2017 Rules and Regulations for Flying Drones: For Hobby and Commercial Use

The world we live in today is subjected to such fast-paced technological changes that sometimes, lawmakers have difficulty keeping up with them. However, as these technological advances start to become the norm, people all over the world realize the importance of keeping tabs on the concerned technology for the betterment of the citizens.

One such technology we have seen develop in recent years is a drone or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Drones are now used as a hobby. They have cameras attached to them, and they fly around at an all-encompassing height. Some people have bought this recreational tool to gain economic value out of it.

Businesses which are using commercial drones include real estate, inspection agencies, agriculture and official photographers. The real estate industry uses drones to make lucrative videos about the properties on sale, while drones allow property inspectors to inspect places like wind turbines without the fear of any physical harm. If you use drones for commercial purposes, you are required to have a drone pilot license to use it legally. This is an example of drone regulations now being implemented in the leading countries.

Importance of Drone Rules and Regulations

Implementation of drone rules has immense importance. While such an invention is an accomplishment for this era and can be dubbed as a cool technology, it significantly undermines one’s privacy.

If lawmakers do not interfere, such a tool will substantially breach the privacy of individuals. Users of the drone could use it to spy on people. No one would have any private space, even within their homes and on their personal properties.

Those who use it for commercial purposes operate drones sometimes in public or in places inaccessible to us. If they don’t know how to fly the equipment properly, they may cause damage to property.

Moreover, flying a drone out of the visual line of sight or at a great height may cause it to be a source of interference for helicopters and planes. Therefore, it is a smart move only to allow those who have a drone pilot license to fly drones for commercial purposes and to limit the height and line of sight to an amount which does not cause any inconvenience to the masses.

Since lawmakers have now realized the importance of keeping this technology in check, many new drone laws and regulations have surfaced.

rules, the intricacies of the rules may differ. We will be looking at the old and new laws of two major countries, USA and UK, separately for commercial and recreational purposes.

Drone Rules of United States of America

While flying drones in America is allowed, it is subjected to some restrictions. Make sure you are informed of all drone regulations and restrictions before you start your memorable experience of using the device. Lack of caution may lead to you incurring fines or, worse, some jail time.

Drone Rules for Recreational Purposes

Drone regulations for recreational purposes in America are relatively straightforward. They include the following essential points:

  • You are not allowed to fly at a height of 400 feet
  • You can’t fly your drone out of your visual line of sight
  • Flying your drone over people is prohibited to ensure individual privacy
  • If there is an airport within a five-mile radius, you need to give notice to the airport and get their approval before using the drone
  • If you wish to fly your drone over someone’s private property, you need to get their consent
  • You can use your tool in public spaces which include parks and roads
  • Users are not allowed to arm their drone or use it to interfere with first responders or manned aircraft

Flying directly over people’s heads and interfering with manned airplanes or helicopters come under reckless endangerment and are considered to be a grave violation of the FAA rules. This may land you in a lot of trouble.

  • first-person view cameras and required to keep their drones within their visual line of sight
  • The age of the pilot must be at least 16 years old
  • You can only operate your UAV during the day or when there is enough light for people to see the device
  • In the evening when the light is low, the drone can be operated within a 3-mile radius
  • If one wishes to fly their drone at a distance which is not within their line of sight, they need to get a waiver approved
  • The maximum speed allowed is 100 mph to avoid reckless endangerment
  • The maximum height allowed is 400 feet if no tall buildings are present. A higher height is allowed if there is an even taller building near the drone. Such a rule will prevent interference to helicopters and airplanes
  • The pilot must have a “remote pilot airman” certificate, which is synonymous with a drone pilot license. This document remains viable only when the pilot takes an aeronautics test every year
  • The drone must weigh less than 55 pounds

The state or community you live in may also impose its own rules. Make sure you know them all before you start using the device professionally.

Drone Laws of United Kingdom

Recently, the UK has seen a mass implementation of “drone code” which is an amalgamation of old and new drone laws so as to make the flying experience safe and in line with one’s privacy. Last year, in April 2016, UK witnessed its first collision between a plane and a drone and had since tightened the rules for both recreational and commercial users of the new technology.

Drone Laws for Recreational Purposes

The time has gone when you could get away with flying your drone up high in your backyard. It is because such an act serves to be an invasion of your neighbors’ privacy. The drone code spells out clear drone rules regarding recreational usage of the device.

Such rules and regulations include the following:

  • Pilots are not allowed to fly their devices above a height of 120m
  • Individuals must fly their drone within a 500m radius
  • One needs to maintain a line of sight. Once your drone is not visible to your naked eye, you have entered the danger zone
  • Pilots are prohibited from flying their devices within 50m of a building or any obstacle, ranging from cars to people
  • When you are in a crowded area with more than 1000 people, you are to avoid flying within 150m of the given crowd
  • Any place dubbed to be restricted airspace is out of bounds for your drone
  • Pilots need to take consent before flying their device on private land
  • The code highlights the importance of flying your drone away from helicopters and airfields to avoid collision
  • If you have a camera fitted on your drone, you can’t fly it within 50m of a person, automobile, or building

If you are using your drone as a hobby, you need to follow these rules religiously. There are a lot of individuals who wonder the logic behind the 120m height and 500m radius when many drones in the market can achieve greater heights. The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) believes that such a distance and height is within an average person’s line of sight and is ideal for avoiding collisions.

Apart from such rules and regulations, certain public areas have their own restrictions on drone usage. Make sure to read such signs to avoid penalty.

Drone Laws for Commercial Purposes

Commercial flying of a drone classifies as “aerial work” under the CAA, so there are more restrictions placed upon it. These constraints include having a drone pilot license for one to be allowed to use the device for economic value.

Here is a gist of the drone regulations as spelled out by the drone code:

  • Pilots need to have a valid aerial insurance before they can operate their drones
  • Pilots need to undergo and pass a competency test which is provided in the UK by RPA
  • The drone needs to be registered with the aviation authority
  • The device cannot weigh more than 20 kg
  • Flying in restricted places is prohibited
  • The drone cannot be flown at a height of more than 120m unless the pilot takes special permission from the CAA
  • Regardless of how short your flight is, you need to inform and confirm every flight of the drone with the CAA beforehand

If you fail to comply with the rules mentioned above and regulations, you may face jail time. Therefore, it is advised that you follow these codes to the core.

UK Law for First-Person View Drone Flying

USA dubs FPV flying to be illegal and does not allow users to indulge in it unless a waiver is obtained for particular circumstances from the FAA. UK laws are comparatively lax.

Many drones now feature an FPV kit which can be used for live video streaming from the camera that has been fitted into the aircraft. This feature can be enjoyed only via a video screen or when you wear special goggles. However, this poses a problem: you are not directly looking at the device, so you can’t judge whether the drone is within your line of sight or not.

Unlike the USA, UK lawmakers have tried to work around this flaw to give an enhanced experience to drone flyers. It is legal for you to indulge in such drone flying as long as you have a spotter. The spotter will ensure that the aircraft remains within the line of sight and informs you when it breaches the legal area.

Drone Regulations in Other Countries

Let’s look into the salient rules of flying a drone in countries like France, Germany, and Italy.

France

  • The drone needs to be kept below a height of 500 ft and within your line of sight
  • Make sure your aircraft is at least 5 km away from airfields and 15 km away from large sites
  • Flying over power plants, national monuments, and military bases is prohibited unless special permission is taken before the flight
  • Operating your devices at night is strictly prohibited
  • Recording people or vehicle without the concerned individual’s consent is not allowed

Germany

  • The drone must be operated within a 200-300m radius
  • Flying within 1.5 km of airports is not allowed
  • Berlin’s government district is dubbed to be a no-fly zone
  • If your drone weighs less than 5 kg, it is exempted from legal aviation requirements like licensing and insurance
  • Permission is required beforehand to fly the aircraft above military installations, industrial zones and scenes of calamity and accidents

Italy

  • Flying above a height of 230 feet is prohibited
  • The legal radius is 490 feet
  • National parks, beaches, overcrowded areas and railways are out of bounds for drone flying
  • The drone must be flown at a minimum distance of 8 km from aerodromes
  • Flying drones at night is not allowed
  • Pilots must fly 50m away from personal properties and people or must take consent
  • One needs to be equipped with a third-party insurance

Concluding thoughts

All in all, 2017 has seen the addition of new drone laws and continuation of old rules as well. One needs to adhere to the given set of rules of the country they wish to fly their device in. Make sure you are well versed on all community and aviation laws so as to avoid trouble. Stay within legal constraints and fly safe.