By Mike Deem
Fly for Fun under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft!
You don’t need permission from the FAA to fly your UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, but you must always fly safely. You may elect to register your UAS to help in the recovery of lost equipment, but this is not required.
The FAA has adopted the following UAS Safety Guidelines:
- Fly at or below 400 feet
- Be aware of airspace requirements and restrictions
- Stay away from surrounding obstacles
- Keep your UAS within sight
- Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
- Never fly over groups of people
- Never fly over stadiums or sports events
- Never fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
- Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Flying under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.
The Special Rule for Model Aircraft (P.L. 112-95, Section 336) provides the definition and operating rules for flying a model aircraft. Model aircraft operators that comply with all of these operational requirements during flight do not have to register their UAS with the FAA.
Model aircraft operators must follow these rules to fly under this Rule:
- the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use (once you start earning money from the use of the drone you have removed yourself from this exception);
- the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;
- the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;
- the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
- when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower [when an air traffic facility is located at the airport])
A model aircraft is defined as an unmanned aircraft that is capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere, flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft and flown for hobby or recreational purposes.
If you do not operate exclusively under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, you must:
- Register your UAS if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds
- Label your UAS (PDF) with your registration number and
- Read and understand all safety guidelines
Registration costs $5 and is valid for 3 years. If you are flying under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft and you wish to register voluntarily, you should register as a “modeler.” If you are flying under part 107, Section 333, part 91, a public COA, or for non-recreational purposes in general, you should register as a “non-modeler.”
In order to register, you must be:
- 13 years of age or older (if the owner is less than 13 years of age, a person 13 years of age or older must register the small unmanned aircraft)
- A U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.