Well, it’s a Monday. The FAA is out with a host of new rules which on the surface seem to target the hobbyist and amateur camera drone scene heavily. The biggest is amateur pilots are no longer allowed to fly in controlled airspace. The FAA has designated fields where you can, but the days of calling a control tower and taking off are done.
Don’t bother calling up an airport control tower for permission. It’s a hard no, and let’s not get anyone in trouble. There’s a crucial caveat to this new rule. It’s dubbed LAANC and will make life so much easier later this summer. It stands for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability and will allow recreational pilots to obtain permission on the fly with no calls to the airport control tower.
The issue is the FAA will not have LAANC available until later in the summer. For now, stay away from restricted airspace. I know, the FAA is putting the cart before the horse. And you’re not wrong in feeling that way. However, remember the FAA just received its first normal reauthorization since the 1980s.
As much as we want everything now, let’s give the agency time to work it out. Everyone flies safe, and we end up with a national system such as LAANC. It beats a patchwork of ordinances and laws. I’ll take a couple of months of inconvenience for the ability to gain flight approval straight from an app.
Registrations and Aeronautical Test?
Two more rules are coming down the pipeline. The first is with registrations. Owners are expected to display the registration number on the outside of the drone. That one is not a big deal. Grab a label maker, and you’re good. Don’t use a sharpie. You may want to sell it at a later date. Also, it is expected you have a copy of the registration on you in case you’re stopped. I always toss mine in my bag, and you should get into the same habit.
The other rule involves an upcoming general aviation test for recreational fliers. Like the LAANC system, expect the test sometime in the summer and will focus on general aviation and safety knowledge. Proof of passage will have to be on the pilot. Sounds like an excellent addition to an app — registration, and certificate of passing the new test.
While the LAANC rule seems like a gut punch to hobbyists, I’m still siding with the FAA here. We need something national and easy to follow. They are not taking away the ability to fly your camera drone around for the perfect shot. Instead, they are creating a safe environment which weeds out the bad actors and pushes the community forward.
Below is the press release from the FAA. Most of it we all know by now, but can’t hurt to catch a few who may not know it’s illegal to operate a drone while intoxicated.
Recreational Flyers & Modeler Community-Based Organizations
You are considered a recreational user if you fly your drone for fun. It is important to know when and where you can fly and how to register your drone.
New Changes to Recreational Drone Flying in the United States
There’s a new law (PDF) that describes how, when, and where you can fly drones for recreational purposes. Following these rules will keep you and your drone safe and will help keep the airspace available to everyone.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Register your drone, mark it on the outside with the registration number (PDF), and carry proof of registration with you.
- Fly only for recreational purposes.
- Follow the safety guidelines of a community based organization.
- Fly your drone at or below 400 feet when in uncontrolled or “Class G” airspace. This is airspace where the FAA is not controlling manned air traffic. To determine what type of airspace you are in, refer to the mobile application that operates your drone (if so equipped) and/or use other drone-related mobile applications. Knowing your location and what airspace you’re in will also help you avoid interfering with other aircraft.
- Do NOT fly in controlled airspace (around and above many airports) unless:You are flying at a recreational flyer fixed site that has an agreement with the FAA. The FAA has posted a list of approved sites (MS Excel) and has depicted them as blue dots on a map. Each fixed site is limited to the altitude shown on this map, which varies by location.NOTE: Flight in controlled airspace is temporarily limited to these fixed fields. The FAA is upgrading the online system, known as LAANC (the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability), so that recreational operations can get automated airspace authorizations to fly in controlled airspace. This system is currently only available for certified Part 107 drone pilots.NOTE: If your organization is interested in establishing a letter of agreement for a fixed flying site, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Keep your drone within your line of sight, or within the visual line-of-sight of a visual observer who is co-located and in direct communication with you.
- Do NOT fly in airspace where flight is prohibited. Airspace restrictions can be found on our interactive map, and temporary flight restrictions can be found here. Drone operators are responsible for ensuring they comply with all airspace restrictions.
- Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports.
- Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people.
- Never fly near emergencies such as any type of accident response, law enforcement activities, firefighting, or hurricane recovery efforts.
- Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Recreational flyers should know that if they intentionally violate any of these safety requirements, and/or operate in a careless and reckless manner, they could be liable for criminal and/or civil penalties.
Read the Authorization for limited recreational operations as described in section 44809(PDF). All limited recreational operations should be conducted in accordance with this authorization.
Changes Coming in the Future
The FAA is upgrading the online system, known as LAANC (the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability), so that recreational operations can get automated airspace authorizations to fly in controlled airspace.
The new law also requires:
- Drone operators to pass an online aeronautical knowledge and safety test and carry proof of test passage.
- The FAA to issue guidance for how it will recognize community based organizations.