Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones)

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What Federal Law governs small unmanned aircraft systems (a/k/a drones?)

Title 14 Part 107 applies to the registration, airman certification, and operation of civil small unmanned aircraft systems (a/k/a drones) within the United States.

What is an unmanned aircraft?

An unmanned aircraft means an aircraft operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft. Title 14 § 107.3.

What is a small unmanned aircraft?

An unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds on takeoff, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft. Title 14 § 107.3.

What is a small unmanned aircraft system?

A small unmanned aircraft system is a small unmanned aircraft and its associated elements (including communication links and the components that control the small unmanned aircraft) that are required for the safe and efficient operation of the small unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system. Title 14 § 107.3.

Are there exceptions to the drone registration requirements?

Yes, when the small unmanned aircraft weighs 0.55 pounds or less on takeoff, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft, or when an aircraft is operated by the Armed Forces of the United States. Title 14 § 48.15.

Do I have to register my drone?

A person operating a small unmanned aircraft system for purposes of flight must comply with the registration provisions of § 91.203(a)(2) pursuant to Title 14 § 107.29. The registration requirement is based on the weight of the unmanned aircraft system. If the unmanned aircraft system weights between .55 pounds and 55 pounds including everything that is onboard or otherwise attached, it must be registered. Registration is easy and can be completed online at the FAA Drone Zone website.

What is the minimum age to get a drone license?

To be eligible for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, a person must be sixteen (16) years of age. Title 14 § 107.61.

If I fail my drone pilot test can I take it again?

Yes, and fortunately, the wait is not too long. An applicant for a knowledge test who fails that test may not reapply for the test for 14 calendar days after failing the test. Title 14 § 107.71.

What are daylight operations?

Daylight operations occur between official sunrise and official sunset.

When is civil twilight?

Civil twilight is, except for Alaska, a period of time that begins 30 minutes before official sunrise and ends at official sunrise, and a period of time that begins at official sunset and ends 30 minutes after official sunset. For those in Alaska, civil twilight is defined in the Air Almanac. Title 14 § 107.29.

Can I fly my drone at night?

As a general rule, no person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system at night. This restriction is set forth in Title 14 § 107.29. However, it is possible to operate a small unmanned aircraft system during the periods of civil twilight so long as the unmanned aircraft system has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles. The pilot operating the small unmanned aircraft system may reduce the intensity of the anti-collision lighting if the pilot determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so. In addition, it is possible to apply for and obtain a certificate of waiver to allow nigh operations as set forth in § 107.205.

What is a visual observer?

A visual observer means a person who is designated by the remote pilot in command to assist the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS to see and avoid other air traffic or objects aloft or on the ground. Title 14 § 107.3.

What if I encounter an in-flight emergency while operating my small unmanned aircraft system?

Although we all strive to maintain safe operations, sometimes emergencies arise. In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the remote pilot in command may deviate from any rule in Part 107 to the extent necessary to meet that emergency. However, when a remote pilot must deviate from a rule to meet an in-flight emergency, the pilot must, upon the request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator. These requirements are set forth in Title 14 Part § 107.21.

When must I report a small unmanned aircraft system accident?

Even the safest pilots can be involved in accidents. A remote pilot in command must report to the FAA no later than 10 calendar days after an operation that results in:
(a) Serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness; or,
(b) Damage to any property, other than the small unmanned aircraft, unless one of the following conditions is satisfied:
(1) The cost of repair (including materials and labor) does not exceed $500; or
(2) The fair market value of the property does not exceed $500 in the event of total loss. Title 14 § 107.9.

Can I fly my drone after drinking beer, wine, or alcohol?

Part 107 provides that a person manipulating the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system or acting as a remote pilot in command or visual observer must comply with the provisions of § 91.17 and § 91.19. This means, without limitation, you cannot fly your UAS within 8 hours of consuming alcoholic beverages, while under the influence of alcohol (0.04 or greater in blood or breath,) or while using any drug that affects your faculties in any way contrary to safety.

Do I need prior authorization to operate a drone in controlled airspace?

Yes, prior authorization is required. No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from Air Traffic Control. Title 14 § 107.41

Can I operate more than one drone at the same time?

As a general rule, a person may not operate or act as a remote pilot in command or visual observer in the operation of more than one unmanned aircraft at the same time. Title 14 § 107.35. However, it is possible to apply for and obtain a certificate of waiver to allow the operation of multiple unmanned aircraft systems as set forth in § 107.205.

Can I use my drone to transport hazardous material?

No, a small unmanned aircraft may not carry hazardous material. The term hazardous material is defined in 49 CFR 171.8 and means a substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce.

Can I fly my drone over people or crowds?

Generally, you cannot operate a drone over persons unless the person is directly participating in the operation of the drone or the person is located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft. Title 14 § 107.39.

How much does it cost to register a drone?

The registration fee is just $5.00 per aircraft for a Certificate of Aircraft Registration for a small unmanned aircraft system. Title 14 § 48.30.

What does the term "citizen" mean for purposes of drone registration?

Either (1) An individual who is a citizen of the United States or one of its possessions, (2) A partnership each of whose partners is an individual who is a citizen of the United States, or (3) A corporation or association organized under the laws of the United States or a State, the District of Columbia, or a territory or possession of the United States, of which the president and at least two-thirds of the board of directors and other managing officers are citizens of the United States, which is under the actual control of citizens of the United States, and in which at least 75 percent of the voting interest is owned or controlled by persons that are citizens of the United States. Title 14 § 48.10

What if my drone is already registered in a foreign country?

If your drone is registered in a foreign country, your U.S. registration is invalid. Title 14 § 48.120.

Do I have to mark my drone with my registration number?

Yes, the registration number must be legibly displayed on an external surface of the small unmanned aircraft. Title 14 § 48.205.