9 Federal Aviation Regulations You Must Know Before Your Drone Takes Off

Whether on TV or in real life, most of us have watched someone fly a drone. These unmanned aerial vehicles are incredible and are on a lot of wish lists, but because of many Federal Aviation Regulations, owners find themselves unsure what to do to get themselves, or their drone ready for take-off. Federal Aviation regulations are important for aviation safety, and anyone participating in aviation activities must follow them.

These regulations can seem daunting at first when trying to determine what you need to do to get your drone in the air. But lucky for you, we have researched and presented everything you need to know in this article.

First, we will take a look at what Federal Aviation Regulations are, and what their purpose is. Then, we will look at Federal Aviation Regulations as they apply to drones, and what you must know before your drone takes off that first time.

Federal aviation regulations, or FARs, are rules that govern all aviation activities in the United States. The Federal Aviation Administration writes these rules which are a part of the Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

1. What Is the Code of Federal Regulations?

The Code of Federal Regulations is sometimes called administrative law. They are the codification of the general and permanent regulations published in the Federal Register. They are published by executive agencies and departments of the Federal government of the United States. The Federal Aviation Regulations are contained within this publication.

2. What Is the Federal Aviation Administration?

The Federal Aviation Administration is the national authority on all aspects of civil aviation. Created from the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, their purpose is to regulate civil aviation to promote safety. They became a part of the Department of Transportation in 1967 and adopted their current name. Their mission is to promote the safest aerospace system in the world.

3. What Do These Regulations Cover?

Federal aviation regulations are separated into sections, and each section concerns a particular aviation activity. There are many activities covered in these sections, including, but not limited to, pilot-training, hot air ballooning, aircraft design and maintenance, model rocket launching, kite flying, and drone operation.

4. How Do I Know Which Regulations Concern Me?

FARs are separated into thousands of sections, but as long as you are familiar with which aviation activity you are going to participate in, you can easily find the regulations concerning you. For example, if you are looking for regulations concerning drones, you can look up “unmanned aircraft systems,” or you can use their website search function with keywords such as “drone.”

Why Are These Federal Aviation Regulations Needed?


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When it comes to aviation, Federal Aviation Regulations are necessary for protecting pilots, passengers and the general public from unnecessary risks. The FAA issues and enforces the regulations that ensure minimum standards are met in the manufacturing, operation, and maintaining of aircraft. They certify airports and the men and women who fly planes. They make sure air space can be navigated safely and maintain and operate facilities such as air traffic control stations.

1. Who Must Comply with the Federal Aviation Regulations?

Anyone who participates in an aviation activity of any kind must comply with the regulations concerning that particular activity. Whether flying an airplane, a hot-air balloon, a drone, or a model airplane, there are rules that must be followed.

2. Why Are These Regulations So Important?

Without regulations on aviation activities, there would be no way to ensure the safety of the American people. As an example, planes could be built with no safety requirements, and they could fly freely in the air; no flight patterns and no communication towers. Anyone could pilot a drone and use them to spy on people. Just about anything you can think of that keeps us safe during aviation activities would not be effective without these Federal Aviation Regulations.

3. Who Enforces These Regulations?

The Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for enforcing the regulations they have written. They are passionate about safety and committed to providing the safest aerospace system in the world. If a user fails to register an aircraft with the FAA, it can result in regulatory and criminal sanctions. This can include civil and criminal penalties and possibly prison time.

Federal Aviation Regulations Relating to Drones

Federal Aviation Regulations concerning drones are numerous, and owners must follow them in order to be in compliance with the FAA. There are regulations for both recreational and commercial use of drones, but some regulations apply to both types of user.

1. What Is the First Thing to Do When You Buy a Drone?

The first thing you must do is register the drone with the FAA depending on what kind of rules you follow when you fly. If you are unsure what kind of drone user you are, the FAA will help you determine that on their website. Remember, If it weighs over 0.55 lbs, which most drones do, it must be registered. If you own multiple drones, you can register them all under the same registration number.

2. What Is the Largest Drone You Are Allowed to Fly?

A drone must weigh less than 55 lbs, and they must undergo a pre-flight check to ensure safe operating conditions.

3. Does Flying a Drone Require a License?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions from people thinking of buying a drone. The answer is yes. You must acquire a remote pilot certificate in order to operate a drone. There are two steps to obtaining this certificate. First, the person must pass a test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center. These centers can be found on the FAA website. Once the test has been taken and passed, they must complete the FAA Airman Certificate and/or the Rating Application to receive their certificate.

4. What Is the Line of Sight Rule?

A drone, whether for recreational or commercial use, falls under the “Line of Sight” rule. This means that a drone has to be within the pilot’s line of vision at all times. Not being able to take their eyes off the drone limits what they are able to do while it is in the air.

5. What Are Some Things You Cannot Do with a Drone?

Drones cannot be used to fly over groups of people, public events or stadiums full of people. They cannot be flown near emergency situations such as car accidents or fires. Drones cannot be used to spy on people; privacy must be respected at all times. Drones cannot be flown higher than 400-feet. Because of the line-of-sight rule, drones cannot be used to deliver packages if they will be out of your sight.

6. How Old Do You Have to Be to Fly a Drone?

You must be at least 16 years old to obtain a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate which certifies you to fly a drone.

7. How Close Can You Fly a Drone to an Airport?

If you will be flying your drone within five miles of an airport, you must provide advanced notification to the airport and air traffic control. Drones must always yield the right-of-way to manned aircraft.

8. What Are Some Other Regulations Regarding Drones?

Drones can only be flown during the day. This includes 30 minutes before official sunrise and 30 minutes past official sunset according to local time. Drones cannot go over 100 mph. Pilots cannot be intoxicated or under the influence of any substance while operating their drone. They may not operate their drone from a moving vehicle, and they must follow their community-based safety guidelines at all times.

9. Are There Also State Regulations for Drones?

Yes. Some states enact their own drone laws. These can range in scope from requiring licenses to be renewed every few years to specifying locations where drones cannot be used. One example is Michigan which forbids hunters from using drones to locate, trap, or catch animals. Another is Florida, which allows law enforcement officers to use drones along with a valid search warrant.



image source: unsplash.com via Goh Rhy Yan

In this article, we looked at what Federal Regulations are, who wrote them, and what their purpose is. As we have seen, safety is key when it comes to aviation, and the FAA is serious about enforcing these regulations to ensure that safety. The regulations that apply specifically to drones are no exception, and part of being a responsible drone owner and pilot means following those regulations. Knowledge is power, and we have equipped you with everything you need to know to get your pilot certification and get your drone off the ground. We have also covered all the basic things you can and cannot do with your drone. Everything else can be found on the FAA website. Be sure to visit there as soon as you purchase your drone so you can register it.

We wish you many safe, enjoyable hours flying your drone.


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