It’s Friday and time for our weekly shoot-the-shit. This week we’re going to assist you in determining where you can fly your drone. We’ve gotten several question from individuals expressing some frustration and confusion.
All of the information that follows applies to an sUAV (small unmanned aerial vehicle). The FAA defines a small sUAV as an unmanned aircraft weighing more than .55lbs and less than 55 lbs. Aircraft falling in this weight category are subject to 14 CFR Part 107.
For starters, If you own an sUAV it must be registered with the FAA. It’s also important for you to keep in mind that registration alone is not approval to fly your UAV anywhere you please. That assumption could result in criminal prosecution. If you fly your drone for recreational purposes you are not required to obtain a Remote PIC certificate with an sUAS rating. You need to understand the very fine distinction between recreational and commercial activity. For example, if your neighbor asks you to do aerial photography or videography of his home saying, “Bob I’ll buy you and Emily dinner if you take those pictures for me…,” the FAA considers the activity as a commercial application and you must hold a current Remote PIC certificate. The following operational restrictions also apply.
All UAV operations, licensed or not, is limited to 400 feet AGL (above ground level), cannot exceed speeds of 87 knots or 100 m.p.h., the operator must maintain visual line of sight at all times (with the unaided eye other than normal eye glasses) and you can not fly over individuals or property not part of the operation being performed. Where can you fly?
Recreational pilots may not fly within 5 miles from an airport. The FAA published an App “B4UFLY” , available for IOS and Android, which when installed uses the GPS location of the smart device and tells you instantly if you can fly in your area. You can also refer to a sectional chart. A sectional is a chart with symbols and information used by pilots when operating under visual flight rules or VFR.
It’s not as complicated as it looks but essentially anything that is within a circle or shaded box is controlled or restricted airspace and you may not fly in that airspace as an unlicensed UAV recreational operator. Readers desiring to learn the intricacies of the VFR Sectional should download the FAA Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide
We hope this will clarify some of the questions but allow me to reiterate don not place yourself in jeopardy by disregarding all regulations. If you decide to sit for the Remote PIC exam, and have no flight experience, take a ground school. There are some excellent online programs.
Have a great weekend and be safe; especially our friends and readers in the South Eastern Coast!