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Rules and Regulations.
876 13 2017-12-6
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ICDroneSE
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Hi, I recently purchased the Phantom 3 SE after lots of research and going through many small hobby drones. Seemed like a good price for a 4k platform, etc. But that isn't the point of this post. I want to know how strict FAA rules and regulations are. I totally understand that you definitely shouldn't fly in No Fly Zones or around airports(like within a mile), but the other rules and regulations seem to be overdone, or really underthought. I feel like some of the rules for drones should just not apply for advanced drones such as those form the DJI brand. For instance, these drones really won't crash unless you want it to, and safety rules in terms of drones seem so overdone (I understand that they may be useful for less advanced drones where they can easily crash)

My question is: What have you guys found acceptable in terms of places to fly? How strict are the rules that the FAA provides and have you guys even gotten into serious trouble for not following them?

I feel like so many people don't know these rules and get away with it.

I've seen many videos of people taking city shots. There are definitely airports around there-do they actually notify them? If you go by the book, isn't it technically illegal to fly in cities?
I live in the suburbs and right around 4.5 miles from the nearest airport. This is definitely in the 5 mile radius. I've flown my Phantom on one occasion, and I didn't know whether to actually contact the airport. I flew it in a secluded area where I have been noticing little to no air traffic.

Keeping your drone in sight. Does having a camera mean that it is still "in sight"?

Do you think FAA rules for recreational use are currently flawed, and that there should be different rules for different types of drones, as they seem to fit drones into one giant category, when they are large different in the current era.

2017-12-6
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Mark The Droner
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Your post covers a lot of territory - I don't think all this can be addressed without writing a small book ....

To start, you're talking about flying in the US... so the rest of the world can ignore this thread...

First a pilot needs to qualify what kind of flying he's doing.  Most of the time, with a new drone pilot, it's recreational, or he wants to fly as a hobbyist.  And so he has probably heard of Part 101 and/or Section 336, and he may believe he must follow the rules of Part 101 which stems from Public Law 112-95 Sec 336.  And that's true.  But that's not really a good way to initially approach flying a drone in the U.S, because that outlook will likely lead to later confusion.  The rules for recreational flying may seem fairly simple, but the way they are applied is a bit complicated, and it's easier to wrap your head around them, at least initially, by considering that you must operate your sUAS under the authority of Part 107.  

PART 107—SMALL UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEMS

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=e331c2fe611df1717386d29eee38b000&mc=true&node=pt14.2.107&rgn=div5


Most new pilots and even many experienced pilots equate Part 107 with commercial piloting and vice versa, but that's not really accurate and that idea breeds confusion.  As you can see from the Part 107 title, there is nothing about it that suggests commercial flying.  It seems to imply that it includes everybody.  And that's because it does include everybody.  The truth is, commercial piloting is only a subset of Part 107.  Part 107 can potentially include tower inspections, bridge inspections, traffic monitoring, law enforcement, first aid, security, border protection, crop monitoring, cattle herding, shart attack prevention, search & rescue, human organ delivery, railway safety, smog monitoring, mosquito-killing applications, oil pipeline inspections, emergency external defibrillator delivery, training, teaching, education, all sorts of things.  And it can even include hobbyist and recreational non-model flying too.  Part 107 applies to the operation of civil small unmanned aircraft systems within the United States.  It is all-encompassing.

But it's likely that you as a hobbyist drone pilot want to keep things simple.  You may not be interested in learning the vast intricacies of Part 107, studying, perhaps taking a course to learn Part 107, paying for that course, taking the test, paying for taking that test, etc.  Fortunately, you have an "out" which is stated in the first section under "Applicability."  It states that the Part does NOT apply ... in certain conditions.  And one of those would be flying as a hobbyist under Public Law 112-95 Sec 336 / Part 101.  Hooray!

Attorneys call this a "carve-out", meaning you, as a hobbyist or recreational sUAS pilot, would have been included in Part 107, but you shall be excluded from the rules of Part 107, provided you follow ALL the provisions of "Special Rule for Model Aircraft" Sec 336/Part 101.  The rule is "special" because it allows us to legally fly a sUAS in the National Airspace System but at the same time be excluded from the rules of manned aircraft and also the rules of sUAS pilots who are certified to fly under Part 107.

So now, in order to achieve your goal of being excluded from the rules of Part 107, you must understand, fully, what it means to fly under Part 101.  Which is to say, you must understand fully what it takes to designate your sUAS as a "model" as described in Public Law 112-95's Special Rule Sec 336 so that you can then fly your model aircraft under Part 101.

HR 658 - Public Law 112-95 Sec 336 - Special Rule for Model Aircraft -

Scroll to the second-to-last page:  https://www.faa.gov/uas/media/Sec_331_336_UAS.pdf

You might notice that Sec 336 is not really a set of rules for pilots;  it's actually a rule forbidding FAA from putting into effect any new rules or regulations for certain sUAS which can fall under the definition of "model" as described in the rule.  So your goal here is to be sure your sUAS fits this definition for model during any/every particular hobbyist/recreational flight.  

Part 101 Subpart E—Special Rule for Model Aircraft  -

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/tex ... 1.3.15#sp14.2.101.e  

It's short and sweet, but is actually not as simple as you might think.  Because the rule states certain things - one of them is to have the ability to show that as you fly your model aircraft, you abide by a nationwide CBO's safety guidelines.  

(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization

...and the only recognized nationwide CBO in existence currently is the AMA.****  So you must read and be able to show you abide by the AMA Safety Code...

Acadamy of Model Aeronautics Safety Code:  https://www.modelaircraft.org/files/105.PDF *

...as well as the other things to legally qualify your sUAS as a "model aircraft" flying under the Special Rule - such as flying within VLOS, notify airports within 5 miles, fly an sUAS that's under 55 lbs, you must fly strictly for fun, give way to manned aircraft, and ensure you don't endanger the safety of the National Airspace System.**  

But the important thing to understand is that ALL of these points must be followed.  Otherwise, per the language of these Parts which defines your sUAS, your aircraft does not qualify to fly under the Special Rule and your flight is not a model flight under Public Law 112-95 or Part 101.  Instead, since the Part 101 exclusion doesn't apply, it is a flight as defined by the sUAS rules of Part 107, which will be different in many ways.  Hence, your recreational/hobbyist flight defaults to Part 107.  So, as a recreational pilot, you'd have to fly under FAA's Small UAS Rule (Title 14 CFR, Part 107).  And if you don't qualify for that, which you almost certainly wouldn't since it requires a Part 107 pilot certification and also a Part 107 aircraft registration, you'd be a Part 107 violator.

To summarize simply, there is no such thing as a Sec 336/Part 101 flight which breaks a rule;  there is no such thing as a "modeler" who is a rule-breaker.

Finally, all Part 101 recreational/hobbyist model pilots who intend to fly an model over .55 lbs (i.e. 8.8 oz or 250g) must register with the FAA per the National Defense Authorization Act signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 12, 2017.  To complete registration, the pilot must be a U.S citizen and be at least 13 years of age, and he/she must affix their assigned FA number on each model aircraft they fly.  More info here:  https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/model_aircraft/  Register here:  https://registermyuas.faa.gov/register ***

Hope this helps.


*AMA membership is not required but we must follow its safety guidelines.  Some day there may be some other nationwide CBO in existence whose safety guidelines we can follow, but as of now, we have no choice but to follow the Safety Code of the AMA.  Here is a link to AMA's Safety Handbook which has more detailed info regarding its Safety Code and which, currently, all recreational pilots must adhere to:  https://www.modelaircraft.org/files/100.pdf

**Endangering the safety of the National Airspace System covers a broad range of flight activity potentially including among other things:  1) flying in a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction area), 2) flying in Class B (think "Busy") airspace without authority - some of which will extend outside the 5 mile radius of an airport and all of which requires ATC clearance and airport authorization rather than simple airport notification, and 3) flying over 400' AGL.  The burden of responsibilility as to where and how to fly safely and legally ultimately falls upon the model aircraft pilot.  See https://www.faa.gov/uas/where_to_fly/airspace_restrictions/ for more info.  I've found a systematic pre-flight check of an intended flight area with www.airmap.io to be very helpful.  In addition, you can use this site to quickly and easily check for TFRs (know your nearest airport's IATA code):    https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/

***An extremely small sUAS which weighs less than 250 grams and which is capable of sustained flight in the NAS and whose pilot wishes to fly recreationally may be flown by a pilot who is not registered with FAA, but technically, from a legal standpoint, he is still obligated to fly under Part 101, which means he must still follow a nationwide CBO's safety guidelines, he must still call an airport if within 5 miles, etc., so that his tiny sUAS qualifies as a model and he is eligible to fly under the Special Rule.  Otherwise, his flight would default to a Part 107 flight and the pilot would be a Part 107 violator.  

****There are at least a couple organizations who claim to be "nationwide community-based organizations" but none of them have been tested as legitimate in a court case and my own research reveals fundamental flaws in their claim.  In addition, Peter Sachs, established drone attorney, whose link is found below, recognizes only the AMA as a CBO, per his site.

refs:  dronelawjournal.com;  forbes.com;  ecfr.gov;  modelaircraft.org;  faa.gov




2017-12-6
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ICDroneSE
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Mark The Droner Posted at 2017-12-6 13:00
Your post covers a lot of territory - I don't think all this can be addressed without writing a small book ....

To start, you're talking about flying in the US... so the rest of the world can ignore this thread...

Just glancing at the rules and regulations of the AMA, I'm noticing a trend of: If you don't modify the drone or do anything stupid, you should be fine... Is this a fair statement to make?
2017-12-6
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ICDroneSE
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ICDroneSE Posted at 2017-12-6 13:35
Just glancing at the rules and regulations of the AMA, I'm noticing a trend of: If you don't modify the drone or do anything stupid, you should be fine... Is this a fair statement to make?

Also, I'm still seeing that these regulations are supposed to cover the whole umbrella of recreational drones- whether it be home-made without onboard computers for redundancy and safety to intelligent drones such as ones from DJI. Do you feel like they should be more specified and rewritten for different classes of drones?
2017-12-6
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Mark The Droner
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I think the safety code was written primarily for fixed wing ACs, so I think it could use some editing.  For example, the no hand-catch rule.  I don't like that one, and I don't think it applies fairly to Phantoms.  Or the Spark.  OTOH, I would not want to hand-catch an Inspire.  

But the main thing is, this Safety Code is why the AMA is so highly regarded - they have not had a major mishap yet - and it's been 88 years.  In fact, the AMA has been in existence almost 30 years longer than the FAA.  So their safety code works, which is why Congress is reluctant to go in and force us into draconian regulations, and it's why Sec 336 exists.  It exists to protect us from the FAA - it keeps the FAA from forcing us into following rules that are unreasonable.  The AMA Safety Code is a good thing and we should be happy we have it.  Otherwise, things would be a lot tougher for us, I think.  

However, it only works if we follow it!  And that is why it's written into the law - even if indirectly.


Edit:  Here is a video from the AMA dated Dec 1, 2017, explaining Sec 336 and why it's so important to follow it precisely.  However, the dialogue is not perfect as he states that AMA membership is required for legally flying under Sec 336, and that is not so.




Nonetheless, we should all appreciate the AMA and their efforts to allow us to fly as hobbyists without undue regulations.  We should all, as hobbyists, follow all the rules of Sec 336 which includes AMA's Safety Code and guidelines.  We should all support the AMA with membership because they are fighting for our right to fly as simple hobbyists.  Membership may also make it easier for us to show that we are abiding by AMA's Safety Code.
2017-12-6
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DJI Susan
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Hey there, the flight safety is always top priority for every drone. If you believe you have authorization to operate in a Restricted Zone, please contact flysafe@dji.com for further assistance.
2017-12-6
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ICDroneSE
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Mark The Droner Posted at 2017-12-6 14:11
I think the safety code was written primarily for fixed wing ACs, so I think it could use some editing.  For example, the no hand-catch rule.  I don't like that one, and I don't think it applies fairly to Phantoms.  Or the Spark.  OTOH, I would not want to hand-catch an Inspire.  

But the main thing is, this Safety Code is why the AMA is so highly regarded - they have not had a major mishap yet.  So their safety code works, which is why Congress is reluctant to go in and force us into draconian regulations, and it's why Sec 336 exists.  It exists to protect us from the FAA - it keeps the FAA from forcing us into following rules that are unreasonable.  The AMA Safety Code is a good thing and we should be happy we have it.  Otherwise, things would be a lot tougher for us, I think.  

Thanks for the info!
2017-12-9
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ICDroneSE
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DJI Susan Posted at 2017-12-6 20:14
Hey there, the flight safety is always top priority for every drone. If you believe you have authorization to operate in a Restricted Zone, please contact  for further assistance.

Nope, just trying to get familiar with the rules.
2017-12-9
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ICDroneSE
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Also, the AMA guidelines only requires you to contact airports/helipads if you are intending on flying above 400 feet and within 3 miles of an airport/helipad. Part 107 state that you have to contact them if you are flying within 5 miles. Since Section 107 gives the general rules, would it be fair to say that the AMA guidelines override the section 107 if you are flying in accordance with Part 101 and other AMA guidelines?
2017-12-9
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Mark The Droner
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I think you better read it again.  You're talking about A. 2. (c), right?  What that entry of the safety code implies is that height is not limited unless you're within three miles of the airport.  And in that case, the rule clearly states that height is limited to 400 feet unless you notify the airport operator.

The federal law still requires that you notify the airport if you're flying within five miles.  And some of the things you need to tell the airport is how high you're flying, where you're flying, and when you're flying.  

There is nothing in the safety code regarding notifying heliports unless there is a risk you may interfere with operations or traffic patterns.  If necessary, you must set up some kind of agreement which obviously would require two-way communication such as a phone call.

The Part 107 rules regarding airports vary depending on the airport.  

I think you need to edit your post above.  There is no such thing as section 107.  There is section 336 and there is Part 107.  

Not sure what you mean by override...  There are sometimes certain advantages to flying Part 101 rather than Part 107... that's true.  And there are sometimes certain advantages to flying Part 107 rather than Part 101.  It depends on what you want to do...

Part 107 rules are not general rules.  They are specific rules for flying under Part 107.  

But if you are flying dutifully under Part 101, you are excluded from those Part 107 rules.  That's a privilege and one that cannot be abused.  



2017-12-9
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QiiFlight
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Mark The Droner Posted at 2017-12-6 13:00
Your post covers a lot of territory - I don't think all this can be addressed without writing a small book ....

To start, you're talking about flying in the US... so the rest of the world can ignore this thread...

This is the best explanation of rules I've seen since I began this endeavor.
2017-12-9
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Mark The Droner
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Thanks very much, sir.  
2017-12-9
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ICDroneSE
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Mark The Droner Posted at 2017-12-9 10:46
I think you better read it again.  You're talking about A. 2. (c), right?  What that entry of the safety code indicates is that height is not limited unless you're within three miles of the airport.  And in that case, height is limited to 400 feet unless you notify the airport operator.

The law still requires that you notify the airport if you're flying within five miles.  And some of the things you need to tell the airport is how high you're flying, where you're flying, and when you're flying.  

Sorry I meant Part, not section... thanks for the clarification
2017-12-10
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Nebicaneser
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Good post Thanks for share Mark !!
2018-1-20
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