If you are thinking of buying a drone here are somethings to consider. As a disclaimer, this is not meant to be legal advice, you should always consult with an attorney regarding your specific situation. Drones are categorized as unmanned aircraft systems (hereinafter “drones”) and governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). Under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (“C.F.R.”), drones are regulated under Part 101 (special rule for model aircraft) or Part 107 (small unmanned aircraft systems).

   I. Part 101

In order for a drone to qualify under Part 101, it must meet the definition of “model aircraft.”[1] A model aircraft is defined as “an unmanned aircraft” that is “(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere; (2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and (3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.”[2] Further, to qualify under Part 101, a drone must meet the following mandatory guidelines:

  1. the operator must be part of a nation-wide community-based organization that represents the aeromodelling community within the United States and provides its members comprehensive set of guidelines
  2. weigh less than 55 pounds;
  3. operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
  4. when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower … with prior notice of the operation….[3]

Additionally, the FAA requires the operator to register the drone and mark it with the registration number in case it gets lost or stolen.

As mentioned above, Part 101 apples to individuals that want to use their drones for hobby or recreational use. Hobbies or recreational use include but are not limited to, flying the drone in your backyard, using the drone to take photographs for personal use and moving boxes from one location to another without compensation. However, if you use the drone for commercial purpose or get compensated for the activity, then Part 101 will not apply, and the operator must qualify under Part 107.

   II. Part 107

Those individuals who are looking to create a business or operate their drone for commercial purposes must meet the requirements of Part 107. Part 107 is separate and distinct from Part 101 even though they have similar requirements. Part 107 can be broken down into three categories: (1) Remote Pilot Certification; (2) Drone Registration; and (3) Operating Rules.

  1. Remote Pilot Certification

A person operating a small UAS must either hold a remote pilot certificate or be under the direct supervision of a person who does hold a remote pilot certificate. To apply for Pilot Certification the individual must be at least 16 years of age, vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”), and pass the aeronautical knowledge test with the FAA. Once an individual passes the aeronautical knowledge test they must complete Form 8710-13 and the certification is valid for 2 years.[4]

  1. Drone Registration

If flying under Part 107, every drone must be registered as a Part 107 drone and labeled with a registration number provided by the FAA. The registration is valid for three (3) years and the approximate cost for registering the drone is five dollars ($5.00) per drone. In order to register you will also need an email address, a credit card, a physical and/or mailing address and the make and model of your drone.

  1. Part 107 Operating Rules

Part 107 provides specific operational rules that every operator and drone must abide by, including but not limited too:

  1. Drone must weight less than 55 pounds;
  2. Fly in class G airspace;
  3. Keep the drone in visual line-of-sight of the operator;
  4. Fly during daylight;
  5. Fly at or under 100 mph;
  6. Yield right of way to manned aircraft;
  7. Do not fly directly over people; and
  8. Do not fly from a moving vehicle, unless in a sparsely populated area.[5]

Most of the rules mentioned above are subject to waiver. The operator must submit an application to the FAA outlining how the operator intends to safely conduct their proposed operation, including any additional risk mitigation strategies they might use in the case that a waiver is approved. Waivers are typically effective for a four (4) year period. According to the FAA website, the most sought out waiver is being able to fly at night.

   III. Take Away

Part 107 and Part 101 provide specific rules that must be strictly followed. The first determination is whether you fall within either Part. If an individual will use the drone for anything other than for fun or recreational then Part 107 will be the right way to go. Regardless of which Part applies, the operator should register their drone with the FAA. There are some exceptions to the registration requirement, specially if the drone weights less than 0.55 pounds.

Living in Miami, Florida, one of the main considerations is the flight restrictions due to controlled airspace. Operations in class B, C, or D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, are not allowed unless that person has prior authorization from air traffic control (“ATC”).[6] Unless the operator has a waiver, he or she will need to obtain the approval of ATC prior to every flight. The operator can download B4UFly, which is an application provided by the FAA that can tell the operator if they are on a controlled airspace. Reviewing the B4UFly application, most of Miami-Dade county is under controlled airspace, the operator should use caution if using their drone without prior ATC approval if a waiver is not issued in order to avoid violating Part 107.

The FAA regulations go more in depth with regards to all of the requirements. This is meant to be a basic overview of the issues to consider when flying a drone or operating a drone-based business. Call us if you have any further questions or concerns on the topic or if you are thinking of using drones in your business. Our firm can help you make sure that your business is compliant and/or obtaining waivers with the FAA.

[1] 14 CFR

[2] P.L. 112-95, section 336(c).

[3] P.L. 112-95, section 336(a)(1)-(5).

[4] See FAA News, Summary of Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule (Part 107) (June 21, 2016) https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/Part_107_Summary.pdf for further requirements and responsibilities.

[5] This is short summary of the rules and regulations. Make sure to check out Part 107 for a complete listing of rules and how they apply in every instance.

[6] FAA, Advisory Circular ( June 21, 2016), https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/AC_107-2_AFS-1_Signed.pdf.