Drone Operator

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE LAW FOR DRONE OPERATORS IN THE LOS ANGELES AREA

Drones (aka Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or sometimes the law refers to them as “model aircraft”) are all the rage. Whether you are using a drone for recreational purposes or for professional or business purposes, here’s what you need to know.

Photo by Peter Linehan - Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic

Photo by Peter Linehan – Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic

Do I need to register my drone?

UPDATE: As of May 19, 2017 you don’t need to register your recreational drone.

However, clearly this area is in flux, and it’s quite possible that the registration requirement will be reinstated in the near future.

The registration rule required that if your drone weighs over .55 lbs (yes that’s about half a pound), you must register it online with the FAA. If you did not register, there were potentially criminal penalties. But again, this is no longer in force.

What if I’m just using my drone for recreational purposes?

If you are using a drone for recreational (non-commercial) purposes, the main thing to know other than registering your drone is that you can’t fly within 5 miles of an airport, unless you notify the airport and air traffic control.

What if I want to use a drone for business purposes?

If you are using a drone for business (for-profit) purposes, such as delivering tacos or professional drone racing, here are the major requirements:

  • register your drone(s)
  • have Remote Pilot Airman Certificate
  • be at least 16 years old
  • pass TSA vetting

What do I need to know about privacy issues and drones?

Other general laws are applicable to drones, of course. Particularly important is privacy law, which varies by location but in general you may not take photos or video of people where they have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Basically don’t be a peeping Tom into anyone’s house!

Where can I fly my drone in the Los Angeles area?

Here’s a helpful map.

RESOURCES

There are more requirements and information to know when operating a drone, which you can find out about at the FAA website or at KnowBeforeYouFly.org.