The Federal Aviation Administration published new guidelines today for registering and safely operating an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) — in other words, the Dos and Don’ts of Drones. The new registration service becomes available on December 21.
Guidelines for commercial operation are still in development, but recreational “aviators” — the description used by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx — still need to register their devices. The $5 registration fee is good for three years and will be refunded if performed by January 20, 2016. It generates a unique identification code; hobbyists can use the same code on each drone if they own multiple devices.
In addition, the FAA has a set of rules to help recreational drone operators avoid running into issues.
- Contact the control tower when flying within 5 miles of an airport.
- Don’t fly near manned aircraft.
- Keep your UAS within sight.
- Certify any UAS over 55 lbs with a local aeromodeling community organization.
- Read the instructions, and learn to operate the UAS safely.
There is a rule for model aircraft that requires them to stay under 400 feet. However, I’m pretty sure those rules are separate from those that govern drones. I have not found a height limit for recreational drone use so far.
I just purchased a drone for my father-in-law as a Christmas present. He plans to use it to begin a neighborhood watch, possibly arming it with a self-defense system to bring down other drones that stray into his yard. This would not be considered safe operation of a UAS.
However, it’s probably okay if he wants to attach a camera to it and take pictures of his dog.