New Drone Regulation in USA – What Changes?

December 17th, 2015
New Drone Regulation in USA - What Changes?

drone-regulations-inspire-1b

This is a guest post by Thomas Foster who runs the website bestquadwithcamera.com – NL

Recently the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration in USA) has announced that all drones and quadcopters which weigh more than 0.55 pounds (250grams) must be registered. The registration can be done on internet through a web form. This move was expected. They were trying to enforce drone registration and education for years. The reason for that is that there are a lot safety and privacy concerns from the FAA.

Safety concerns

There are more safety concerns. One is that drone airspace would interfere with the airspace of other aircrafts. Because of that, the FAA declared that drones are forbidden in the area 5 miles around airports and national parks. Besides that they also excluded them from certain areas for which they considered that flying drones there can pose a threat to security. All zones where you can or cannot fly are marked here. Furthermore, you are forbidden to fly a drone above the height of 400 feet and without the sight of operator. Other safety concerns are that you can attach literally everything on the drone. People were attaching guns and flamethrowers there. With registration it is easier to recognize the infringements.

noflyzonesUSA

Privacy concerns

Privacy concerns go mainly to smaller lawsuits of people who found themselves on internet and who did not like being recorded by drones. There are also some commercial videos which had been shooting at restricted territory. And finally, some newspapers use drones that make photos and videos of celebrities.

All those concerns led to the change of rules.

Penalties

Everybody who owns a drone which has more than 0.55 pounds must register it. That means that even if you have owned a drone for a long time, you must still register it. The penalties can go up to $27,500 in civil fines and up to $250,000 and three years in prison for criminal penalties. Although those penalties are harsh, FAA said that it is trying to avoid punishing and just trying to make people register the drones.

Filming – what can you do?

At the moment, aerial filming and usage of drones and quadcopters with camera are both completely legal. All you need to do is to have your drone registered. Drones with camera in general weigh more than 0.55 pounds. The things that you need to take into account are fairly standard;

  • No flying above 400 feet
  • Fly away from pedestrians and from the people that might feel irritated by your drone
  • Keep the aircraft in sight
  • Do not fly on restricted zones
  • Stay clear in the air and do not interfere with another aircraft’s operations
  • Make sure you fly safely

In case you want to use your videos or pictures commercially, you need to get a permit from the owners of the property for usage. If you do not use it commercially, you can share it (via youtube and other platforms for example) freely. This is currently allowed, but the drone legislation is changing, so it might not always stay like that. So for that, it is best to keep yourself updated with the news.

Other countries around the world

The important question that arises is, how is with other countries in the world? As USA is enforcing new rules, this will eventually become a new guideline for most law enforcers around the world. Some countries already have their own legislation which is different from the one in USA. It is best to check their own legislation when you plan to make a shooting in the country of your choosing. Below I will briefly describe the legislation of some of the countries.

European Union

European_Union_flagEuropean Union made some attempts to make a common legislation among all of its members. Unfortunately it did not work out (yet). So therefore every country has different legislation. It is best to research legislation for specific country. Below, the United Kingdom, Germany and France are described.

United Kingdom

United_Kingdom

The regulations in UK are the following (it holds for all aircrafts with weight below 100 kg).:

  • You must not endanger anyone while flying.
  • Keep the aircraft in sight – you can only fly on the distance less than 500 meters from your piloting place.
  • Smaller aircrafts used for surveillance purposes are subject to tighter restrictions to the above rule – they must fly closer. Also you need permission for them.
  • If you do aerial work and getting paid for it, you need the permission of CAA (Civil Aviation Authority).
  • You have a responsibility to conduct the flight safely.
  • You may not fly closer than 50 meters near vehicles, boats, buildings that are not your property unless you have the permission of the owner.
  • You are not allowed to fly over large groups of people.

GermanyGermany

If your drone weigh does not exceed 5 kilograms and you do not use it for commercial purposes, you do not need to register it. In other case you have to register it. You also need to follow those rules:

  • Maximum altitude above ground is 100m
  • Operation is forbidden in crowd, misfortune locations, disaster areas and some other locations. This also applies for the flying above industrial plants, factories, and military installations.
  • Within built-up areas (cities), the competent regulatory authorities / police departments must be informed in advance.
  • Within protected areas the local regulations must be observed.

franceFrance

You need to register a drone there. Furthermore,

  • Flight must not exceeding the height of 150 meters high.
  • It is forbidden to fly over people or animals
  • You must not fly 50 meters or closer to the roads
  • It is forbidden to fly in restricted areas (near airports, etc.)
  • It is forbidden to fly at night
  • It is forbidden to fly in places where you pose danger to others.
  • You need a permission of the property owner if you will make a commercial video on someone else’s property

Australia

Australia

The regulations in Australia are the following (it holds for all aircrafts with weight below 20 kg).:

  • You must not endanger anyone while flying.
  • You are not allowed to fly above 400 feet (120 meters).
  • You are not allowed to fly closer than 10 meters from another person.
  • You are not allowed to fly over large groups of people
  • You are not allowed to fly in bad weather or at night.
  • There are restricted areas – similar as in USA.
  • You may not fly closer than 30m near vehicles, boats, buildings that are not your property unless you have the permission of the owner.
  • You have a responsibility to conduct the flight safely.

As you can see in most countries the rules are quite similar. There is also a gray area in many countries with filming property from distance. Also make sure that if you post something to internet and someone asks you to remove it, you should do it. Your chances of winning such battles on court are not clear. So it is better to be careful.

 

Tips for safe and law-friendly shooting

Shooting a video or photographs with a drone is still a great thing to get good and artistic videos and photos. The new drone legislation does not really change that. A good guide was already written about that here. But in order to also abide the laws in any country, it is highly recommended to use the common sense when filming different things. Do not film things where people might feel irritated. Also it is good to check the latest changes in rules. That is because the industry is growing rapidly and rules are changing fast because of that. That industry is getting regulated very fast. However that does not mean that aerial filming will lose popularity. Many video makers and photographers are now using it and it is also becoming increasingly popular in cinematography as well. This might actually be the future of filming.

 

This was a guest post by Thomas Foster who runs the website bestquadwithcamera.com. — NL

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 Charles Thompson
Charles Thompson
Member
December 19th, 2015

Why is there no mention of the required Section 333 exemption from the FAA in order to use a drone commercially? From what I read on the FAA website (https://www.faa.gov/uas/faq/#qn4) this is an absolute requirement. A permit from the venue or location where you fly isn’t enough.

Anonymous
Anonymous
Guest
December 19th, 2015

Thanks Charles! Can you help point to what the new rules will be or is this still up in the air pun intended

 Charles Thompson
Charles Thompson
Member
December 19th, 2015
Reply to  Anonymous

I haven’t seen anything that gives any hint of what they intend, but I have heard that commercial regulation should be finalized sometime in the spring. I refer you to the FAA website about UAS for more information: https://www.faa.gov/uas/

Member
December 19th, 2015

True, commercial flyers must get an approval. This is actually quite complicated process and usually takes more than 3 months. FAA plans to introduce the whole drone certification (not just commercial) within a year. But in future we can expect many modifications of the law.

Ronn Murray
Guest
December 18th, 2015

Absolutely nothing except you have to pay a nominal registration fee and have some minor degree of accountability. But nice link bait title. ;-)

Member
December 19th, 2015
Reply to  Ronn Murray

Mostly bureaucracy, but if you do not do that, you can face the fee of up to $27,000. But the truth is that this was expected.

Member
December 17th, 2015

Still no rules for businesses with multiple operators. The company I work for has 1 drove, but we have 3 videographers. In order to legally fly we have to register and put the numbers on the drone. If we all register we will all get different registration numbers. Do we have to put all 3 on? write with marker? Its not clear yet unfortunately.

Member
December 17th, 2015
Reply to  Mitch Heil

Even the website of FAA is uncompleted at the moment unfortunately. I think it is best if you ask them. In the first month you also have free registration (although after that it won’t be expensive either).

Ghost Group LA
Guest
December 17th, 2015

Thanks for the article.

Member
December 17th, 2015
Reply to  Ghost Group LA

I am glad I was able to contribute

Bernard Shaw
Bernard Shaw
Guest
December 17th, 2015

For commercial use, i.e., wedding videography, will we along with permits from the venue we shoot at, need to HAVE and SHOW insurance protection? Is there such a service at this time?

Member
December 17th, 2015
Reply to  Bernard Shaw

Yes, you need the permits from the venues where you shoot. There are services which offer videography and photography with a drone, that includes also wedding photography/videography. Many companies offer that.

 Bernard Shaw
Bernard Shaw
Member
December 17th, 2015
Reply to  Thomas Foster

Thanks Thomas, what I am seeing it that up till now, they did not have insurance, nor did they even ask for permission let alone sign any permits! Caveat Emptor no more. Those days are gone. What I am seeing online is regulation and insurance costs. I am not complaining actually. There are massive risks and liability issues with these machines so of course we will need to sort these things out and they will be sorted out very soon. With several million being sold this year it will be mayhem in the hobby world but in the commercial area even larger changes I think. Thanks! Looks like for me as a videographer the insurance will run about $1500.

 Bernard Shaw
Bernard Shaw
Member
December 17th, 2015
Reply to  Thomas Foster

I see you have a great website! Thank you. I am ordering a SNAP drone by Vantage Robotics. It is perfect for our Wedding Video and Photography Business. I also am a Kayak Instructor and it works well there also.

Member
December 17th, 2015
Reply to  Bernard Shaw

Well insurance is quite expensive, but it is needed.
I am glad that you like my website. I wish you good luck with your business and a lot of good shots with a new drone. It can also be great for Kayak sports, you can make some wonderful shots there!

Christian Whitey Pokrywka
Guest
December 17th, 2015

Land of the “Free” alright.

Crimson Son
Crimson Son
Member
December 17th, 2015

And idiots who fly close to commercial aircraft landing and taking off. And idiots flying close other people property, sometimes violating privacy.
Not to mention that have injured themselves, friend and pedestrians.

Lets not all get libertarian on drone flying freedom.

Member
December 17th, 2015

Well, the new regulation was expected. As more people can afford a drone, more people will fly it and there will be more violations. So more regulation is something we can expect also for the future if drone usage will keep growing.

Robert Marks
Robert Marks
Guest
December 17th, 2015

Hi, thanks for the article. However after reading it this nevertheless is true but just far from complete for commercial operations! The article leaves the impression that it is easy for foreign companies to fly in european countries but this is not true for most of them.

I can only talk about Italy, Germany and Austria and Switzerland in detail but also France, UK, etc. have very strict regulations.

There is absolutely no chance for someone coming to Italy or Austria and get a permit quickly. It takes months (around 6 months) to get them and they are valid for one year. Germany is a bit easier but expect 1-2 weeks for a permit. Further within Germany the process differs in every federal state. (the forms are different, but the general rules are the same)

For Italy, forget it!, except you have good native friends to help you. ENAC does not want to talk english.(XM2 for example wer flying in Sicily recently, surely without a permit). In Austria and Italy flight controller redundancy is needed etc.

Switzerland has one of the most liberal regulations for UAV´s. There are some forbidden zones and you must stay away from any airports + don’t fly over large groups of people.

In detail it´s much more complicated.

The easy solution: For commercial operations go with a local company with good reputation.

Member
December 17th, 2015
Reply to  Robert Marks

Hi Robert,
it is true that it is hard for companies to get a permit. The best ways are as you said going to local company or get a legal adviser to do this for you.
There were attempts to make all rules in European Union the same. However there were many disagreements between member states and because of that every country has its own regulations and you need different permit for every country. That is bad and we can only hope that politicians will reach an agreement some day.

Markus Lubenica
Guest
December 17th, 2015

So does the crummy US government also regulate themselves for war/spy export purposes within the embedded EU – and especially german government? So lame this single side private regulations :P http://deutsche-wirtschafts-nachrichten.de/2015/12/16/merkel-gibt-deutschen-luftraum-fuer-us-spionage-fluege-frei/

Member
December 17th, 2015

Markus,
US government indeed uses drones for war and spying purposes and will continue to do so. For them (and other governments as well) it is good because it reduces casualties and inflicts a lot of damage to the enemies (or just spies them). Whether this is a right thing to do or not is another question.
But part of the fear why US government (and it is expected that other governments will do the same soon) is limiting the drone usage with new regulations is that they are afraid that military technology that is used in warfare might be transfered to private drones. In this case many bad things can happen and the security of people might be threatened.

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