• white dji inspire drone flying with pilot holding a rc control in the backgroung

US DRONE LAWS:

New FAA Regulations for RPAS

The agency responsible for regulating aviation in the USA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has recently published a new amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. These new US drone laws are carried out following its claim by the US Congress beforehand. It is necessary because of the exponential growth that is being experienced by the industrial drones sector, as well as recreationally.

Thus, the FAA, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) of the USA, have just made public the new law related to “Operation and certification of small unmanned aerial systems”.

With this, the legislation is published to allow the operation of small unmanned aircraft, or what is the same, the use of drones in US airspace. Changes occur both in the operation of the drones as well as in the certification of the pilots in addition to putting a greater emphasis on protecting the security of airspace in the USA.

federal aviation administration regulate us drone laws

Do you need a license to fly a drone in USA?

With this new amendment to the US Drone Laws, the USA will allow flying to less than 400 feet (120 m) in the uncontrolled airspace without a specific authorisation. However, from now on, recreational pilots will need to get a prior approval from the FAA before flying in controlled airspace near airports. Also, they must comply with all restrictions and prohibitions when operating in the air, whether controlled or not controlled.

The new condition to get an approval from the FAA before flying a remotely piloted aircraft in controlled airspace replaces the previous need to report the airport operator and the control tower before flying.

dji inspire drone perched on the ground with buildings background and cloudy sky

Drone Laws in US if you want to fly a RPAS for fun

For now, applications to operate drones with recreational purposes in controlled airspace will no longer be accepted. However, the FAA is temporarily granting airspace permissions to fly at specific ‘fixed points’ in controlled airspace all through the country. You can check these points on the FAA website as they are updated automatically.

In Unmanned Aircraft Systems Facility Maps are represented by blue dots. In addition, the maps reflect the maximum altitude above ground level at which you can fly safely at every location in the controlled airspace. We recommend that if you plan to travel with a drone to the United States, on your vacations, for example, click on the link to know the places where you can do it safely.

aesa logo, easa logo, ministry of development, goverment of spain

Knowledge and Security Exams in the New Drones FAA Law

Another amendment to the 2018 Act demands drone pilots to pass a knowledge and aviation safety aptitude test. They must keep a receipt if they have passed the test and make it visible to the police or the FAA when they request it. The FAA is presently creating a training course and an aptitude test. This test will guarantee that recreational pilots have the elemental aeronautical knowledge necessary to fly safely.

On the other hand, some conditions haven’t changed substantially. Also to being able to fly with no FAA permission to less than 400 feet in a uncontrolled airspace, recreational pilots must still register their drones, operate within the visual line of sight, always avoid other drones or planes and be responsible for comply with all prohibitions and restrictions of airspace stipulated by the FAA.

aerial view of ship aground on white sand beach with turquoise sea and vegetation

So, what the Regulations for Drones in the US?

In the next section, you will find detailed information about the FAA with all the current regulations to fly unmanned aircraft legally and safely. However, if you want a summary, here is a compendium of the main thing you should know to fly your drone safely in the US.

  1. Register your drone at https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/register_drone/
  2. Mark the registration number on the case and take the proof of registration with you.
  3. Fly only for fun.
  4. Follow the basic safety rules.
  5. Fly your drone to a maximum height of 120 meters and only in uncontrolled airspaces (Class G).
  6. Do not fly in controlled airspaces or airports. Fly only at the fixed flight points authorised by the FAA, which you can consult online on its website.
  7. Keep your drone under your field of vision. Optionally, you can go with an observer who, in any case, will have to be located next to you and maintain continuous contact.
  8. Do not fly in prohibited airspace. Check updated information in real time on the FAA website just before taking off.
  9. Do not fly near other planes.
  10. Do not fly over public events, stadiums or groups of people.
  11. Do not fly near an accident, firefighting, hurricane recovery or law enforcement activities.
  12. Absolutely never fly under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Pilots of unmanned aircraft should know that if they intentionally violate any of these safety requirements or operate carelessly and recklessly, they may be liable for criminal or civil penalties.

drone pilot showing images on screen to man with professional camera in the forest

FAA Drones Legislation in the USA

With the signature of the FAA Reauthorization Act (Pub. L. 115-254), by the President, last October; the Special Rule of Aeromodelling was repealed (section 336 of Pub. L. 112-95, February 14, 2012); replacing it with new conditions to operate small recreational unmanned aircraft without requirements or authorisation from the FAA. The exception for limited recreational operations with unmanned aircraft is established in section 349 and is coded in 49 USC. 44809, which, we detail below.

drone flying above the beach with cloudy sky at sunset

8 Conditions that must be fulfilled to fly drones in USA

Section 44809 provides several conditions that must be met to qualify for the exception for small drones for recreational purposes (less than 25 kilograms). Some of these conditions (specifically, aerial knowledge and safety exam) cannot be applied immediately.

Consequently, the FAA applies, proportionally, Section 44809, with these eight conditions, to facilitate recreational operations with drones.

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. Section 44809 defines CBOs and the FAA must to recognise them in accordance with it. Section 44809 demands the FAA to publish a guide that establishes the requirements for recognising CBOs. The FAA is developing the requirements to cooperate with interested parties with a public process.

Meanwhile, during this interval, the FAA directs drone pilots to the existing elemental safety guide, which is based on industry best procedures:

  • 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, ten days are available for communication to the FAA, except for the most severe cases, which must be notified immediately.

You should also can to explain to an FAA inspector what safety guide you are following if you are operating under the exception for limited operations of recreational drones. The FAA will publish a notice when it has issued final guidance and has begun to recognise CBOs.

dji inspire drone flying with blue gradient background

3. The aircraft must move within the visual field of the pilot or, if necessary, of an observer located in the same place and continuous communication.

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.

The use of an observer is usually optional but is required for first-person view (FPV) flights, which allow images from a camera but limit the pilot’s ability to scan the airspace.

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 pilot of the aircraft must obtain an authorisation 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.

aerial view of a white sand beach with boats, greenery and houses

7. The pilot must pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test

Besides, it must keep the receipt of having given it successfully and deliver it when required by the Administration or the Authority.

Section 44809 demands the FAA to develop the aeronautical knowledge and aptitude exam that can be electronically completed. The objective of this test is to demonstrate the knowledge of a drone pilot about the rules of aeronautical safety to operate drones. During this interval, pilots who adhere to the other seven requirements under section 44809, may use the exception for limited recreational drone flights.

The FAA will provide supplementary guidance and notice when aeronautical learnings and safety exams are available and the date by which compliance with this condition is required.

8. The RPAS must be registered and marked with proof of it. This information must be kept and will be shown when required by the Administration or the Authority.

Marking and registration conditions for drones can be found at 14 CFR part 48, and online registration can be effectuated at faa.gov/uas/getting_started/registration/

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 https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2019-10169.pdf

small drone in fight with yellow background

Future changes in Laws on Drones in US

With the publication of the amendment to the Unmanned Aircraft Act in the US, innovative measures are implemented that optimise airspace safety. In any case, the relevant departments of the FAA are in constant development and change to efficiently regulate the drone sector.

During this next summer, the FAA is expected to have guidance on how to recognise the Community-Based Air Organizations (CBO) and also the guidelines to pass the aeronautical knowledge and safety test.

aerial view of pinky salinas with turquoise sea

Differences between Spanish and US Drones Laws

The regulatory framework for the use of remotely piloted aircraft in Spain is regulated by Royal Decree 1036/2017, of December 30, which amends Royal Decree 552/2014, of June 27. The old law framed, quite strictly, the flight with professional drones and did not consider recreational flights.

This new legal framework extends the possibilities of professional flight, especially in flight in urban areas or on night flights. Besides, it regulates the limitations for recreational flights of piloted aircraft by remote control.

You can read and download the full document at https://www.boe.es/eli/es/rd/2017/12/15/1036

hands holding a drone remote control

What the Spanish Drones Law says?

It is mandatory to have a drone pilot license when professionally flying drones; in addition to being registered as a drone operator with the State Aviation Safety Agency (AESA).

However, to make recreational use of drones, it is only necessary to know to pilot the aircraft safely, through a rating, for example. The maximum weight for the consideration of a recreational use drone is 2 kg. Also, up to 250 gr, remotely piloted aircraft may fly over buildings, urban areas or crowds of people without limitation, as long as they do not exceed 20 meters of flight height.

man fliying a drone with a child in the beach with golden light at sunset

Basics to Consider when Flying a Drone in Spain

  • The drone must always be within sight of the pilot.
  • Never exceed 120 meters in height in flight, or exceed 50 meters horizontal distance.
  • Fly at least 8 km from any airport, aerodrome or controlled airspace.
  • Liability insurance is not mandatory, but it is highly recommended to have one. The pilot will be responsible for any damage caused by the aircraft.
  • The drone should carry a fireproof identification plate fixed in the structure that will contain data such as the name of the manufacturer, the model, serial number (if applicable) and the contact data of the pilot.
  • Safeguard the right to privacy of individuals that may appear in the images captured by the drone, and take special care with their public disclosure so as not to violate the Data Protection Law.

When flying a drone, it is necessary to be governed by common sense. It is of vital importance to guarantee the safety of the airspace and the people, to fly responsibly and prudently. In the same way, it is essential to operate in optimal weather conditions (no rain, no fog, no wind); as well as, not piloting the aircraft beyond visual range.