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Is It Legal To Fly A Drone In Public?

A man controlling his professional drone with a remote control attached with a tablet

If you are considering  getting a drone, a very common question that many others have is whether it is legal to fly a drone in public. Drones fall under the category of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and as such they are subject to respective laws. In other simpler words, drones are flying cameras and aircrafts  that may cover large areas and scopes (depending on the model) and thus they may fly over public or privately owned areas that should not be captured without the prior permission of the property owner or the state.

It can be a real obstacle in some cases and many drone users are confused or clueless regarding drone regulations. The truth is, there are no universal regulations that apply to all countries and areas as drone rules differ from country to country or area to area. In some areas, flying a drone is generally permitted without having to obtain special permissions while in others you need to go through a bureaucratic process and register your model for permission to fly it. The rules are also changing every few years so make sure you check the latest local regulations before buying a drone.

 

Drone Pilot/Flying Licenses In USA

If you are living in the USA, a rule that applies nationwide is the “line of sight” rule which allows drone operators to fly and control their drone only within a human eye scope. There are also different regulations for commercial and private/recreational purposes. In general, commercial flying drone regulations are stricter as they cover a larger flying scope whereas recreational usage regulations are laxer as they cover a smaller area within a human eye scope.

 

From January 3, 2008, a recreational operator should register their drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Once the operator registers the device,they will be given a registration numeric code to be marked in the exterior of the drone and verify that the drone is registered. Additionally the operator should specify usage for recreational purposes. The operator should also make sure to keep the drone flying below 400 feet in a free (unmonitored) area or “G” space not controlled by the FAA.

 

Drone Online Registration

As of 2015, the state government has launched an online registration system where operators can easily enter and register their drones at https://faadronezone.faa.gov/#/

If your drone weighs between 250 grams and 55 pounds, it needs to be registered in this system. The registration also requires operators to specify the purpose of flying the drone and prohibits any operator from flying their drone near another aircraft. Due to the fact that this online system is more convenient, the number of operators applying for a license has vastly increased. According to FAA stats, the number of applications for a drone flying permission have surpassed 900.000 in 2018 and the respective number in 2019 has reached 1.5 million registrations. U.S Owners of drones who meet all criteria but do not register their drones and obtain an official permission, will be subject to fines and penalties.

In addition to the above nationwide regulations, owners must check with their local area/state drone regulations. In some states like Alabama Missouri, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and S.Carolina there are no official state regulations that limit the use of drones in public until this moment of writing (2020-2021). However in most other states there are regulations that allow the flying of drones only through a permission and at certain circumstances. In California and Florida, for example, there are articles that bans the use of drones to monitor another person without their prior consent. For a detailed breakdown of drone regulations per state click here.

 

Drone Laws Worldwide

If you are living or travelling to another country outside the U.S, it would be wise to check with that country’s regulations on drone usage. Some countries like Afghanistan, Albania, Belarus, and Uganda do not have any official laws regarding drone usage but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can fly your drone there as you wish. Countries within European Union generally permit the usage of drones in public (for recreational purposes) without requiring a flying permission. However, professional operators may have to check with their country’s laws as they may have to obtain a permit to fly their drone at a larger zone e.g. an event that has more than 5K people. Same goes for most Asian countries. For a full list of drone laws per country click here

If you decide to buy a drone, therefore, always check with your local regulations and buy a drone that fits your purpose of use. We carry both professional and recreational models in our online shop here.