What you need to know in order to fly your drone legally and safely

Now more than ever it is important for rules and regulations to become more clear and defined for the drone world. Drones are becoming more common. Operators include everybody from the daily blogger to the experienced professional and on to those who just want to fly for fun.

There are many uses for drones that provide societal benefits. Video production and photography are the most common fields, but advanced technology has industries thinking about package delivery, spraying pesticides/paint/water as well as using mapping and modeling for construction projects, just to name a few.  

Drone technology has advanced so quickly that the rules and laws have been slow to keep up. Congress is looking to change that after passing HR 302, the FAA Reauthorization Bill.

It went into effect on October, 5, 2018, but a few of the items that it mentions will take the FAA time to prepare and are not in effect yet.

This law revamps the drone world for hobbyists, while giving even more structure, support, and guidance to commercial drone pilots. Here are the key points when it comes to flying for fun and commercial purposes.


  1. A drone flown recreationally can ONLY be flown for that reason, and cannot be flown for a business purpose. (This rule existed before, but the FAA is making it even more clear.)
  2. EVERYONE is REQUIRED to get a certificate from the FAA. This will likely take on the form of a knowledge and safety test. Once you pass, you’ll receive a certificate. The FAA has 6 months to put this test in place. We’re not sure how simple or complex it will be and it’s a big change.
  3. You must fly under rules established by a “community based organization” that has standard rules developed in accordance with the FAA. You can’t fly under your own rules. This has always been a rule, but not a well known one.
  4. Always defer to manned aircraft. Obvious rule.
  5. If you fly in controlled airspace that has a control tower such as Charlotte Douglas International Airport, or Concord Regional Airport, you MUST get authorization from the FAA before flying. The old rule was that you had to notify the tower. This new rule marks a quite a difference. Additionally, it is a CRIME to fly a drone in controlled airspace without permission. Hobbyist pilots will need to make sure they have permission or they will pay the consequences.
  6. You cannot fly higher than 400’ AGL and within controlled airspace, you can only fly up to the height approved by the FAA authorization.
  7. You must be registered with the FAA and properly labeled with the registration number on the drone. This rule has always been in effect.
  8. The current regulations and laws will continually be reviewed as the technology changes in order to maintain a safe airspace for everyone.

Commercial Operators

There are a few key items that should be watched closely by commercial UAS (drone) operators:

1. Section 357 – UAS Privacy Policy – establishes a government review of privacy as it relates to UAS.

2. Section 372 – establishes a 5 year pilot program for creating remote ID and tracking technology for UAS. This will allow for easy enforcement of all types of operations. At some point this will be required on all UAS similar to the ADS-B on manned aircraft. This is key as Remote ID would help limit the drone operators who fly illegally. After the drone attack of the Venezuelan President in August 2018, it is important to track who is flying in the airspace. Enforcement will be most beneficial to society and individuals who operate legally and safely.

3. Section 373 – establishes a study relating to the authority of airspace as it relates the Federal government vs State/local governments.

4. Section 379 – requires the FAA to create a spreadsheet (or probably public database) of all registered drones, the owner, and the zip code of the owner.

5. Section 384 – establishes criminal penalties for the unsafe operations of UAS. Interfering with a manned aircraft can lead to up to 1 year is prison, operating in runway exclusion zones without permission can lead to fines, reckless flying that causes harm or death can lead to up to 10 years in prison, and using a UAS to intentionally cause harm or death can lead to any amount of time in prison including life.

Moving Forward

At Aerial Buzz, we believe safety is a crucial element of the aerial industry and applaud the FAA for clarifying the laws.  We will continue to monitor any changes and keep you notified if/when those changes affect the action of drone pilots. If you would like to learn more about our company or the services we offer, please feel free to contact us at thomas@aerialbuzz.co. or check out our our storytelling at Spiracle Media.

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