The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules for small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or “drone,” operations cover a broad spectrum of commercial and government uses for drones weighing less than 55 pounds. Highlights of the rule, 14 CFR Part 107, follow.
Just as there are rules of the road when driving a car, there are rules of the sky when operating a drone.
- Always avoid manned aircraft.
- Never operate in a careless or reckless manner.
- Keep your drone within sight. If you use First Person View or similar technology, you must have a visual observer always keep your drone within unaided sight (for example, no binoculars).
- You cannot be a pilot or visual observer for more than one drone operation at a time.
- Do not fly a drone over people unless they are directly participating in the operation.
- Do not operate your drone from a moving vehicle or aircraft unless you are flying your drone over a sparsely populated area and it does not involve the transportation of property for compensation or hire.
You can fly during daylight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) or in twilight if your drone has anti-collision lighting. Minimum weather visibility is three miles from your control station. The maximum allowable altitude is 400 feet above the ground, higher if your drone remains within 400 feet of a structure. Maximum speed is 100 mph (87 knots).
Your drone can carry an external load if it is securely attached and does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft. You also may transport property for compensation or hire within state boundaries provided the drone (including its attached systems), payload, and cargo, weighs less than 55 pounds total and you obey the other flight rules. (Some exceptions apply to Hawaii and the District of Columbia.)