What’s new in the FAA US drone laws?
The FAA, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST), and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) have just released the new law regarding the ‘Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’.
Here’s an update on what you need to know if you’re going to use a drone in the US. Do you need a license? Can you fly a drone in New York, for example? How to register a drone in the US? We tell you everything!
To fly your drone in the USA, even if you fly recreationally, you must pass the FAA’s TRUST test.
This is a free online training, which will take you no more than 30 minutes, and a Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) that will allow you to fly your drone legally in the USA. This requirement is mandatory for all drones over 250gr.
What should I do when traveling with a drone to the United States?
Recreational pilots must register their drones, as well as take a Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and carry certification that they have passed. They must also fly within line of sight, avoid other aircraft at all times and be responsible for complying with all FAA airspace prohibitions and restrictions.
In the following section, you can find detailed information from the FAA with all the new drone regulations in place to legally and safely fly unmanned aircraft in the United States. However, here’s a summary of the main things you need to know to fly your drone safely in USA.
- Register your drone, mark the registration number on the case and carry the receipt with you. If you want to know how to register your drone, in the following section, we give you more information.
- Fly only for recreational purposes.
- Take the free training and the TRUST online test and bring the proof with you.
- Follow the basic safety rules that you can find here.
- Fly your drone at a maximum height of 400 feet.
- Try not to fly in controlled airspace or over airports. Fly only at FAA-approved fixed-point flights, which you can check online at their website, but if necessary, ask for authorization through an app that works with LAANC.
- Keep your drone under your range of vision. Optionally, you can be accompanied by an observer who, in any case, need to be located next to you and maintain continuous contact.
- Do not fly in prohibited airspace. Check the FAA website for real-time updates just before take-off. The Know Before You Fly website and B4UFLY application are excellent resources to help you identify where there are current airspace restrictions.
- Do not operate near other aircraft.
- Do not fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums.
- Do not fly near emergencies such as any type of accident response, law enforcement activities, fire suppression or hurricane recovery.
- Never fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Unmanned aircraft pilots should be aware that if they intentionally violate any of these safety requirements and operate carelessly and recklessly, they could be liable for criminal and civil penalties.
Do all drones have to be registered with the FAA?
Although most UAVs pilots operate safely, there are still people who find ways to use drones for illegal activities. And, perhaps we can say a lot about the United States, but when it comes to air safety, it is one of the most stringent countries in terms of drone regulations.
Besides, there seems to be a misconception that unless a drone operator is flying commercially, he doesn’t need to register his drone; this is wrong.
The only thing you need to ask yourself, to find out if your drone needs to be registered is, does it weigh more than 250g? If the answer is yes, then your drone needs to be registered.
FAA requirements for properly registering a drone
The registration and marking requirements for UAVs of less than 25 kg, including unmanned recreational aircraft, which are set out below, can be found in 14 CFR part 48.
- Registration costs $5 and is valid for 3 years.
- You must be at least 13 years old to register your drone. Otherwise, it is the pilot’s legal guardian who has to register the drone.
- There is only one website where you can register it: www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/registration/
This last point is essential because it seems that, with the exponential growth of the sector, fraudulent websites have emerged to take advantage of the general misinformation, charging high amounts for registering a drone in the United States.
How to register a drone in USA
The FAA offers two ways to register a drone according to the weight of the drone. Depending on the size of our drone, we must decide between one or the other.
Remember that if your drone weighs less than 250g, you don’t have to do anything more than pack it in your suitcase and take it out wherever you want, without worrying about anything else but enjoying it.
Online registration for drones under 25 kg
As mentioned above, there is only one website where you can officially register your drone, and that is on the official FAA website. You can register drones weighing less than 25 kg, which is the vast majority of UAVs we know. To do this, you must need:
- An email as the username.
- A credit or debit card to complete the $5 payment.
- A physical address and a postal address (if different from the physical address).
- The manufacturer and model of the drone to be registered.
During the registration process, a personal account will be created with a profile containing the pilot’s full name, physical/postal address, and whether flying for recreational or commercial purposes. You need also declare that you agree with the FAA’s safety guidelines, which are incredibly essential to understand before you fly.
MARK YOUR DRONE WITH THE REGISTRATION NUMBER
Upon completion of registration, the FAA provides a unique 10-digit registration number. Effective February 25, 2019, the FAA promulgated changes to the Drone-ID Marking Rule, which requires owners of small unmanned aircraft to display the unique identifier assigned by the FAA on an external surface of the aircraft.
To do this, use an indelible marker or a sturdy vinyl to ensure that the registration number is readable if an authorized agent requests your identification. The most likely scenario where you could be asked for identification would be when flying in restricted airspace or over private property. Knowing the rules helps you avoid incidents and fines.
We also recommend you to print out the certificate confirming your registration as additional documentation that you can present if needed.
By post for drones over 25 kg
We see it as unlikely that you would want to travel to the U.S. with such a large drone, but even so, to register a drone weighing more than 25 kg, you must send a mail with the required documents to the FAA’s Aircraft Registration Division.
You can find more information about that in 14 CFR Part 47, which is available on the FAA’s Aircraft Registration website.
FAA Drones Legislation in the USA
With the signing of the ‘FAA Reauthorization Act‘ (Pub. L. 115-254), by the President, last October; the Special Model Aircraft Rule (section 336 of Pub. L. 112-95; February 14, 2012) was repealed; replacing it with new conditions to operate small recreational Unmanned Aircraft without FAA requirements or authorization.
The exception for limited recreational operations with unmanned aircraft is outlined in section 349 and is codified in 49 U.S.C. 44809, which is detailed below.
8 Conditions that must be fulfilled to fly drones in USA
Section 44809 provides eight conditions that must be met to qualify for the exemption for small recreational unmanned aircraft (those weighing less than 25 kg).
Some of these conditions (specifically aeronautical awareness and safety testing) cannot be implemented immediately. Accordingly, the FAA is implementing Section 44809, with these conditions, to facilitate recreational drone operations on a pro-rata basis.
1. The aircraft must be flown rigorously for recreational purposes
During the entire flight, it must be piloted for non-profit purposes. You can not combine recreational activities with commercials. If flying for commercial purposes, the operation must be performed under 14 CFR Part 107 or other applicable FAA regulations.
2. The drone must be operated under of a community-based organisation safety program regulated by the FAA
The FAA 2018 Reauthorization Act requires the FAA and Community-based Aeromodelling Organizations (CBOs) to regulate the development of a safety guide for drones operations.
CBOs are defined in Section 44809 and must be recognized by the FAA under that Section. Section 44809 requires the FAA to issue guidance that sets forth the criteria and process for recognizing CBOs.
The FAA is developing the requirements to cooperate with interested parties with a public process.
Meanwhile, during this interval, the FAA directs recreational drone pilots to the existing elemental safety guide, which is based on industry best procedures:
Basic Safety Guidelines
- To be older than 16.
- Own a drone pilot license, issued by the competent authority.
- Always fly in the light of day or sunset.
- Never fly at more than 160 km / h.
- The same pilot cannot use two drones at the same time.
- Perform a drone inspection before takeoff.
- Do not use the aircraft to transport dangerous or flammable material.
- Follow all restrictions of FAA airspace, including special safety guidelines and temporarily flight prohibitions.
- Do not fly near another aircraft.
- Do not fly over people groups, public events or full sports stadiums.
- Do not fly near emergencies, firefighting or hurricanes.
- Absolutely not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If an accident happens with an aircraft, you have 10 days to report it to the FAA, except for the most severe cases, which must be notified immediately.
You should also can to explain to an FAA inspector, or law enforcement officer, what safety guidelines you are following if you are operating under the limited recreational drone operations exception. The FAA will publish a notice when it has issued final guidance and has begun recognizing CBOs.
3. The aircraft must move within the visual field of the pilot.
The person who manipulates the drone controls or an observer, who is close to the pilot and can communicate verbally with him, must be always attentive to the drone to ensure that the unmanned aircraft is flying safely.
4. The drone must never interfere with any crewed aircraft
The pilot is responsible for knowing the altitude of the aircraft and its position concerning other aircraft. It is also responsible for maintaining a safe distance and always giving way to other aircraft.
5. The drone pilot must obtain an authorization to fly drones in controlled airspace
The drone pilot must obtain an authorisation from the FAA to fly drones in Class B, Class C and Class D airspaces. Also in Class E spaces, reserved for airports. Classes B, C, D and E, refer to controlled airspaces.
6. Maximum height of 120 meters
In Class G airspaces, the aircraft must fly at a maximum height of 120 meters and, of course, comply with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
7. The pilot must pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test
The pilot must pass a test of aeronautical knowledge and safety. Besides, he must keep the proof of having passed it satisfactorily and hand it over when required by the Administration or the Authority.
Section 44809 requires the FAA to develop, in consultation with interested parties, the test that can be administered electronically. This test is intended to demonstrate a drone pilot’s knowledge of the aeronautical safety knowledge and rules for operating unmanned aircraft.
The FAA is currently developing such a test; however, during this interim period, pilots who adhere to the other seven conditions under section 44809, may use the Exception for limited recreational unmanned aircraft operations.
The FAA will provide additional guidance and notice when aeronautical knowledge and safety testing becomes available and the date when compliance with this condition is required.
The aircraft must be registered and marked with proof of registration. This information must be retained and displayed when required by the Administration or Authority.
Each drone used for limited recreational flights must show the registration number on an external plate of the RPAS. Recreational pilots must also keep proof of registration and make it available to FAA inspectors who request it.
You can view and download the full document published by the FAA at:
NEW LAANC SYSTEM FOR FLYING DRONES IN USA
What is the LAANC system, and why is it the most significant new drone legislation in the US in 2020? We’ll tell you, but let’s get some background first.
Before the LAANC system, UAVs operators and recreational pilots who needed clearance to fly in Class B, C, D, and some Class E airspaces had to apply through the FAADroneZone website, which could take up to several months to be approved.
The system was inefficient for both pilots and regulators, and with the speed at which drones are being registered and integrated into commercial industries, the process needed to be streamlined; this is where LAANC comes in with the new drone regulations in the US.
What is LAANC and why do you need it if you want to fly your drone in U.S. controlled airspace
The LAANC, or Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, is a system created by the FAA, as a means of putting air traffic control facilities and airports in direct, real-time communication with drone pilots who want to fly in controlled airspaces other than FAA-authorized ‘fixed points’.
Because you should know, the FAA allows safe flight at specific ‘fixed points’ in controlled airspace all over the entire country. The fixed points are listed on Unmanned Aircraft Systems Facility Maps and are updated periodically.
We recommend that if you are planning to travel with a drone to the United States, on your vacation, for example, you click on the link to find out where you can safely fly it.
How does LAANC work? How to request authorization to fly the drone in the USA?
The LAANC system works through dedicated apps that act as intermediaries between flight planning and the corresponding air traffic control approvals.
Using the drone controller, smartphone, tablet or PC, any pilot can submit an application for permission to fly in controlled airspace and, within minutes, the relevant control body can either approve the flight or refuse it for a cause.
In addition to the ordinary rules surrounding airspace, the application we are using for LAANC will also filter the request using the GPS location and determine if there are any mitigating elements for the time of flight, such as NOTAMS or TFRs.
APPS TO USE LAANC SYSTEM
There are many applications, for both iOS and Android, to request authorization through LAANC. Here are some of the most interesting for both professional and amateur pilots.
UAVs professionals have praised Kittyhawk as an all-in-one tool. In addition to requesting flight clearance through LAANC, useful features include
- Full VFR sectional charts, for in-depth flight planning
- NOTAMS, TFRs and METARs in real-time
- Synchronization with the DJI app to track flight logs, drone performance, battery status, etc.
Kittyhawk is an excellent option if you are carrying out an operation with several members of the same team, as it allows you to customize flight restrictions and best practices under individual profiles. Kittyhawk also includes flight ceilings, maximum pilot distances and no-fly zones.
Besides, Kittyhawk allows you to view in full streaming and with audio, everything that the drone camera is capturing; this makes it a powerful tool for incident response, training and safety.
VIDEO | How to use LAANC with Kittyhawk
In this tutorial, you will learn how to use LAANC for recreational pilots with Kittyhawk. We are sure that you will find so useful!
Airmap is the perfect application for recreational drone pilots or pilots who are just starting to get familiar with the new LAANC system. Why? It’s very simple.
The Airmap application is free, easy to use, and allows you to quickly get permission to take your drone anywhere you want. The built-in maps make the task much easier thanks to the included features:
- Updated activity within the area where we are
- It marks the boundaries of National Parks that are expressly off-limits to drones that have not received the appropriate strict exemptions.
- It includes controlled airspace and all associated radios.
- AGL networks to familiarize yourself with the nearest restricted airspace.
Perhaps one of the most notable aspects of Skyward is that Verizon now owns it, the largest provider of mobile lines in the U.S. This, according to engineers, has allowed significant leaps in its technology based on increased resources.
Beyond LAANC’s excellent clearance, the set of distinctive features used by Skyward relates to industry-specific software configurations, including
- Construction and Engineering
- Public Safety
- Energy and Utilities
- Oil, Gas and Mining
- Media and Broadcasting
Skyward’s goal is to guide any industry wishing to use unmanned aircraft for imaging, surveillance or various flight purposes while doing so safely and efficiently.
Last year, the FAA reported over 1.3 million drones registered in the U.S., with the likelihood that there could be up to 40% more unregistered UAVs based on full aircraft and component industry sales; this means that there are almost 2 million drones in the United States.
If we compare this with the much smaller number of 325,000 human-crewed aircraft in the country, we can see how fast the industry is growing and why the FAA has had to move quickly to keep our airspace running correctly.
With the publication of the Unmanned Aircraft Act amendment in the United States, new measures have been implemented that optimize safety in the airspace. And with the implementation of the LAANC system, a giant step has been taken in the management and regularization of flight authorizations in controlled airspace.
What to expect from future FAA drone legislation?
We can say with complete conviction that many new developments await us regarding the development of new ways of understanding the industry and the unmanned aircraft sector. The relevant departments of the FAA are continually changing to regulate drones efficiently.
It is anticipated that the FAA will soon have guidance on how it will recognize Community Based Organizations (CBOs), as well as the guidelines to be followed to pass the Aeronautical Knowledge and Safety test.
As always, at grupooneair.com, we will keep you informed of all developments regarding drone regulations.