We hear about drones in the news quite often now. It used to be that drones were strictly relegated to military use, and though they are still major military tools, they have found a place in countless civilian sectors. Drones have taken commercial industries by storm proving their benefit for fields like agriculture, inspection, construction, real estate, TV and film, securities, delivery options, and emergency applications. The commercial drone market brings in an estimated $5.8 billion world wide. All commercial drone operators must meet their country’s regulation standards, for the United States that would be the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). With drones playing such a large role in current commercial industries, we tend to forget that there are plenty of ways to enjoy the benefits of drones that have nothing to do with making money.
During the 2017 holiday season, more than 1.5 million drones were bought. These were not drones intended for commercial enterprises, but for personal enjoyment. These toy and recreational drones are mostly small and micro sized drones that can fit in the palm of your hand, most not exceeding the diameter of a large dinner plate. They range in price from $5 to a few hundred dollars, some going up into the thousand dollar range. Some of the larger and more expensive drones make excellent professional drones, but if they are to be used that way there are some key issues to be met first.
To be able to use any type of drone in a professional capacity or one that makes money you need to be licensed by the FAA. This license is called the Part 107 and it is relatively easy to get. There are plenty of online study guides, and as drone popularity grows there are more and more locations that offer Part 107 training courses. There are around 700 authorized FAA testing facilities throughout the United States where you can take the Part 107 exam. The cost of the exam is $150, an amount that can possibly be made back after one paying drone job. But if you don’t plan to use a drone commercially there is no need to take the Part 107 exam.
The FAA states, “You are considered a recreational user if you fly your drone for fun.” However, they go on to say, “It is important to know when and where you can fly and how to register your drone.” As of right now recreational drone pilots do not need to register their drones through the FAA’s database, though it is a good idea to do so. Doing this is a good way to protect yourself. Besides registering a drone, a recreational pilot is subject to the same regulations as a commercial pilot. It would be a good idea to become familiar with the rules set forth by the Part 107.
In general, the rules for recreational drone flight pretty much revolve around common sense practices. Don’t fly a drone over people or moving vehicles, at nighttime, over 400ft, out of line of sight, or in restricted airspace. Restricted airspace can be over airports, prisons, military and government sites, national parks, and any emergency situations. There are a lot of restricted airspace set up to keep everyone safe, but there are still more than enough open airspace to enjoy flying a drone. The best way to make sure you are not venturing into a no fly zone is to check before you go out. The FAA makes it easy to do so through their app B4UFLY. This app will clearly show all permanent and temporary no fly zones.
With so many people using drones recreationally the FAA lays out all the regulations clearly on their website. Too often we hear on the news situations when a recreational drone gets to close to restricted areas like airports or wildfires. On the FAA’s information page for hobby drone pilots it states, “Recreational flyers should know that if they intentionally violate any of these safety requirements, and/or operate in a careless or reckless manner, they could be liable for criminal and/or civil penalties.”
The goal is to ensure that everyone interested in flying a drone, whether commercially or for fun, is doing so in a way that protects themselves along with the people and property around them. In an effort to meet this need the FAA will begin introducing stricter regulations for recreational drone pilots. One such amendment will be for any “Drone operators to pass an online aeronautical knowledge and safety test and carry proof of test passage.” Currently the FAA is working with drone industry experts to compile an appropriate test for such purposes. While some may find it annoying to have to take a test to fly a toy drone in their backyard, it is important to remember that these regulations are there to protect everyone in the ever expanding world of drone use.
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