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7.1 What Is Legal?

Before you put anything in the air, it’s important to know what is, and isn’t, legal to do with your drone. In this lesson we’ll look at common UAV flight rules and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. You’ll also learn about the process for applying for an FAA flight exception.

Important Note

Always adhere to the local legal regulations on flying drones. This course includes general advice on UAV regulations in the U.S., but these regulations do change, so check to make sure what you are intending to do complies with current regulations.

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7.1 What Is Legal?

This lesson we will look at some common UAV flight rules and some FAA guidelines. We're also going to look at the process of applying for an FAA commercial use exemption. First you need to determine the purpose of your UAV flight. Is it for recreational use or commercial use. The FAA defines recreational use as the operation of an unmanned aircraft for personal interest and enjoyment. For example taking photographs for your own personal use with your drone would be considered recreational use using the same device to take photographs or videos for compensation or sale to another individual would be considered commercial operation. Let's take a look at some current FAA safety guidelines that are currently recommended for recreational UAV users. These guidelines were developed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics the A.M.A.. The first rule is to fly no higher than 400 feet or 120 meters from your initial takeoff location. Next keep your UAV in eye sight at all times and remain clear and avoid all other maned aircraft at all times as well. Do not intentionally flower unprotected persons or moving vehicles and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals or vulnerable property. Contact the airport control tower before flying within five miles of any airport or just avoid flight within five miles of any airports all together. Do not fly in adverse weather conditions where there is low visibility or high wind. Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or any other drugs. Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operating of Do not fly near over sensitive infrastructure property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, or government facilities etc.. Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property. And finally don't conduct surveillance or take photos of people where there's an expectation of privacy. The FAA and the Department of Transportation have recently created a drone registration process that applies to all recreational users. Prior to flying you'll need to register your drone on the registermyUAS.faa.gov. From there you will be given a registration number for your drone. This process is now required by law. Even if you're just flying for fun. The fee for the registration is usually around $5. Now if you're interested in flying your drone commercially The FAA has also recently created new rules and licenses for pilots that want to fly commercially. These rules are often referred to as the part Part 107. To operate a drone under Part 107 guidelines you will need a Remote Pilot Airman's Certificate which is essentially your commercial drone license. You'll need to be at least 16 years or older to qualify for the certificate. First you'll need to take an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA approved test center. This is often referred to as a CATS test center which stands for computer assisted testing service and is an FAA approved testing service. I've included a link to a PDF that lists all of the CATS testing centers in the United States offering their remote pilot airman's certificate test. Without getting overly technical I just recommend that you call the nearest testing center to you and tell them that you're interested in taking the "commercial drone test". They will know what this means and they'll schedule you from there. After you pass the test you will need to submit your application on the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application page also known as IACRA. Basically after you pass your knowledge test you'll need to submit your application there. It will take about 10 days for your application to be processed, during this time the FAA performs a security background check. After that is approved to be e-mailed a temporary certificate which will allow you to start flying commercially immediately. A hard-copy license will be mailed to you within 90 days. Finally you'll need to register your commercial drone on registermyUAS.faa.gov. A $5 registration fee will also apply. It's important not to forget this final step to avoid potential FAA fines in case of an accident. It's also important to know just because you passed your Part 107 test and have a remote pilot license you're still restricted to the airspaces that you can fly in. Operations in class G airspace are allowed without any air traffic control permission. However operations in class B, C, D, and E airspace need air traffic control approval first. You can get this by applying for an airspace waiver on faa.gov. These waivers can take a while to process though so you'll want to plan your flights and regulated airspace well in advance. Typically a month is about the time needed to get authorization. And typically but not always these restricted airspace locations are located within five miles of an airport. So if you avoid flying your airports you should be clear. But again you want to make sure and check your aeronautical maps. Hopefully this lesson helped answer some of your legal questions regarding drones. If you're unsure about anything or have any other questions reach out to the UAS Aviation Safety Inspector in your state. It's their job to answer any questions you have regarding commercial drone flights or drone operations. I will also have links to everything I mentioned in this lesson on the blog post and I'll have a link for the FAA Know Before You Fly page. This has been Tuts+. Thanks for watching.

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