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Rules for Flying Drones And Drone Photography: Learn How to Fly The Right Way

Rules for Flying Drones And Drone Photography
Jack Brown
Written by Jack Brown

As exciting as it can be, flying drones and taking photos from the air are limited by rules you need to follow. Otherwise, you could get fined or even have a penal file made for reckless behavior. It may seem a bit harsh, especially when you consider that drones are a lot of fun and you aren’t doing anything wrong (from your point of view).

However, drones can be dangerous for both privacy of others and physical integrity. This is especially the case when it comes to how drones can get near other things in the sky or how they can crash in populated areas. That’s why rules for flying drones and drone photography were actually designed – to protect yourself, your drone, and other people from your reckless flying.

For instance, drones have gotten in the way of many commercial airplanes in recent time. The FAA even says that there is an average of 3.5 drone-related incidents per day in the United States. That is, these drones are flying too close to larger airplanes. This is concerning especially because there’s always that potential that a small drone could take down a much larger plane. This could result in a crash that could entail several deaths both on the plane and on the ground depending on where the plane is.

Drone flying over the city

Of course, there’s also the concern regarding privacy. There are often times when you might not be allowed to fly a drone in an area due to privacy issues. This especially comes from how someone might think you are spying on a space while flying a drone.

The FAA has established a series of important rules and you must make sure you meet them so you won’t put any planes at risk or infringe upon anyone’s privacy among other things.

Register your drone if needed

Depending on the drone you order, you might have to get it registered. This is to ensure you aren’t in any legal trouble while using it. However, not all drones have to be registered.

As you might notice on the boxes for some drone models, many of these are small enough to where you can fly them without having to get a license. However, anything that is large in size will have to be registered. This is due to how larger drones are often easier to get up in the air.

Drone Registration

A drone that weighs from 0.55 to 55 pounds must be registered before you can fly it. You can register your drone with the FAA for $5 per model. Your registration will be good for three years but you will have to renew it for every new drone you own. Also, if you plan to give your drone to someone else, you will have to transfer the title to it. Fortunately, the FAA has made it easy for you to register it online.

Remember, it is a crime to fly a good-sized drone without registering it. You could be fined a good deal of money or even sent to jail if you fly an unregistered drone and are caught doing so.

Height rules

The first thing to watch for involves how high up you can fly your drone. While you can fly a drone up very high, you need to keep it from going too far out. You must keep it close enough to where you can not only see it but also have an easier time with controlling it.

Drone height rules

You need to keep your drone from going 400 feet or higher off of the ground. You must keep the drone from being too high up or else it might get in the way of planes and other items in the sky.

Although many drones are designed with cameras that can be linked up to a smartphone or tablet in real time, you need to actually keep your drone in sight. You should only fly your drone in places where you can get a clear shot of your device. That is, you must be able to see it without any outside assistance from binoculars or any other devices.

Avoiding people and properties

You have to keep your drone away from people and properties so they will not be at risk of harm. The fast speed of the rotors and blades on a drone can be dangerous to anyone.

Avoiding people and properties

You must fly your drone at least 25 feet away from people or any property that might be at risk of being harmed. This is to ensure that the drone will not get in anyone’s way.

You need to ensure that your drone is visible enough to where it can be distinguishable while in the sky. Avoid painting your drone in a color that blends in with other things in an area.

Avoid flying in difficult conditions

Although many drones are designed with bodies that can correct their flight patterns in the event that there are slight wind guests in a spot, you must avoid flying your drone in any difficult weather conditions. You should not fly it when the winds are extremely high. It might be difficult for you to control a drone at this point. Falling rain or snow can also make it harder for the drone to move smoothly due to all that pressure that is being put on its body.

Weather drone

You must also avoid using your drone in cases where visibility is not strong. These include rainy and snowy conditions as well as when it’s foggy out. You must always have a clear view of your drone while flying it or else you should avoid using it in general.

What places can’t you fly near?

One key part of rules for flying drones and drone photography that must be followed involves where you aren’t allowed to fly it. You will not be able to fly your drone near a variety of places due to privacy concerns.

More importantly, the Academy of Model Aeronautics and the Federal Aviation Administration have both devised a series of rules with regards to where you aren’t allowed to fly a drone near. You must be cautious as many places are not only extremely sensitive but may also be private spaces that you cannot legally take photos of.

Drones in forbidden zones

Here’s a listing of places that you should not fly your drone near:

  • Power stations
  • Water treatment stations
  • Government-owned buildings
  • Correctional facilities
  • Military bases
  • Sports stadiums, outdoor concert venues and other places that might house thousands of people at a time
  • Roads that are heavily traveled; these include busy highways

Be sure to think about your surroundings before you fly a drone. The laws for where you aren’t allowed to fly a drone in might vary based on where you are. Some private properties might especially have limits on where you can fly a drone around. For instance, drones are not allowed at the Yosemite National Park.

There can be times when you might be allowed to fly a drone in a place because you got prior permission. You must contact anyone who owns a property that you plan on flying a drone near for permission to fly. This is so the person who owns the property in question will not be blindsided by any instance where you are taking a drone out to the sky.

What about flying near an airport?

You must be extremely careful when it comes to flying near an airport. You must avoid using your drone within five miles of an airport. This is regardless of the size of the airport or the planes that are coming out from it or landing there.

Flying near an airport

You can only fly a drone within five miles of an airport if you contact the airport and its control tower before you fly. Be sure to do this right before you use your drone. Don’t try to plan any flight events in advance as the control tower might not keep tabs on that information for later use. However, some of the latest drone models, come with a system that doesn’t allow them to fly close to banned areas and creates a virtual wall that drones don’t go over, and, to find out more about these models, we suggest that you also check out our article about Smart drones.

Avoid flying at night

Although many drones are designed with lights that let you see the drone a little better while off from a distance, you have to avoid flying your drone at night if possible. It might be difficult for you to see a drone at night even if you do have a few lights added onto its body.

Avoid flying at night

Any drone can be hard to see at night even if it’s got a bright color or reflective features on it.

Consult someone for photography needs

While you can use a camera drone to take pictures of anything you want, you must make sure you do so with the permission of anyone that you might take pictures of. In particular, you have to avoid taking pictures of properties and people who don’t want their pictures taken.

Drone Spying

The last thing you should be doing is invading a person’s privacy because you didn’t contact someone about taking pictures.

Use care when flying

No matter what you plan on doing with your drone, you have to be as professional as possible while flying it. Reckless or careless drone flying is against the law. You could put people at risk of serious harm in the event that you fly your drone erratically and put other people at danger while doing so.

Use care when flying

You especially have to avoid operating a drone if you are under the influence of alcohol or medications among other things that might impair your concentration and awareness. A drone can be extremely dangerous if you don’t have enough control over it while flying. For a better insight on this topic, we suggest that you also read our article about drone flight rules.

Make sure you use these rules when flying a drone. This is to give you the best possible experience while flying. It is also to see that your hobby doesn’t get in the way of anyone.

About the author
Jack Brown
Jack Brown

Jack is the Chief Pilot at MyDroneLab.com bringing experience, expertise and knowledge in this quite new industry. He is a graduate of the Drone/UAV Pilot Training Certificate program and member of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Besides having all the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to drones, Jack and his team love to spend the time outside by the ocean, working on new features and teaching others how to pilot these amazing and exciting new robots.

  • John Miller

    I totally agree with all of these conditions. Registering the drone must be taken seriously because drones are not toys at all.

  • Danny Washington

    There must be rules in order not to happen a drone anarchy. Not everyone wants to buy a drone to take pictures of nature or similar. If there weren’t rules, some people would buy drones for bad purposes.

  • Mike Walker

    You can do bad things with drones, so I am glad that someone took care about that and made some rules for them. In Japan there is and actual drone police department.

    • Jack Brown

      Unfortunately, there will always be people who think that the rules don’t apply to them… But, it is up to us to spread the word and try to convince the people to fly safely and responsibly.

  • Daryl Lu

    As drones grow in popularity, expect that regulations will also change. I wonder if there’s such a regulation that gives property owners the right to invoke privacy and not allow drones to fly over their property.

  • Jack Brown

    Not really sure about that, but you can check the FAA rules here https://www.faa.gov/uas/

  • Erna Brook

    Had the FAA not instituted some rules regarding the drones, I believe many people could have fought a lot regarding privacy invasions, and many instances of injuries could have been reported. Advanced drones are even more at risk of interfering with passenger flights because of their altitude. Thank you for this informative article Jack. I will link it in my blog for many people to learn about these regulations.

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