My son received a drone from his grandmother for Christmas and I started researching drone law. Since then, drone law has also been the subject of a Kentucky Bench and Bar article (http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.kybar.org/resource/resmgr/benchbar/bb_0117_v2.pdf) and a question from a friend about drones flying over their property.
IF YOU SHOOT A DRONE DOWN, YOU MIGHT FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES AND A FEDERAL LAWSUIT
Last year a Kentucky man shot down a drone hovering over his sunbathing daughter. He was criminally charged but a Kentucky District Court judge later dismissed the charges. The drone owner then sued him in Federal Court (http://fortune.com/2016/09/25/drone-shotgun-airspace-rights/). This Fortune article also included links to videos showing basketballs, t-shirts, and spears taking down drones. As the article noted, no one was charged in those incidents.
WHAT IS THE FIRST STEP TO TAKE IF I GET A DRONE?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) now requires everyone to register their drones if they are over 0.55 lbs. (https://registermyuas.faa.gov). The FAA calls drones: Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS). Knowing this terminology is helpful when you navigate around the FAA website. The FAA website warns that “You will be subject to civil and criminal penalties if you meet the criteria to register an unmanned aircraft and do not register.” This is the step that I have not yet taken so the drone still remains in the box.
DO I NEED A REMOTE PILOT’S LICENSE?
No, if you are flying the as a hobby for educational or recreational purposes.
Yes, if you are flying for commercial purposes. If you are being paid to film a video, that is obviously commercial. As noted in the Bench and Bar article above, some things the FAA considers to be a commercial purpose were not really obvious: a farmer checking your crops, a roofer checking your work, or a real estate agent filming a home for sale. You must be 16 years old and take a knowledge test to get a pilot’s license (https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/fly_for_work_business/becoming_a_pilot/). The nearest places to Paducah to take the test are Carbondale, Cape Girardeau, and Union City. The closest in Kentucky is Bowling Green.
WHERE CAN I FLY?
For hobby flyers, 5 miles from airports but they are generally subject to the same restrictions as model aircraft flyers. So if you have a model aircraft park like Paducah does, you can fly there. Additionally, the hobby flyer 1) must ALWAYS yield right of way to manned aircraft, 2) must keep the aircraft in sight (visual line-of-sight), 3) UAS must be under 55 lbs., 4) must follow community-based safety guidelines, and 5) must notify airport and air traffic control tower before flying within 5 miles of an airport. (https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/)
You can even use an app called b4ufly to determine if you can fly in a location. (https://www.faa.gov/uas/where_to_fly/b4ufly/)
For commercial flyers, they must follow operational rules: 1) must keep the aircraft in sight (visual line-of-sight)*; 2) must fly under 400 feet*; 3) must fly during the day*; 4) must fly at or below 100 mph*; 5) must yield right of way to manned aircraft*; 6) must NOT fly over people*; and 7) must NOT fly from a moving vehicle*.
*A commercial flyer can apply for a waiver of these requirements. (https://www.faa.gov/uas/request_waiver/)
The community-based safety guidelines are for organizations like the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) to determine what is safe. AMA’s guidelines (https://www.modelaircraft.org/files/105.pdf) state that for radio controlled airplanes: “1. All pilots shall avoid flying directly over unprotected people, vessels, vehicles or structures and shall avoid endangerment of life and property of others.”
A hobby flyer is in violation of community-based safety guidelines if that person is flying over people including sunbathers, livestock, or other people’s houses or property.
After we register the drone, my son and I plan to go to the Paducah Airpark.