilities ban drone usage on their premises. So, do your research whenever you are venturing out to a new place before you send your drone to the skies.
The usage of UAS is a relatively novel phenomenon, and the laws and regulations still need significant evolution to be considered foolproof. You must keep in mind that you are not the only person with a drone. There will be others, too. If your drones come into conflict, or if one party is considered to have violated the privacy of the others by using drones, try to be reasonable and find a solution through peaceful dialogue. Otherwise, you will just be frequenting the local courthouses for months and making some smug lawyers even richer.
Drone cameras have revolutionized the world of photography and video footage, and everyone wants a piece of that action. However, people have not yet come to grips with the consequences of the mass adoption of UAS aircraft. The legal and privacy-related issues caused by excessive drone usage are real and serious, and every drone operator has to make sure they are well-versed in all the rules and regulations surrounding the UAVs before they send one into the air. People should also be patient and accommodating if accidental breaches of privacy occur due to drone usage. After all, we’re all just humans and should benefit from innovation instead of letting it disrupt the social order.
Are drones allowed in the USA?
Yes, Drones are allowed inside the United States. However, they must be registered with the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA), and every drone operator must take the corresponding test before they are allowed to fly drones in the USA.
Can I fly drones for fun in the USA?
People are allowed to fly drones in the USA for recreational and hobby-related activities. This requires them to take a simple test called The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) which can be completed within an hour, and they’re good to go after that.
Can I fly drones for making money in the USA?
Commercial drone flight is permitted by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) which supervises all air flights inside the USA. However, the FAA requires that you take a rigorous drone and air flight test called Part 107 Certification, register your drone with the FAA, obtain the registration number and display it clearly on the exterior of the drone, and learn and strictly abide by the drone flight rules.
What is LAANC?
The Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) is a protocol designed by the FAA and drone industry advocates. It is aimed at fully integrating the UAS or drones into US airspace below 400 feet.
What are the different drone certifications by the FAA?
There are two drone certifications mandated by the FAA. The first is called TRUST certification, and it involves recreational drone usage. The second one is a more robust certification known as the Part 107 certification. Every drone operator with commercial aspirations must pass that certification before using drones for professional purposes.
What is a Remote ID for drones in the USA?
The remote ID is a virtual identification mechanism mandated by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). This is basically an app containing the entire information about a drone that will be transmitted to the National Airspace System (NAS) when required and will come into effect in September 2023.