Drone regulations & safety: Basics for novice flyers

By V Kadamatt | Regulations & Safety

Jun 02

For more information on drone regulations and safety, visit knowbeforeyoufly.


It is needless to say that the popularity of drones have skyrocketed in the recent years. According to reports, nearly 1 million drones were sold in the holiday season of 2015. It is estimated that the drone market will grow at an annual rate of 32% (compound) in the years 2015 – 2020.

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With such a drastic change in the amount of these small crafts in air space, it has become crucial to immediately implement certain rules and regulations for the safety, privacy and well-being of the general public.

Who is responsible for the implementation of these rules and regulations in the USA? Answer: The FAA. The Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for everything in the Aerospace world and this includes drones and model aircrafts.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the FAA regulations, registrations and the safety measures you must take while flying your drone. Read on!

Drone registration

Who should register their drones?

If you are planning on buying a drone or have already purchased one, it is important to know whether or not your craft falls under the FAA’s registration scheme. Starting December 21 2015, any UAV (this includes quadcopter drones, DIY aircrafts, fixed wing planes and helicopters) weighing over 250g (0.55 lbs) and less than 55 pounds must be registered with the FAA.

Basically, if you own a drone like the DJI Phantom 3 standard, you definitely have to register it with the FAA. If you own something like the Cheerson CX-10, you do not have to. Here is a list of example drones that require registration to give you an idea.

How do you register?

In order to register your craft, you have to be 13 years or older. If not, a parent or a legal guardian must do the job for you. Head over to the FAA website’s UAV registration page and follow the instructions. The process is simple – just submit your name, email address, home address and you will receive a certificate of aircraft registration or proof of ownership.

This certificate will include an identification number that you must affix to your drone and you are ready to go! Note that the registration is not free of charge and will cost you $5 and the payment can be done by a debit card or credit card.

The registration will be valid for 3 years and during this time, you will be able to login to the website to update the information or cancel the registration in case you are lost the drone, it stopped functioning or you decided to buy a new one and sold the old one.

What if you do not register?

If you fail to register your UAV, you may be fined up to $27500. In the case of criminal penalties, you may be fined up to $250000 under 18 U.S.C. 3571 and/or be imprisoned up to 3 years. We would advise you to register your drone as soon as possible to avoid these penalties.

What if I am not a US citizen?

If you are not a US citizen, you still have to register the UAV. The process for registration is similar, and you will receive a certificate that is identical to the one that US citizens or permanent residents receive. This certificate however, will only function as a ‘recognition of ownership. You will have to produce this document to the Department of Transportation in order to legally operate your UAV in the US.


Guidelines on flying

How high can you fly and can you flight out of line of sight?

According to FAA advisory circular, you are to fly your craft no higher than 400 feet and keep it within eyesight. This holds true even if you are using an FPV system to fly.

Where and when are you not allowed to fly?

First of all, you must avoid interfering with regular airplanes and other aircraft and obstacles at all times. Second, you must not intentionally fly over people or moving vehicles and remain at least 25 feet away from property and individuals.

If you are planning on flying within 5 miles of an airport or heliport, you must contact the control tower. You are also not to fly your craft above power stations, heavily travelled roadways, government facilities and really crowded public places.

You are advised not to fly under difficult weather conditions such as snow fall and heavy winds. You are also to stick to daylight flying, even if your craft boasts strong LED lights for visibility.

Respect other people’s privacy. Do not head your craft over to random people and start taking videos and photographs of them.

Also, do not drink and fly! 🙂

How do you use your drone commercially?

Commercial use of drones include the selling of photos and videos taken using the UAV, providing contract services like factory inspection, agricultural inspection, wildlife survey operations and providing security and surveillance operations with the UAV.

Effective August 29, 2016: If you want to use the UAV for these commercial purposes,  according to FAA: “The person actually flying a drone must be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate. To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, an individual must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate. If qualifying under the latter provision, a pilot must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and must take a UAS online training course provided by the FAA. The TSA will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuance of a certificate.

Operators are responsible for ensuring a drone is safe before flying, but the FAA is not requiring small UAS to comply with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification. Instead, the remote pilot will simply have to perform a preflight visual and operational check of the small UAS to ensure that safety-pertinent systems are functioning property.  This includes checking the communications link between the control station and the UAS.”

Read more here.

Where can you find more information?

Don’t forget to visit :



Drones may be small and come in nice boxes but they are not simple toys. They must be operated with care because misuse can be dire. The FAA’s intervention in the hobbyist’s affairs may appear too nosy, but with the alarming rate of increase of these crafts it is necessary to have regulations in place to avoid misuse and to promote safety and privacy of the general population.

We hope you took your time to read this article and will take the necessary precautions! If you have any questions or comments, please drop them below!


Drone regulations & safety: Basics for novice flyers was last modified: August 2nd, 2017 by V Kadamatt

About the Author

Artificial Intelligence , UAV and RC enthusiast. Software professional, part time philosopher and star gazer. Also loves physics, mathematics, economics, psychology, fantasy, Sci-Fi and futurology.

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