Drones: Do’s and Don’ts

By Frederick A. Moreno
Deputy Legal Counsel

FAA adopts rules effective  August 29, 2016 for small drones in commercial use. 

On August 29, 2016, new federal rules went into effect for the operation of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“sUAS”) in the National Airspace System (“NAS”). These rules, referred to as “Part 107”, have been added to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which governs aviation. These rules DO NOT apply to sUAS that are being flown strictly for hobby or recreational use which are considered Model aircraft. Part 107 regulations focus on the personnel, equipment, and operation of sUAS being flown in the NAS for anything other than hobby or recreational use. Such activities include research and development, aerial photography, education and academic uses.


Under the new rules, a pilot’s license is no longer required to operate sUAS. Now, a person can instead obtain a remote pilot certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, a person must: pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test, be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”), and be at least 16 years of age. Thereafter, a pilot must pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every twenty-four (24) months. In lieu of taking the test, a person may demonstrate their aeronautical knowledge by holding an active pilot’s license, completing a flight review within the previous twenty-four (24) months, and completing an online training course provided by the FAA. A person may not operate the sUAS if they know or have reason to know that they have a physical or mental condition that could interfere with its safe operation. The person operating the sUAS is required to understand airspace classifications and requirements.


To be considered an sUAS, the aircraft must weigh less than fifty-five (55) pounds, including everything that is onboard or otherwise attached to the aircraft. Prior to operation, the sUAS must first be registered with the FAA. The operator must also keep up with the maintenance and repair schedule of the sUAS, is required to keep certain documents and records regarding the aircraft, and must make these documents and records available to the FAA upon request. Furthermore, the operator is required to verify that the aircraft is in a condition of safe operation prior to flight.


Most of the new rules deal with the operation of the sUAS.  Some of these new rules are:

  • During operation, the aircraft must remain within the pilot’s visual line-of-sight, unaided by devices such as binoculars or telescopes;
  • The aircraft should be operated during daylight hours;
  • Maximum speed of the aircraft may not exceed 100 mph;
  • The aircraft may not be flown above an altitude of 400 feet above ground level;
  • There must be at least three (3) miles of weather visibility from the control station;
  • No operation is allowed from a moving vehicle or aircraft;
  • The pilot must not operate the sUAS in a careless and reckless manner;
  • The sUAS may not carry hazardous materials;
  • The sUAS may not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation nor may it operate under a covered structure
  • If operation results in serious injury, loss of consciousness, or property damage of $500 or more, the incident must be reported to the FAA within ten (10) days

Most of the restrictions above are waivable if the applicant demonstrates that the operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver.

The above rules are some of the new provisions that are now in effect.  For a complete summary of the rules, see: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/06/28/2016-15079/operation-and-certification-of-small-unmanned-aircraft-systems.

Caution to Brokers

Even though you may be licensed to operate the aircraft and it is properly registered with the FAA, you could still be violating local and State laws regarding privacy by operating the sUAS. Therefore, you should be knowledgeable about local and State laws regarding photography, transportation of goods, or any other intended uses of the sUAS.

This article came from the October 2016-Vol47-2 edition of the bulletin.