US Drone Law
Cutting Edge Legal Analysis for
Cutting Edge Drone Technology
US Drone Law is not a law firm. The contents of this site do not represent legal advice and are for informational purposes only.
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Frequently Asked Questions
A drone should not be flown more than 400 feet into the air and should not be flown within 5 miles of an airport. You also cannot fly a drone around major events or crowds. Otherwise, you are pretty much free to fly your drone wherever you can safely do so. Your backyard, an open field at a park, or a larger acreage owned by a friend are all possible locations for flying your drone.
For all practical purposes, there is no difference between the terms UAS, sUAS, UAV, and drone. A UAS is an “unmanned aircraft system,” which is just the government’s fancy word for a drone and the components used to fly the drone (e.g. controller, etc). If we wanted to be sticklers, we would say that a drone is just an unmanned aircraft (UA). Federal law defines an unmanned aircraft as “an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft”. The FAA seems to prefer the term UAS of UA.nnAn sUAS is a subcategory of all UAS and stands for “small unmanned aircraft system.” sUAS are drones that weighs more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds. UAV stands for unmanned aerial vehicle and is yet another acronym for those drone enthusiasts who enjoy the more technical jargon. Unmanned aircraft, UAS, sUAS, and UAV are all often referred to simply as “drones.”
There is a volunteer firefighter station with a helipad about 2 miles from where I would like to fly my drone. Can I fly my drone within 5 miles of a helipad?
Yes. However, because you are within five miles of an airfield you are responsible for ensuring that the following conditions are met:
- It is safe to fly the drone
- Drone flight will not interfere with manned aircraft
- You maintain line-of-site with your drone at all times so you can see and avoid manned aircraft
- You have notified the operator of the heliport and resolved any safety concerns.
Many drones are not large enough or powerful enough to carry a GoPro camera. Most drones that come with a built-in camera are not designed to add an external camera. If the drone comes with a camera mounted on a gimbal (a mechanism under the drone that is designed to maintain the cameras orientation despite the movement of the drone) then the gimbal and camera can most likely be replaced with a GoPro camera and a suitable gimbal. GoPro reportedly intends to release its own drone in the fall of 2016
Drones can be purchased from a number of online and local retailers. If you can find a local retailer with the drone you are interested in, we encourage you to start there. A local retailer such as a hobby shop can often provide you with some hands-on startup help and also assist with ordering replacement parts should the need arise. If you want a great variety and feel comfortable making an independent decision, then online retailers such as Amazon, eBay, and Bangood are great places to start.