If you are living in the United States and are one of the many people who has recently purchased an unmanned aircraft system (commonly referred to as a “drone”), you should be aware of the U.S. rules and regulations about drone use. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) regulates all manner of flight – whether by airplane, helicopter, or even drone. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in very serious penalties. Just last year, a company in Chicago was fined $1.9 million for failing to comply with FAA regulations.
If you want to fly a drone in the United States, the first question you have to ask yourself is what is the reason for your activities. If you are simply flying a drone for pleasure, all you need to do is register your drone with the FAA and make sure you operate your drone in a safe manner away from restricted areas (such as airports). You can register your drone online for $5 here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/registration.
If you are planning to fly a drone as part of your business (no matter how minor the role of your drone is in your business) then the process is much more complicated. Currently, the only way to do this is to apply for what’s called a Section 333 waiver from the FAA. In your waiver application, you need to explain to the FAA the purpose of your operations and how you will perform your operations in a safe manner.
Be advised that under current rules and regulations, in order to fly a drone as part of your business requires you to be a licensed pilot. This is an extreme rule that will almost certainly be done away with once the FAA issues new drone specific regulations in the next year or so. But if you fail to comply, you could find yourself being fined by the FAA.
If you are looking to fly a drone for fun, chances are you won’t need special permission from the FAA. But you will need to make sure you comply with certain rules and regulations. If you own a business and are looking to use a drone (either as a primary function of your business or just as a small part of your business), you are going to want to talk to a lawyer to help you navigate the ever-evolving FAA regulatory scheme. While you almost certainly won’t meet the same fate as the Chicago company facing the $1.9 million fine, you could very well find yourself with an FAA Civil Penalty on your hands.