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Make Sure You Know all the Drone Regulations Before You Fly

Everywhere you look, it seems like everyone has their hands on a drone. YouTube is crawling with aerial drone footage, and you can buy one at just about any electronics store. But just because drones are everywhere doesn’t mean you can (legally) fly them anywhere.

Here at dPS, we dove into topics such as tips to get started with drone photography and how to get stunning aerial photos with your drone. One thing we haven’t covered that’s worth talking about is where you can and can’t fly your drone. Read on for some tips on things to consider before you fly a drone.

Aerial Drone Photography Rules - Drone Regulations to Consider Before Traveling With One

Why Are There Drone Regulations?

On the surface, drones may seem like fun toys or new tools to add to your photography or videography kit. After all, they’re marketed as such and most of the time, they don’t do any visible harm. However, drones can be dangerous from the perspective of privacy and physical safety.

No one likes the idea of a drone spying on them, or worse yet, a drone that comes crashing down and damages property or hurts someone. But these very plausible scenarios are exactly why drone regulations exist – to protect drone pilots and the general public from accidents.

Aerial Drone Photography Rules

Who Makes Drone Regulations?

So who comes up with drone rules and regulations? That depends entirely on where you live. Generally speaking, drones are considered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and as such, they are regulated by the national aviation authority of each country. Thus, most countries will have their own rules, and often each state or city within the country might have further regulations.

So it’s important to do extensive research about where specifically you plan to fly your drone. Punishment for violating drone regulations can be hefty fines or even imprisonment, so it is very important to follow drone rules, especially in foreign countries.

What Kind of Drone Regulations Are There?

Aerial Drone Photography Rules

Drone rules vary in every country, but here a few common ones:

Register Your Drone

Today, drones vary from fitting in the palm of your hand to requiring a large backpack to transport them. Generally speaking, drones weighing any more than 0.55 pounds must be registered with your national aviation association before flying.

Get Licensed to Fly

Some countries require drone operators to pass an exam to get a license before flying a drone, so be sure to get licensed if it’s necessary.

Aerial Drone Photography Rules Drone Regulations to Consider Before Traveling With One

Get Insurance for Your Drone

In some places, you must have insurance for your drone in order to fly. But drone insurance is something you should have any way to protect your investment.

Avoid Flying over People and Properties

Even the tiniest drone can be a hazard to someone or something if it comes crashing down from the sky or runs into an airplane. As a general rule, don’t fly your drone over crowds of people or near private or government property. You should also avoid flying near airports or helipads.

Sample Drone Regulations in the USA

Drone Regulations to Consider Before Traveling With One

In the United States, drones are considered unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). As such, they are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). There are two sets of regulations: one for those flying drones for fun, and one for those flying for commercial (professional) reasons. A summary of the FAA rules is below, with more details available here.

  • Flying drones for recreational or educational use is okay without a permit. Drones must be registered if they weigh over 0.55 lbs (250g). Drones cannot be flown within five miles of an airport or helipad without prior notification to the airport and air traffic control.
  • If flying for commercial use, the drone pilot must be over 16 years of age, have a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate, and pass TSA vetting. The drone must fly under 400 feet and at or below 100 miles per hour. Drones can only fly during the daytime, and must not fly over people.

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In Conclusion

If your head is spinning when you reach the end of this article, you’re not alone. There are many more drone rules and regulations than most people know about, which makes enforcement of them very patchy.

What’s more is that drone regulations are in a constant state of flux, so it’s hard to say exactly what rules exist and apply at a given time. But with that said, it’s better to know the rules and do your best to follow them, or risk getting arrested and potentially fined like this French tourist in Italy.

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Suzi Pratt
Suzi Pratt

is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. When she’s not taking photos, she’s making travel photography and camera gear videos for her YouTube channel.

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