In the world of unmanned aircraft systems, 2016 will be best remembered for the FAA’s release of its final Part 107 regulations for commercial small UAS operations. (See here for more on Part 107.) However, the beginning of December marks that special time of year—a time for the FAA to turn its focus back to operators of recreational UAS.
During the holiday season, when hundreds of thousands of drones will be given as gifts, the FAA increases its efforts to encourage safety and regulatory compliance from new drone owners. Last year at this time, the FAA released its small UAS registration rule, requiring owners to register all UAS weighing over roughly half a pound with the agency. This year, the FAA recently released a new video directed at first-time drone users, providing them with the necessary background for safe and legal recreational drone operation.
The FAA video focuses on three main points: registration, responsibility and flight rules. First, the FAA reminds pilots that they must register their new UAS at https://registermyuas.faa.gov and properly mark the registration number. Second, the FAA repeats some basic underpinnings of UAS law: that the drone is an aircraft, that the operator is piloting and aircraft, and that safety is the responsibility of the pilot. These are the central pillars of FAA regulation. Finally, the FAA reminds pilots to follow some common sense flight rules, including never flying over people, never flying near other aircraft, and never flying into restricted airspace, such as airports, national parks, or “no drone zones.” To make things easier, the FAA encourages use of its smartphone app, B4UFly, to give recreational pilots additional situational awareness regarding flight regulations.
Notably, the FAA also asks pilots to respect the privacy of others, even though typically the FAA leaves issues of UAS privacy for the states to regulate.
State governments have also taken the holiday season to remind new drone operators of the rules. For example, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has made a concerted effort this month to secure local news coverage related to safe UAS operation. The state has also created these drone holiday gift tags, designed to provide the recipient of a new drone with background on federal and state drone rules.