Best Drone Practices for Recreational Purposes

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It seems like everyday drones becoming increasingly popular both within the public and private sectors, with individuals using them to film their daily lives, by businesses to make videos, or by governments to scan and survey landscapes and buildings. With drones being part of our daily lives, the FAA began to regulate them. To support the continued development and deployment of drones, a diverse group of organizations working as a part of the NTIA and Department of Commerce Multi-Stakeholder process to agree on set of best practices. This article covers some of those best practices on drone usage for recreation.

Where can I and can’t I fly drones?

At all times, the drone must be within the "Pilot in Command’s" line of sight at all times. If you cannot see the drone either because it is too far away or because you are using FPV (first person view) goggles, that is considered illegal. Cities, especially those with airports, have strict guidelines of where you can fly using both federal and local laws. Sometimes there are temporary flight restrictions as well, known as TFR's, such as during a professional sports game or nearby Presidential movement.

If you live within 5 miles of an airport, you should contact the control tower of the airport to gain permission to fly within that area each time you take off. For more information on flying within an airport’s vicinity, check out this article www.aopa.org/go-fly

To see exactly where you can and cannot fly, as well as TFR's, this map can be very helpful: Airmap

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I’m visiting a National Park and want to capture video footage or photos. Is this okay?

All National Parks, Landmarks, and National Monuments within the U.S. have a strict no drone policy. There is no way around it. There are multiple reasons, the main one being the effect of drones on wildlife. The noise of the drone and upset wildlife and disrupt their natural habits. Other reasons include drone crashes and being an eyesore to tourists. For more information about flying drones within a National Park, follow this link to learn more: www.nps.gov/articles/unmanned-aircraft-in-the-national-parks.

Do I need to register my drone before flying?

Yes. No matter the size and reason for flying a UAV, you must register it through the FAA. Registration takes only 5 minutes and costs $5, but failure to register your drone can land you in jail for up to 3 years and fine of up to $250,000.

What if I just want to fly my drone around my home or property?

As long as you are located outside of an airport’s restricted zone, are flying within daylight hours and are not flying directly above people or traffic, you can fly over your property. Make sure yo keep up to date with local flight paths just in case.

I am traveling abroad and want to use my drone. Are there any restrictions?

Yes. Most countries have laws governing drone usage. Because of this, make sure you are staying up to date on international drone laws, found here, and abiding by the country’s laws that you are traveling to.

I love flying so much, I want to start a drone business!

If you plan to make any monetary gain using your drone, you need to obtain a license for operations. That includes registering your drone and passing your Part 107 exam. The exam is not intuitive and unless you have previous piloting experience of manned aircraft, you will need to study to pass it. There are many opportunities to take classes, which can assist you in passing the exam as well as flying.

Having your Part 107 also gives you a whole new set of restrictions for operations. The rules are in general more relaxed for those flying for recreation only so we would only suggest this route if you are serious about starting a business.

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Full List of Laws for Recreational Drone Use

  • Fly no higher than 400 feet
  • Keep your drone within your visual line of sight at all times
  • Do not interfere with manned aircraft operations and avoid close proximity at all times
  • Do not fly over people or moving vehicles
  • Contact the airport and control tower before flying within five miles of an airport or heliport
  • Do not fly after dark (considered 30 mins before sunrise and 30 mins after sunset)
  • Do not fly in poor weather conditions, which will reduce visibility
  • Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent
  • Check and follow all local laws and ordinances
  • Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission