Drone Laws – Part III

So far, we have discussed what licenses are necessary and how you will be using your drone. Surely, there can’t be more issues.  Well, not quite. Following the issuance of drone licenses, there are restrictions on where and when these drones can fly.  Be it for safety or for general security concerns, drones are not allowed in all national airspace. So, where can you fly? What sort of events and situations would cause the airspace to become restricted? Is there any way to fly without licensing or airspace restrictions?

Where can you fly?

This first aspect is an interesting one. When you fly, you are generally flying in the National Airspace. Be it from a blade of grass to the wild blue sky, that space is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.  However, not all of that space is available for drones. First, is the restriction on altitude, ranging your navigation to approximately 400 feet, and restrictions on piloting drones in certain areas, like sporting arenas, restricted airspace (e.g., Disneyland), heavily populated areas and airports. This is mainly due to security concerns, as it is measured by what damage a drone can do in those areas. For example, it is generally prohibited to fly model aircrafts within five miles of an airport without notifying the tower, to prevent any difficulties with takeoffs and landings.  In those cases, where a drone may be piloted, it’s generally with a letter of agreement with the airport, detailing the operator’s authorization.

What restrictions are there on flights?

When flying, the flight has to be kept below 400 feet. However, in addition, there is a requirement that the aircraft remain in your line of sight.  Essentially, any obstacles, trees, buildings, whatever it may be, the responsibility remains with you to fly within your line of sight.  While there are limited restrictions, given that a drone must carry its registration on a visible location (e.g., written on it), and the fact it may be reported, it is possible that an improper use can result in penalties.

Furthermore, there is the use of a drone around people, specifically, the danger in hurting someone while operating a drone. Because of this, and the weight limit on drones, it is thus far prohibited in the interest of public safety. However, even with that, the current committee recommendations provide insight into possible use of drones above individuals, with four categories based on use and potential damage.  Under this, Category 1 (i.e., 250 grams including payload) could be flown over people, but Category 4 would present greater danger, and involve flight over more crowded or densely populated areas, and would likely be required to have more certifications.

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