sUAS Rules and Regulations

sUAS Rules and Regulations

There are two main categories of consumer drones: racing drones and photography drones. Most people who purchase either type of consumer drone are doing so for recreational purposes, but if you ever upgrade to selling your drone photography you might have to get special certification. Either way, if you’re flying a drone there are rules and regulations you should be aware of.

Disclaimer: You must not rely on the information contained on this page as an alternative to legal advice. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter you should consult an attorney or other professional legal services provider.

Am I Part 101 or Part 107? Do I Need a Certification Course?

Most recreational users are covered under Part 101 of the FAA Drone Regulations. You can find the full text by clicking here. The essence of this rule is that a model aircraft is an unmanned aircraft that is i) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere; ii) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and iii) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

There is another good check if your flights are covered under Part 101. If your sUAS complies with the following five categories laid out by Public Law 112-95 Sec. 336, it is considered recreational use:  

  1.  The aircraft is strictly flown for hobby or recreational use;
  2.  The aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;
  3.  The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;
  4. The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
  5. When flown within five miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation.

If you are recreational, you can fly under the guidelines laid out below. If you don’t fall under the above guidelines, click here to read about the Part 107 certification.

I’m a Recreational Flyer – Now What?

Here are a few great safety guidelines for recreational sUAS pilots:

  • Follow guidelines as developed by organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). You can become an AMA pilot by clicking through here. Many organizations and local flying chapters require AMA membership to fly in their organized races.
  • The sUAS must be within the visual line of sight of the user at all times, unaided by any device except correctional lenses.
  • The sUAS must yield the right of way to manned aircraft.
  • The sUAS may not operate over any persons not directly participating, not under a covered structure, and not inside a covered stationary vehicle.
  • The sUAS must weigh less than 55 lbs (25 kg), including any external load operations.
  • Must maintain a maximum groundspeed of 100 mph (87 knots), and a maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level, or if higher than 400 feet above ground level must remain within 400 feet of a structure.
  • Check and follow all local laws, especially if flying over or near private property or a permitted event.
  • Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Do not conduct surveillance or photograph people on or near private property or where privacy is expected without the individual’s permission. Read the AMA’s privacy policy here.
  • If planning to fly within five miles of an airport, contact the airport operator and air traffic control tower. Best practices for this can be found by clicking here.

First-Person View (FPV)

If you’re using First-Person View (FPV), this document by the AMA is a must read.

  • Pilots must first be capable of flying their FPV sUAS without FPV.
  • Novice pilots should use a buddy-box system if practicing at low altitude (below 100 feet), or practice at a safer higher altitude when no buddy-box system is an option.
  • FPV flights require a spotter maintaining visual line of sight with the FPV sUAS throughout its flight. This spotter must warn the pilot of any approaching aircraft and ensure the sUAS remains within the visual line of sight. The spotter must be prepared to acquire the transmitter/controls from the pilot and assume visual line of sight control of the sUAS at any time.
  • All sUAS must operate on frequencies approved by the FCC. Some systems will require FCC licensing. Please refer to AMA document 590 for more information on this. Information on ham radio licensing here.

We hope all of this was helpful! Please keep in mind this is just a starting point, and remember to do your research if you have any questions or want to expand on any of the topics covered above. Happy and safe flying!