Drone Regulations in the United States

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It’s 2021; we’re lucky to be alive and be surrounded by such epic technology, in particular drones! If you didn’t know already, drones are a vehicle you can fly high in the sky from the ground using a remote; they do not need a pilot on board!

This marvelous invention has seen many people take to drone flying and use them for recreational and professional purposes. Such uses of drones you will see today involve security reasons, vlogging, military defense, filming, journalism, surveillance, bomb detection, shipping, delivery, rescue operations, law enforcement, safety, agriculture, weather forecasting, and much more!

The truth is, the reasons for using drones are never-ending!

One of the most popular countries for manufacturing and using drones globally is the United States of America. To give you an idea of just how popular it is, the Insurance Information Institute mentioned that during 2019, there were 412,000 commercial drone registrations!


That was just over a year ago as of the time of writing and was only for commercial purposes; we can’t even imagine what the professional registration amount could total up to! Of course, America is a gigantic country; who wouldn’t want to fly a drone across it?

As tempting as this may sound, though, you can’t just purchase a drone and fly it across the USA; you have to comply with the country’s regulations. To make sure you’re able to safely and legally fly your drone, we’ve composed most of the U.S. drone regulations for you here.

Why are you flying your drone?

Before we go into the drone regulations, America’s Federal Aviation Administration states different drone regulations for specific drone flyers. Generally, if you are to fly a drone in America, you will fall into one of the following categories:

Recreational Flyers

If you want to fly a drone for a hobby, i.e., just for the intention of having fun, then the F.A.A. refers to you as a recreational flyer.

Remote Pilots with a Certificate

If you intend to use your drone for work purposes and weigh less than 55 pounds, you fall into this category.

Public Safety and Government Users

If you work for or on behalf of a public safety or government agency such as law enforcement, you are part of this group.

Educational users

If you’re a teacher who wants to use a drone for educational purposes, you are referred to as an education user. This also goes if you’re a student and you want to use a drone or have it accepted onto your school’s curriculum.

Now you have an idea of the four main categories: read on or jump to the section that applies to you.

Drone Regulations for Recreational Flyers

We get it, you’ve just bought your drone, and you’re eager to fly it in the skies. But before you can do so, you must do the following!

Register your drone

It’s straightforward to register your drone; all you need to do is visit the FAADroneZone website. Once on the website, you must declare that you’re flying the drone under the exception of recreational flyers.

Following this, you must register your drone if it is heavier than (250grams) and lighter than (25kg). If you skip this part, be careful as you could be subject to civil and criminal penalties of the USA

To register, you must create an account, enter an email, username, and password, then follow the rules. On the contrary, if your drone is heavier than 25kg, you must use paper (N-number registration process) similarly, if you want to operate it outside the USA and already hold a title to one in trust. Then you will have to register through the paper method.

Once your drone is registered, you must mark your drone on its outside with the registration number provided. You must carry your proof of registration on you at all times.

Fly it only for recreational use

You must only fly your drone for the purpose you registered it for; that’s for fun. Moreover, you can only fly it at 400 feet or less in uncontrolled airspace. If you want to fly it in controlled airspace, you must gain authorization through LAANC, DroneZone, or have a written agreement from the F.A.A.

Fly in your line of sight, and the daylight

When you fly your drone, you must keep it in your line of sight so that you can control it easily. Plus, fly it in the daytime, unless it has special lighting where you can track its location and orientation at any given time.

Other Rules

If you come across any other crewed aircraft, you must immediately give way to it. Similarly, it’s illegal to fly above a person or a moving vehicle. Most importantly, do not meddle with emergency response teams or fly while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Drone Regulations for Remote Pilots with a Certificate

If you’re a remote pilot or a commercial operator, you can fly a drone that is lighter than 55 pounds for work or business purposes. Before doing so, you’ll first have to become acquainted with the drone regulations for this.

Once you’ve read the rules, you may find certain operations not covered, and if so, they’ll need a waiver. Such examples you may find that you’ll have to get a waiver from the government are:

  • Using the drone in daylight
  • Using the drone to operate people
  • Using the drone to operate in airspace
  • To be a visual observer
  • To operate a drone from a moving vehicle or aircraft

Some of these are just examples; if you find yourself needing a waiver, you will need to apply here.

The second most crucial part of becoming a remote FAA-certified drone pilot is that you must pass a test.

The Knowledge Test

Before you can enter the test to gain a certificate to fly, you have to be at a minimum 16 years old. Similarly, it would be best if you were fully literate in English, which means you can speak, read, and write. Finally, you have to be in peak physical and mental shape to fly a drone.

To revise for the test, the F.A.A. has a webpage full of wisdom to help you prepare. Once you’ve revised, you must get a tracking number and register a profile on the IACRA before you can sit the test.

Next, you’ll need to book an appointment to sit your test. You will need to fill in an electronic F.A.A. Form 8710-13 to get a certificate if you pass.

Registering Your Drone

Once you’ve got your certificate, you only need to do one final stage before you can fly. That is to register your drone with the F.A.A. Don’t worry, it’s not expensive; it only costs $5 and lasts up to 5 years! You can do this online and pay via card.

Once registered, make sure you mark your drone with its registration number and carry the paperwork with you at all times.

Drone Regulations for Public Safety and Government Users

As a government user, it’s in your best interest to protect and ensure the public’s safety. Therefore you must abide by regulations to make sure others are operating drones safely and reliably.

If your drone weighs less than 55Ibs, then you can operate under two methods, according to Federal, State, and Tribal law.

  1. First of all, you can follow the U.A.S. rule and fly your drone 400 feet or below but above ground level.
  2. You can fly and comply with a public aircraft’s statutory requirements and fly with a certificate waiver of authorization.

On the contrary, if you need to fly a drone due to a natural disaster, you can quickly get authorization from the F.A.A. in an emergency.

Registering and Reporting a Drone

If you are to use a drone, it must be registered to the F.A.A. Similarly, if you’re a law enforcement officer, you have the right to question other’s registrations and review their documentation.

If you detect a drone is not being used for its intended purpose, then you must assess the situation and report it to the F.A.A.

Become Acquainted with the Law

As a law enforcement officer, you must watch webinars, read the U.A.S. rules and guidebooks.

Drone Regulations for Educational Users

If you’re a teacher in the USA wanting to fly a drone, you will have to register through the F.A.A. Plus, it must weigh less than 55ibs, and you can only fly it in a Class G airspace. Once your drone is registered, you must only fly your drone below 400 feet and in the daylight when you’re showing students.

Please do note that you cannot fly it over people, moving vehicles, or in the way of an aircraft. To know where you can fly your drone, you can download an app known as B4UFLY, which tells you the areas in which you can operate it.

But what if you’re visiting the USA and want to fly a drone?

As mentioned above, these are the necessary regulations for U.S. citizens on flying a drone. If you’re a foreigner wanting to fly a drone in the country, there are also regulations you must abide by.

First of all, before your trip, we suggest contacting the F.A.A. to answer any questions about your drone and your intention for flying it. You can do this by emailing UAShelp@faa.gov.

Irrespective of your reason for flying your drone, you must register it in advance of your arrival in the USA on the FAADroneZone website. You have to follow the same process as any U.S. citizen, and it could take a lot longer if you intend to fly it for business purposes.

Final Thoughts on Drone Regulations in the United States

Drone regulations in the USA can be tricky to come by. Today, we’ve only covered the basic outline of the country’s regulations, that’s not to mention local laws within each state.

As more people use drones for recreational and professional use, the more the laws are being reviewed. To have a better idea of the drone laws of the USA, we suggest you visit the Federal Aviation Administration’s website now and then.

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Jeremiah Burnett

What started as a gift for my two sons turned into a major hobby for me! After playing with my sons' quadcopter one winter afternoon, I quickly became obsessed with all things drone. I enjoy precision flying, creating stunning and smooth aerial videos, and taking beautiful photos of my hometown.

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