The drone industry is booming and small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) may become one of the most popular Christmas presents this year. Yesterday the FAA’s new drone registration rules kicked in, requiring all people flying an sUAS between 0.55 lbs and 55 lbs to register their aircraft. If you are flying a heavier drone or are using it for anything but hobby and recreation you will have to go through a more arduous registration process.
In order to register and fly your drone you need to be at least 13 years old. Simply log on to www.faa.gov/uas/registration, enter some basic information, pay $5 and off you go. You also have to affix the registration to your sUAS.
But make sure that you use some common sense when flying your drone. While the FAA has not yet established formal rules for the use of sUAS there are some guidelines that you need to follow or you could get yourself in trouble. The FAA is expected to release a smartphone app called B4UFLY soon, but right now you can get guidelines from a website called knowbeforeyoufly.org.
Keep your drone within line of sight at all times and below 400 feet AGL. Make sure that you stay well clear of other aircraft. Stay at least 25 feet away from people or vulnerable or sensitive property. Respect people’s privacy if you are using cameras. If you are flying within five miles of an airport you need to contact the control tower or airport administration and steer at least two miles clear of heliports with a published instrument approach. And make sure you remain well clear of areas of firefighting, agricultural application or other areas where low flying aircraft are likely to be found.
Several firefighting missions have been suspended due to the interference of drones and there have been many near misses reported near commercial airports. If you fly your drone in an unsafe manner you can expect serious repercussions from law enforcement.