Drones: What You Need to Know

March 2016

By now many, if not all, have heard or read about “drones” in the media. Others may even be familiar with the terms “Unmanned Aeriel Vehicles” (UAVs) or “Unmanned Aeriel System” (UAS). The terms have become synonymous with each other. Putting linguistics aside, drones are becoming a disruptive technology. Interestingly enough “drones” and related technologies have been around for some time with RC plane hobbyists.

So why is the technology so disruptive? Well for one it is becoming more mainstream. Secondly, many of these drones are equipped with cameras which raises a whole host of other issues. Lastly, while the local hobbyist was content with flying an RC plane in a secluded park on the weekends, the public user is pushing the boundaries with these devices to populated areas. It logically follows that any time boundaries get pushed, problems occur and laws get made to regulate activity. So what does one need to know?

FAA Drone Regulations

The FAA has finally released a proposed framework of regulations. These common sense rules are as follows:
• Operate drone flight below 400 feet
• Keep the drone within your visual line of sight at all times
• Don’t be careless or reckless when flying your drone
• Don’t fly near people, populated areas, stadiums, or areas designated as no drone zones
• Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport or within 15 miles of the nation’s capital
• Don’t fly a drone that weighs more than 55 pounds

In addition, the FAA is now requiring registration of an UAS in order to operate within airspace. This new registration process applies to any UAS weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds. The registration is valid for three years at a cost of $5.00. After filling out a form, registrants will receive a Certificate of Aircraft Registration/Proof of Ownership that will include a unique identification number that users will be required to place on any drone they own.

Commercial vs. Non-Commercial Drone Usage

So what else should you know about drones?
Does Commercial vs. Non-commercial (e.g., hobby and recreational) drone usage matter? YES. While generally speaking all drones are subject to FAA regulations and some kind of registration process there is at least one major difference worth noting. Presently, drones used for commercial purposes must receive exemption under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 which gives the FAA the ability to grant certificates for certain commercial drone usage.

UPDATE:  The NEW Small UAS Rule (Part 107) including Remote Pilot Certification, which applies to commercial drone usage is in effect as of 12:01 a.m. EDT on August 29, 2016.  This newly implemented rule and process will essentially replace the need for a Section 333 exemption in the majority of cases.

Is my child required to register his [toy] drone? MAYBE. Keep in mind that all drones between 0.55 – 55 pounds must be registered. If your child is age 13 or older he or she is allowed to register it. Unless the drone is under 0.55 lbs. that drone gift to your 10 year old needs to be put in an adult’s name.

Do I have any rights in the airspace above my property? YES – SUPPORTED BY CASE LAW. A 70 year old Supreme court case known as U.S. v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256 (1946) held that landowners have property rights in the portion of the airspace above the ground that is not within the navigable airspace. Unfortunately at this time it’s not clear how much airspace one has a right to enjoy above their property.

For more information on drones and related FAA regulations please visit: http://www.faa.gov/uas/.

Have Additional Questions About Drones?

If you or your business have questions regarding commercial usage of a drone please feel free to email [email protected] or call (330) 275-3623.  Dimoff Law LLC is a law firm based in Akron, Ohio and strategic partner of the SACS Team. 

DISCLAIMER:  The article content is provided for informational and educational purposes only.  Portions of the article may become out of date or rendered incorrect by future legislative or judicial developments.  There are no claims as to the comprehensiveness or accuracy of the information provided by this website due to jurisdictional limitations and complexities in the law.  This website is not offered for the purposes of providing legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship with its readers.  You should consult and licensed attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. 

March 2016