Come Fly With Me: An Overhead View of Drone Requirements and Rules

By: Christina M. Nicholas, Esq.

“Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away . . .”

Unfortunately, I am not offering you a first-class ticket to some exotic locale where you can pass the days away languishing in the sun as the sweet melodies of Ole’ Blue Eyes drift overhead.  I am, however, offering you something even better—an overhead view of the new regulations affecting drones.  So, please, pull up a chair and prepare to be serenaded.

The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has different requirements and/or rules for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”), i.e., drones.  The requirements and rules depend on the reason the UAS is being flown.  The FAA separates UAS flights into two categories, “Fly for Work, Business or Non-Recreation” and “Fly for Fun or Recreation.”

Fly for Work, Business or Non-Recreation

 The FAA has provided three (3) ways by which to fly a UAS for work, business or non-recreation:

  • The Small Unmanned Aircraft System (“sUAS”) Rule, also known as Part 107 (applicable to UAS that weigh less than 55 pounds at takeoff, and discussed in detail below);
  • A Section 333 Grant of Exemption (applicable to UAS that weigh 55 pounds or more); and
  • An Airworthiness Certificate.

On August 29, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) comprehensive regulations for sUAS went into effect.  These regulations are for the non-recreational use of sUAS.  Part 107 applies only to UAS that weigh less than 55 pounds at takeoff.  If the UAS weighs 55 pounds or more, a Section 333 Grant of Exemption will need to be obtained.  To fly under Part 107, a pilot must:  (1) be at least 16 years of age; (2) pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center; and (3) be vetted by the Transportation Safety Administration (“TSA”).  The aircraft is required to be:  (1) less than 55 pounds; and (2) registered.  A sUAS needs to be registered if it is between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds.  If the sUAS is within these weight limitations, registration can be done online.  If the UAS is 55 pounds or more, paper registration is required.  Additionally, paper registration is required to qualify sUAS for flight outside the United States, if the title to the aircraft is held in trust, or if the owner of the sUAS utilizes a voting trust to meet U.S. Citizenship requirements.

To fly under Part 107, a pilot must adhere to a set of operating rules; however, these rules may be waived by applying for a certificate of waiver.  The general operating rules are as follows:

  • Fly the sUAS in Class G, or uncontrolled, airspace;
  • Keep the sUAS in sight (also called, “visual line-of sight”);
  • Fly the sUAS under 400 feet;
  • Fly the sUAS during the day;
  • Fly the sUAS at or below 100 mph;
  • Yield right of way to manned aircraft; and
  • Do not fly over people or from a moving vehicle.

Fly for Fun or Recreation

If an operator wants to fly a UAS for fun or recreation, they do not need to seek permission from the FAA to do so; however, they must fly the UAS in a safe manner.  Additionally, there are certain requirements to fly for fun or recreation.  To fly for fun or recreation, the operator of the UAS must be:  (1) at least 13 years of age; and (2) a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.  The UAS must also be registered.  If the UAS is less than 55 pounds and more than 0.55 pounds, registration can be done online.  If the UAS is more than 55 pounds, registration must be done by paper.  In order to register, an e-mail address, credit or debit card, and physical address and mailing address are required.  The cost of registration is $5.00, and it is valid for 3 years.

To fly a UAS for fun or recreation, certain safety guidelines must be followed.  The safety guidelines are as follows:

  • Fly the UAS at or below 400 feet;
  • Make sure to keep the UAS within sight;
  • Do not fly near other aircraft;
  • Do not fly over groups of people, over stadiums or sporting events, near emergency response efforts, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and
  • Make sure to be aware of airspace requirements.

Government Entities

It should be noted that a government entity, such as a law enforcement agency, public university, state government, or local municipality, may fly a UAS.  To operate a UAS, a government entity must either follow Part 107 (discussed above) or get a blanket public Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (“COA”).

With the above in mind, prepare to take flight!


For questions or more information on the topic of this blog post, please contact:

Christina M. Nicholas – MRR Cleveland
Phone: 440.287.8296
Fax: 440.248.8861
Email: cnicholas@mrrlaw.com

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