Well, folks. I have some news.
New rules for recreational drone pilots have just been published to the Federal Register.
Here’s what’s in store for recreational (i.e., non-licensed) drone pilots operating in the United States:
- While recreational drone pilots still don’t require an FAA certificate, they will at some point be required to pass an online safety test and carry proof of passage while flying. That test is still in development.
- Recreational drone pilots still need to register their drone, fly only for recreational purposes, and follow the safety guidelines of a community-based organization like the AMA. That includes things like keeping it under 400 ft. AGL, flying line-of-sight where you can see the aircraft at all times, and never flying near other aircraft, over groups of people, public events, or near emergencies like accident response, law enforcement activities, firefighting, or hurricane recovery efforts.
- But here’s the kicker — recreational drone pilots are no longer flying under a 5-mile rule and can only fly when in uncontrolled or “Class G” airspace. There are two exceptions to this:
- 1) You are flying at a recreational flyer fixed site that has an agreement with the FAA. The FAA has posted a list of approved sites (MS Excel) and has depicted them as blue dots on a map. Each fixed site is limited to the altitude shown on this map, which varies by location.
- 2) You have LAANC approval to operate in controlled airspace. At the moment, getting approval is only available to Part 107 licensed drone pilots, but the FAA plans to upgrade their system so recreational pilots can also get access. For now, recreational pilots who’d like to fly in controlled airspace are restricted to the list of approved sites linked to above.
Here’s the link to the FAA’s official press release: https://www.faa.gov/news/updates/?newsId=93769
And here’s a link to the full ruling: https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2019-10169.pdf
And finally, here’s a link to the main UAS section of the FAA’s website, where they do a good job breaking down the difference between recreational and commercial flights: https://www.faa.gov/uas/recreational_fliers/
We’ll continue to track regulatory updates and are always happy to help answer questions and to interpret these rules.