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The FAA's 400' "rule" is not a rule, but a guideline. Here's why:
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geofox784
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Am I wrong that the "stay below 400' AGL" rule is just a guideline and not a rule for those operating recreationally? This is commonly considered as a "rule" within the community and media... but I believe this is just a misconception.
  
Here is why:
  
First of all... all mentions of the 400' AGL "rule" alongside other "rules" on official FAA websites list them as "guidelines".

But onto the legal explanation:  
In 2012 congress passed public law 112-95 Section 336 "Special rules for certain unmanned aircraft systems." See page 67. It states that as long as you are operating under the following rules, the FAA may NOT make any future rules regarding said model aircraft:

- Operating recreationally. (So this does NOT apply to those operating commercially. Thus the FAA can makes rules... resulting in FAA part 107 which includes the 400' AGL requirement among other rules)
-  Operated within a community based set of safety guidelines. (The AMA is the most common one. Their safety code only requires you fly under 400' AGL if you are within 3 miles of an airport.)
- Under 55 pounds
- Operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft
- When flow within 5 miles of an airport, notifies the airport of your plans (If the tower objects with a legitimate reason the FAA considers this endangering the NAS (National Airspace System) and thus you are breaking the law.)
- It is also noted in the definition of the "Model Aircraft" that it "...is flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft"
   
So in order for you to be exempt from any rulings of the FAA, you must be operating within those parameters. Essentially these are your rules. However this does not apply to airspace requirements that apply to all type of aircraft, such as TFR's (temporary flight restrictions).
  
The FAA has acknowledged section 336 in this statement. The document explains FAA's interpretation of the vague section 336. The only mention of 400' AGL in this document is a mention of a "recommended set of voluntary operating standards" listed in 1981 in the background explanation of the document. The document further clarifies each of the section 336 requirements, but does not interpret the law in such a way that requires the aircraft to stay under 400' AGL.
  
I am not saying that you should just blow off the < 400' AGL guideline without being careful and being aware of nearby aircraft. That would be endangering the NAS which section 336 of course does not permit. And it would be stupid. What I am saying is that it is perfectly legal to fly as high as you want as long as you are maintaining line of sight, watching out of other aircraft, and not entering some kind of restricted airspace.
  
This is all to my understanding after doing quite a lot of research, but if I am wrong about any of this please tell me. I'd love to learn more.
  
EDIT: Another user found this interesting letter FAA basicly confirming everything here: http://amablog.modelaircraft.org/amagov/files/2016/07/FAA-400feet.pdf

On another note... I'm pretty sure that any state, local, or business laws, ordinances, or rules forbidding drones from flying within their airspace conflict with federal law as the FAA has jurisdiction over all airspace. The states, cities, and business do not. However, they can say that you are not allowed to operate (take off and land). Although I am finding this harder to prove. Interested in what others have to say about this.




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DrEMHmrk2
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Very robust explanation. I personally don't keep under 400' by default, by do try to maintain visual... whenever possible.
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geofox784
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DrEMHmrk2 Posted at 2017-3-1 21:17
Very robust explanation. I personally don't keep under 400' by default, by do try to maintain visual... whenever possible.

"try to maintain visual... whenever possible."

That's the hardest part for me. It's so easy to fly well outside of VLOS with the phenomenal range of the mavic. Probably the most broken rule of all UAS owners haha.
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DrEMHmrk2
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geofox784 Posted at 2017-3-1 21:19
"try to maintain visual... whenever possible."

That's the hardest part for me. It's so easy to fly well outside of VLOS with the phenomenal range of the mavic. Probably the most broken rule of all UAS owners haha.

I mean, a fog bank might roll through, or swamp gas might reflect the light from Venus, but only for a moment.
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Ex Machina
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Now, do we define "Line of Sight" as a straight, unobstructed line between the controller and the AC, or do we have to factor in the ability of the pilot to perceive the drone at distance, which, after all, is going to be quite relative. IOW, the radio transmitter definition of LOS or the common sense understanding?  ;)
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DrEMHmrk2
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Well since we are talking technical rules, we must ignore the common sense answer and go with the technical definition.

Line Of Sight: a straight line along which an observer has unobstructed vision.

I have line of sight to at least the moon according to my math.
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Quadcoptercrazy
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Back in the good old days you could fly any way you wanted, back when it was a free country no one cared.  How many planes were downed by RC hobbyists back then?
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geofox784
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DrEMHmrk2 Posted at 2017-3-1 21:30
Well since we are talking technical rules, we must ignore the common sense answer and go with the technical definition.

Line Of Sight: a straight line along which an observer has unobstructed vision.

From FAA's interpretation of 336:
"Based on the plain language of the statute, the FAA interprets this requirement to mean that: (1) the aircraft must be visible at all times to the operator; (2) that the operator must use his or her own natural vision (which includes vision corrected by standard eyeglasses or contact lenses) to observe the aircraft; and (3) people other than the operator may not be used in lieu of the operator for maintaining visual line of sight. Under the criteria above, visual line of sight would mean that the operator has an unobstructed view of the model aircraft. To ensure that the operator has the best view of the aircraft, the statutory requirement would preclude the use of vision-enhancing devices, such as binoculars, night vision goggles, powered vision magnifying devices, and goggles designed to provide a “first-person view” from the model. 2 Such devices would limit the operator’s field of view thereby reducing his or her ability to see-and-avoid other aircraft in the area."

TL;DR: Legally speaking... you can only fly as far as you can see it with the naked eye.
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hallmark007
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Ex Machina Posted at 2017-3-1 21:29
Now, do we define "Line of Sight" as a straight, unobstructed line between the controller and the AC, or do we have to factor in the ability of the pilot to perceive the drone at distance, which, after all, is going to be quite relative. IOW, the radio transmitter definition of LOS or the common sense understanding?  ;)

VLOS this is classed as using your own vision without aid, excluding prescription glasses and contact lens,i.e. You cannot use binoculars.
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fans90d4f438
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Quadcoptercrazy Posted at 2017-3-1 22:34
Back in the good old days you could fly any way you wanted, back when it was a free country no one cared.  How many planes were downed by RC hobbyists back then?

same amount as today. Zero.
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fans90d4f438
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Ive been trying to tell people (who dont know better) the difference between law and guideline for awhile now.  

Also, If DJI didnt want their products flown FPV, they wouldnt have offered goggles and FPV technology built into the mavic. If they didnt want them to go over 400feet, they would have restricted them to 400 feet high altitude limits.
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fans90d4f438 Posted at 2017-3-2 08:05
Ive been trying to tell people (who dont know better) the difference between law and guideline for awhile now.  

Also, If DJI didnt want their products flown FPV, they wouldnt have offered goggles and FPV technology built into the mavic. If they didnt want them to go over 400feet, they would have restricted them to 400 feet high altitude limits.

Same old answer, why have cars got such high and varying speeds also Motorbikes, should we just drive them around as fast as they can go because the manufacturer has made them that way,
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Quadcoptercrazy
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fans90d4f438 Posted at 2017-3-2 08:01
same amount as today. Zero.

No they care that's why the  FAA is involved.
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rydfree41
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If you look at the number of drone operators that crash the darn thing almost as soon as they take it out of the box I can see their concern . They have also added the word ""Must" as in you Must follow the guidelines now .  Law or not you will not win a fight with the FAA .
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geofox784
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rydfree41 Posted at 2017-3-2 08:36
If you look at the number of drone operators that crash the darn thing almost as soon as they take it out of the box I can see their concern . They have also added the word ""Must" as in you Must follow the guidelines now .  Law or not you will not win a fight with the FAA .

Where is this "Must"?
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fans90d4f438
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I see "must" no where.

And if someone can show me the # of cases successfully prosecuted (or hell, even an arrest made or citation issued) for flying over 400 feet and or flying outside of LOS.,  (not talking about flying near an airport or flying very close to an aircraft) maybe I'll listen.

Until then, I'll continue to fly within the limits and boundaries of the actual Mavic.  
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hallmark007
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fans90d4f438 Posted at 2017-3-2 09:22
I see "must" no where.

And if someone can show me the # of cases successfully prosecuted (or hell, even an arrest made or citation issued) for flying over 400 feet and or flying outside of LOS.,  (not talking about flying near an airport or flying very close to an aircraft) maybe I'll listen.

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/faa-drone-fines well you said if someone could show you.
Flying in a careless or reckless or both is against the law.
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PimpDawg
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I work with an attorney who is also a pilot so when I bought my drones I had a conversation with him about them to get his thoughts from a pilot's perspective. He said so long as they stay below 1000 feet and out of his airspace he has no problem with them.
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geofox784
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hallmark007 Posted at 2017-3-2 09:42
https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/faa-drone-fines well you said if someone could show you.
Flying in a careless or reckless or both is against the law.

"Flying in a careless or reckless or both is against the law."

Yes.. but flying above 400' AGL in a responsible manner is not careless or reckless. Certainly not against the law.

Thats a great article. However none of those people were fined for breaking VLOS rules or for flying greater than 400' AGL. They were all flying in "careless or reckless" manners. Flying over large crowds, super close to active airports, over stadiums, hitting people....
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geofox784 Posted at 2017-3-2 09:55
"Flying in a careless or reckless or both is against the law."

Yes.. but flying above 400' AGL in a responsible manner is not careless or reckless. Certainly not against the law.

Ok so you don't think flying over 400 feet out of line of site is dangerous careless and reckless.
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geofox784
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hallmark007 Posted at 2017-3-2 10:08
Ok so you don't think flying over 400 feet out of line of site is dangerous careless and reckless.

Definitely not all of the time. Flying at 600' AGL while you can see the drone in an area where there is no other aircraft activity.... and you can hear other aircraft long before they are a problem.... is not careless or reckless.

However if you are flying so far away that you can't keep an ear open for other aircraft near your drone then you are definitely flying carelessly, especially in an area with low flying aircraft activity.
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PimpDawg
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hallmark007 Posted at 2017-3-2 10:08
Ok so you don't think flying over 400 feet out of line of site is dangerous careless and reckless.

No, I do not.
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hallmark007
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geofox784 Posted at 2017-3-2 10:12
Definitely not all of the time. Flying at 600' AGL while you can see the drone in an area where there is no other aircraft activity.... and you can hear other aircraft long before they are a problem.... is not careless or reckless.

However if you are flying so far away that you can't keep an ear open for other aircraft near your drone then you are definitely flying carelessly, especially in an area with low flying aircraft activity.

Then you are flying within the law that's all good , in my country commercial and hobbyists fly under the same rules except in IAA controlled airspace.
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hallmark007
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Yeah but you already crashed at less than 20 feet, god only knows what destruction you can cause if you get any higher.

“A learned fool is more a fool than an ignorant fool.”
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PimpDawg
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hallmark007 Posted at 2017-3-2 10:33
Yeah but you already crashed at less than 20 feet, god only knows what destruction you can cause if you get any higher.

“A learned fool is more a fool than an ignorant fool.”

How did I know you'd resort to that You would need to clearly define what "careless and reckless flight" is in order to accuse someone of it.

"Never wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig loves it."
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geofox784
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hallmark007 Posted at 2017-3-2 10:33
Yeah but you already crashed at less than 20 feet, god only knows what destruction you can cause if you get any higher.

“A learned fool is more a fool than an ignorant fool.”

If you have sudden loss of power you're likely going to cause an equal amount of damage falling from 400 feet as you are falling from 10,000 feet. You will hit terminal velocity.

You shouldn't be flying over crowds anyway.  
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hallmark007
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PimpDawg Posted at 2017-3-2 10:38
How did I know you'd resort to that  You would need to clearly define what "careless and reckless flight" is in order to accuse someone of it.

"Never wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty and the pig loves it."

If you are flying over 400ft 120 meters out of line of site you are entering flight space of manned aircraft i.e. Rescue helicopter, if you can't see it how can you avoid it, if your happy to risk the lives and property of others that's your prerogative.
So maybe now you can show me why it's a good idea to fly out of line of sight and whatever height your AC  lets you and how you might be able to avoid others using this airspace from accidents.
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hallmark007
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geofox784 Posted at 2017-3-2 10:41
If you have sudden loss of power you're likely going to cause an equal amount of damage falling from 400 feet as you are falling from 10,000 feet. You will hit terminal velocity.

You shouldn't be flying over crowds anyway.

Not to sure what you mean, maybe meant for someone else.
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PimpDawg
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hallmark007 Posted at 2017-3-2 10:50
If you are flying over 400ft 120 meters out of line of site you are entering flight space of manned aircraft i.e. Rescue helicopter, if you can't see it how can you avoid it, if your happy to risk the lives and property of others that's your prerogative.
So maybe now you can show me why it's a good idea to fly out of line of sight and whatever height your AC  lets you and how you might be able to avoid others using this airspace from accidents.

What if a paratrooper deployed his chute near my Mavic which ripped a hole in the canopy and he fell to his death.

We can "what if" all the day long.

Until "careless and reckless flight" is clearly defined you can't accuse someone of it.
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PimpDawg Posted at 2017-3-2 11:06
What if a paratrooper deployed his chute near my Mavic which ripped a hole in the canopy and he fell to his death.

We can "what if" all the day long.


If you don't know what carelessness and recklessness mean , maybe get a dictionary or back to school..

And this proves my point about your crash..

If a paratrooper deploys his parachute it will be he who has permission, it's your job not to be in his space. I can see all of this is a learning curve for you..
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hallmark007 Posted at 2017-3-2 11:12
If you don't know what carelessness and recklessness mean , maybe get a dictionary or back to school..

And this proves my point about your crash..

Thanks!

Have a good day, Richard.
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geofox784
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"Not to sure what you mean"
Pretty simple concept. Once an object hits terminal velocity it will be going no faster at any height above that height. Its not going to hit any harder at 10,000 feet than it will at 400'. It likely has enough resistance to hit terminal velocity from 400'. Like I said.. you shouldn't be flying over crowds anyway.


If you can hear a low flying aircraft you simply drop altitude to 100' AGL or similar. And repeating what I said.... if you are flying so far away you can't hear a low flying near your drone then you shouldn't be that far away. VLOS ends substantially sooner than you can hear.

Legally speaking "careless" means " to use the degree of attentiveness, caution and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would exercise." This does not mean you have to consider every remote "what if" possibility. A plane COULD fly into my area at 300' and hit my drone even though its within VLOS. There will always be risk. To mitigate that risk to a virtually zero amount you just drop altitude if you hear a nearby aircraft.

Reckless is simply a stronger meaning of "careless" "a gross lack of carefulness, with complete disregard of the adverse consequences.". For example flying over a huge crowd where loss of power would guarantee injury. Or flying in front of an airport.

Not sure why you are so worried about this if you'r not even in the United States. This only applies with the FAA.
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hallmark007
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geofox784 Posted at 2017-3-2 11:48
"Not to sure what you mean"
Pretty simple concept. Once an object hits terminal velocity it will be going no faster at any height above that height. Its not going to hit any harder at 10,000 feet than it will at 400'. It likely has enough resistance to hit terminal velocity from 400'. Like I said.. you shouldn't be flying over crowds anyway.

You will find FAA is a member of ICAO, world governing body which sets the world standard for safety in aviation, they cover 191 countries and it is a consensus of all these countries that set SARP  Standards and Recommended Practices , so we're all involved here whether we like it or not.
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Masdog
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So its all over the place. So an sUAS FAA associate called me yesterday and I asked him about flights above 400ft for some customers and he said you can fill out a certificate of waiver to ask for a request. So in their eyes we are not allowed above 400agl unless you get approval. It is vague and needs more clarification but if you require a waiver to fly above 400ft agl then I would assume we are not supposed to be above 400ft agl without proper approval.
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geofox784
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Masdog Posted at 2017-3-2 12:27
So its all over the place. So an sUAS FAA associate called me yesterday and I asked him about flights above 400ft for some customers and he said you can fill out a certificate of waiver to ask for a request. So in their eyes we are not allowed above 400agl unless you get approval. It is vague and needs more clarification but if you require a waiver to fly above 400ft agl then I would assume we are not supposed to be above 400ft agl without proper approval.

That is true for this operating under FAA part 107. Those operating commercially that do not fall under section 336.
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rydfree41
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In plain sight multible times on the FAA site .
https://www.faa.gov/uas/faqs/


There are two ways for recreational or hobby UAS fliers to operate in the National Airspace System in accordance with the law and/or FAA regulations. Each of the two options has specific requirements that the UAS operator must follow. The decision as to which option to follow is up to the individual operator.

Option #1. Fly in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336). Under this rule, operators must:
a.Fly for hobby or recreational purposes only
b.Follow a community-based set of safety guidelines
c.Fly the UAS within visual line-of-sight
d.Give way to manned aircraft
e.Provide prior notification to the airport and air traffic control tower, if one is present, when flying within 5 miles of an airport
f.Fly UAS that weigh no more than 55 lbs. unless certified by a community-based organization
g.Register the aircraft (UAS over 0.55 lbs. and less than 55 lbs. can be registered online at registermyuas.faa.gov; UAS 55 lbs. or greater must be registered through the FAA's paper-based process

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hallmark007 Posted at 2017-3-2 09:42
https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/faa-drone-fines well you said if someone could show you.
Flying in a careless or reckless or both is against the law.


try the actual FAA site .

https://www.faa.gov/uas/faqs/

One "Must" Follow a community set of guidelines .

The community guidelines are of course the RC community which has had those self imposed guidelines for decades .
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geofox784 Posted at 2017-3-2 11:48
"Not to sure what you mean"
Pretty simple concept. Once an object hits terminal velocity it will be going no faster at any height above that height. Its not going to hit any harder at 10,000 feet than it will at 400'. It likely has enough resistance to hit terminal velocity from 400'. Like I said.. you shouldn't be flying over crowds anyway.

A human takes about 1800 feet to hit terminal velocity.  I don't expect something lighter to take less.
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rydfree41 Posted at 2017-3-2 12:56
try the actual FAA site .

https://www.faa.gov/uas/faqs/

Here's part of it you will see under the rules it clearly says MUST fly in visual line of sight, I think that kinda covers everything they're talking about here.
I would imagine flying outside of visual line of site would be careless and reckless..




Option #1. Fly in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336). Under this rule, operators must:
Fly for hobby or recreational purposes only
Follow a community-based set of safety guidelines
Fly the UAS within visual line-of-sight
Give way to manned aircraft
Provide prior notification to the airport and air traffic control tower, if one is present, when flying within 5 miles of an airport
Fly UAS that weigh no more than 55 lbs. unless certified by a community-based organization
Register the aircraft (UAS over 0.55 lbs. and less than 55 lbs. can be registered online at registermyuas.faa.gov; UAS 55 lbs. or greater must be registered through the FAA's paper-based process)
For more information Visit our "Fly for Fun" webpage for safety rules and guidelines that apply to recreational or hobby UAS operations under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.
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hallmark007 Posted at 2017-3-2 13:05
Here's part of it you will see under the rules it clearly says MUST fly in visual line of sight, I think that kinda covers everything they're talking about here.
I would imagine flying outside of visual line of site would be careless and reckless..

Yep that's why I posted that site . Sorry I meant to reply to fans90d4f438 and not your post ,lol
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