I just bought a drone. Now what? (Drone rules and regulations.)

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by Andrew Soucek, Digital Copywriter
on Aug 23, 2017

It seems like everyone has a drone these days. You can now buy them almost anywhere – from local hardware stores to online retailers – and they look like an absolute blast to fly. So of course you want one!

But what do you do after you’ve bought your first drone? What laws and regulations do you need to know to make sure your new passion is fun and hassle-free? Read on to find out.

Drone registration

First things first. As of May 2017, in the U.S. you no longer need to register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) if you’re flying as a hobbyist. That makes taking to the skies a lot easier. However, if you do intend to fly your drone for any form of commercial purpose (such as making money off of photography or videography shot from it), then things do become a bit more complex. You will still need to register with the FAA and obtain a Part 107 unmanned pilot’s license. (If you're in the Fargo-Moorhead area, we recommend the Fargo Jet Center's Part 107 drone training.) You must also be at least 16-years-old, and have to pass TSA vetting.

If you’re looking to fly simply for fun, though, then you’re good to go as soon as your new drone is out of the case.

Standard RGB orthomosaic map of farm fields.

If you plan to use a drone for any type of commercial use – even capturing imagery over your farm – you need to register your drone with the FAA and obtain your Part 107 pilot's license.

Drone rules and regulations

So far, so good? Even though it’s tempting to skip to the end and take-off, here are a few more important things you should also know before flying:

  • Make sure your drone is flying at least five miles or more away from airports, unless you have given them prior notification that you’ll be in the area. Considering there are over 13,000 airports in the United States, there is certainly a chance you could be within a few miles of one. If you are near one, then you absolutely must give way and not interfere with any manned aircraft. Otherwise, the FAA could take legal action against you. If you’re not sure if there is an airport near where you’ll be flying, be careful and alleviate your anxiety by checking a website like knowbeforeyoufly.org or the AirMap app.

Flying drones near airports is a no, no. Stay at least five miles away. (Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.)

  • Your drone must always be flying within your line-of-sight, without the use of vision enhancing devices like binoculars. (ideally, it’s best to have a spotter with you as well to keep an eye on your drone.). That also means don’t fly behind objects where you can’t see your drone for even a moment.

Drones must be flown within visual line of sight of the pilot and/or a spotter. (Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash.)

  • Don’t fly higher than 400 feet. The FAA recommends this number, so you’ll be a safe distance away from manned aircrafts.
  • Make sure the weather is nice and isn’t raining or snowing. At best, your footage is going to end up blurry and unusable. At worst, you’re going to need to buy a brand new drone. Excessive winds are also best avoided. Keep in mind that the lighter your drone is, the more likely it is to get unpredictably tossed around by Mother Nature.
  • Even though there’s a ton of beautiful footage to grab, don’t fly in a National Park without getting a permit first. Otherwise you could have your gear confiscated or possibly face jail time and receive over a $1,000 fine! While there are some potential loopholes in play at the moment, it’s just not worth the hassle. This no-fly zone also extends to National Monuments, National Battlefields, and historic sites.

In general, it’s best when flying your new drone to avoid places that have buildings or trees. As tempting as it may be to grab that cool footage right away and show it off online, you’d be surprised how many rookie pilots end up damaging or breaking their new purchase before they get much use out of it. Once you’re comfortable with how your drone handles, then feel free to attempt more advanced locations.

Use common sense

Most importantly of all, use common sense every single time you’re flying. While the vast majority of drone pilots are incredibly considerate with their equipment, others have unfortunately caused a bit of trouble by being reckless. That looks bad on everyone who flies a drone. Take great care to make sure those around you are safe at all times. Don’t fly over other people, or over vehicles. Stay away from government buildings and stadiums too. Nothing good is going to come from any of that!

Be engaged

Another great way to learn more about drones is to pick up some tips from experienced pilots. There’s a supportive and engaged community of pilots out there who love sharing their hobby with others. Get social and find fellow local enthusiasts. Sites like meetup.com or dronesquad.com can help you find get-togethers around the globe, where you can learn first-hand from local enthusiasts. There’s a supportive and engaged community of pilots out there who love sharing their hobby with others. Learn first-hand from them how to improve your craft and to further your new passion.

The rules and regulations of drones are continually evolving, but there truly has never been a better time to start flying. So go take to the skies, and keep checking back right here at Botlink to stay up to date on the latest news.

If you don’t own a drone or you’d like to expand your fleet, Botlink is a certified reseller of AgEagle cell-enabled drones and DJI™ multi-rotor drones. We have drone bundles with everything you need to start flying, including a 1-year subscription to Botlink. If you'd like to learn more, please visit botlink.com where you can chat with one of our specialists or sign up for a free trial or demo.

Author

Andrew Soucek

Digital Copywriter

Andrew uses multimedia to tell stories and show professionals and people how to put drones to good use. He's also our resident pro wrestling expert. Seriously, ask him anything!

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