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Overview of current hobbyist FAA rules (updated 7/23/19)

msinger

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As of 5/17/19, here's a complete list of rules hobbyists must follow when flying outdoors in the US:
  • Register your drone with the FAA
  • Mark your registration number on the exterior of the drone (decals available here)
  • Fly a drone under 55 lbs
  • Fly only for hobby or recreation
  • Follow the safety guidelines of a nationwide community-based organization (CBO)
  • Keep your drone within your visual line of sight (VLOS) of the person operating the drone or within the visual line of sight of a visual observer (VO) who is near the operator and able to communicate verbally
  • Follow all FAA airspace restrictions, special security instructions, and temporary flight restrictions (TFRs)
  • Don’t fly over people
  • Don’t fly near other manned aircraft
  • Don’t fly near emergency response activities
  • Don’t fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Don’t fly above 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace (Class G)
  • Don’t fly in controlled airspace (Classes B, C, D, and E Surface) without FAA authorization

    Note: Following the rules above will both ensure you’re obeying US law and help you operate your drone safely. Keep in mind that the FAA has the authority to pursue enforcement action against people operating drones in a manner that they determine endangers the safety of the national airspace system (NAS). You could be liable if you harm other people and/or property even if you follow all of the rules above.

With the release of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 and new Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft notice released today, a few rules have been changed for hobbyists. Those changes include the following:
  1. Follow the safety guidelines of a nationwide community-based organization (CBO)

    The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires the FAA and community-based aeromodelling organizations (CBOs) to coordinate the development of safety guidelines for recreational small unmanned aircraft operations. As of today, no recognized CBOs or coordinated safety guidelines exist. Until the FAA establishes the criteria and process and begins recognizing CBOs, they are allowing pilots to do one of the following:
    1. Operate in accordance with existing safety guidelines of an aeromodelling organization (like the AMA) as long as those guidelines do not conflict with existing FAA rules.

    2. Follow the FAA’s existing safety guidelines – which are based on industry best practices.

      Note: When following the rules of a CBO (or aeromodelling organization), you should be able to explain to an FAA inspector or law enforcement official which safety guidelines you are following.

  2. Keep your drone within your visual line of sight (VLOS) of the person operating the drone or visual observer (VO)

    Previously, the FAA required the operator to maintain VLOS. As of today, the FAA also allows a (VO to maintain VLOS. The VO must be near the operator and be able to communicate verbally without the assistance of an electronic device. Using a VO generally is optional, but a VO is required if the operator is wearing FPV glasses/goggles that make it impossible to maintain VLOS.


  3. Don’t fly above 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace (Class G)

    Class G airspace is uncontrolled airspace in which the FAA does not provide air traffic services. You may operate your drone in this airspace up to an altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL).


  4. Don’t fly in controlled airspace (Classes B, C, D, and E Surface) without FAA authorization

    Classes B, C, D, and E Surface are controlled airspace. The FAA has created different classes of airspace to reflect whether aircraft receive air traffic control services and to note levels of complexity, traffic density, equipment, and operating requirements that exist for aircraft flying through different parts of controlled airspace. These airspace classes are usually found near airports.

    In order to fly in controlled airspace, you must do one of the following:
    • Request authorization through the FAA’s online LAANC system using an app like AirMap or one of the other apps listed here.

    • Fly in a recreational flyer fixed site that has a written agreement with the FAA. A current list of authorized fixed sites can be found in this spreadsheet or on the FAA UAS Data map (represented as blue dots).

      Note: When flying at a fixed site in controlled airspace, you must adhere to the operating limitations of the fixes site’s agreement. See the fixed site’s sponsor for more details.
 
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Spark 317

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The VO must be near the operator and be able to communicate verbally without the assistance of an electronic device.
I've heard of radios being used with spotter(s) to gain VLOS distance under the old rule, but not anymore it appears.
 

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Billy Kyle and 51 drones made a video about the new rules and Billy suggested that it makes sense now for regular drone pilots to take the 107 commercial test. It is $150 dollars and I don't know if this is something I really need.
 

msinger

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I've heard of radios being used with spotter(s) to gain VLOS distance under the old rule, but not anymore it appears.
Radios were never allowed for hobbyists. With the old rules, the pilot had to maintain VLOS at all times.
 
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msinger

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Billy Kyle and 51 drones made a video about the new rules and Billy suggested that it makes sense now for regular drone pilots to take the 107 commercial test. It is $150 dollars and I don't know if this is something I really need.
I didn't watch that video yet, but flying Part 107 would allow you to fly in controlled airspace since you could use LAANC to get FAA authorization. However, it also means you'd need to follow all of the other Part 107 rules. If you must be able to fly in controlled airspace today (outside of the fixed flying sites), then Part 107 is the only way you can do it.
 

Gryphon962

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I didn't watch that video yet, but flying Part 107 would allow you to fly in controlled airspace since you could use LAANC to get FAA authorization. However, it also means you'd need to follow all of the other Part 107 rules. If you must be able to fly in controlled airspace today (outside of the fixed flying sites), then Part 107 is the only way you can do it.
I agree. My understanding is that if you have a Part 107 cert, then you are operating under those rules, period, no matter the purpose of the flight (commercial or recreational) and use LAANC to get authorization for flight in controlled airspace.
 

msinger

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My understanding is that if you have a Part 107 cert, then you are operating under those rules, period, no matter the purpose of the flight (commercial or recreational)
With a remote pilot license, you can fly both commercially and recreationally.

Before taking off, you need to decide if you're going to fly commercially or as a hobbyist. Then, you follow the appropriate rules for that entire flight.

In the case of flying in controlled airspace, flying commercially is currently the only way to do it. You cannot get authorization through LAANC and then fly under hobbyist rules.
 
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Gryphon962

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With a remote pilot license, you can fly both commercially and recreationally.

Before taking off, you need to decide if you're going to fly commercially or as a hobbyist. Then, you follow the appropriate rules for that entire flight.

In the case of flying in controlled airspace, flying commercially is currently the only way to do it. You cannot get authorization through LAANC and then fly under hobbyist rules.
I'm still new to this, but I think that part 107 is the norm - it covers all UAS operation for any purpose unless you want to fly per the exception, which can only be recreationally. The text of Part 107 doesn't mention the term 'commercial'. So I dont think you are only permitted to fly under 107 for commercial flights - you can do it for all flights.

I might be wrong, but the Applicability section in the code doesn't limit it to commercial flights only.
 
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msinger

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I'm still new to this, but I think that part 107 is the norm - it covers all UAS operation for any purpose unless you want to fly per the exception, which can only be recreationally
Right -- you can certainly fly recreationally (just for fun) under Part 107 rules.

To clarify, when I said commercially vs. recreationally, I was referring to following Part 107 rules or the hobbyist rules listed in the first post above. The point I was trying to make is that you don't have to always follow Part 107 rules if you have a remote pilot license. It's perfectly acceptable to take a recreational flight following the hobbyist rules. The only thing you cannot do is mix the Part 107 and hobbyist rules in the same flight.
 

Spark 317

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It's perfectly acceptable to take a recreational flight following the hobbyist rules. The only thing you cannot do is mix the Part 107 and hobbyist rules in the same flight.

As I understand it, an example of a 107 pilot flying as a hobbyist gathering video footage, would not be able to gain financially from the footage since the pilot acquired it while flying as a hobbyist.

Is this correct?
 

msinger

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As I understand it, an example of a 107 pilot flying as a hobbyist gathering video footage, would not be able to gain financially from the footage since the pilot acquired it while flying as a hobbyist.

Is this correct?
That's correct. You'd need to fly under Part 107 rules if you're going to knowingly capture footage that you plan to sell.
 
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rtvman

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New to the forum as a recreational flyer. The new LAANC system has me a bit confused based on my home location. On maps in both Airmap and KittyHawk, I am outside the 5 mile radius of the Purdue Univ Airport in West Lafayette, IN. In KittyHawk, when I request authorization it shows my map position and at the bottom of the screen a green oval with a 2 in it. Clicking on that brings up Class D 0.95 mi and Class E2 0.95 mi. I am not given an option to request authorization. Does this mean I simply follow the safe flying rules, etc... below 400 ft? Airmap does let me request an authorization, but comes back with No airspace authorization is available, with links to Rules you should review and Rules you are following. When I am WITHIN the 5 mile radius of the Purdue airport, both apps let me request authorization and I do get an authorization via text. My question- am I OK to fly at my home outside of the 5 mile radius? I guess both apps give me what I think are fairly ambiguous answers. Thanks.

rtvman
 

msinger

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On maps in both Airmap and KittyHawk, I am outside the 5 mile radius of the Purdue Univ Airport in West Lafayette, IN
Can you post a screenshot so we can see the location you're referring to?
 

41Flyer

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Another thread said hobbyists cannot fly at night. I did not see that mentioned above. Does someone have a link to that??
 

Spark 317

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Looks
Here is one from KittyHawk and one from Airmap

Hello rtvman from central Indiana.

Looks like you are good to fly.

I don't have KittyHawk but I assume the green oval is an OK to fly and the 2 represents the 2 air spaces that you are near.
 
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msinger

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Here is one from KittyHawk and one from Airmap
The area where your blue dot is located is in Class G airspace. You don't need FAA approval to fly as long as you don't enter the controlled airspace to the NW.
 

msinger

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Another thread said hobbyists cannot fly at night. I did not see that mentioned above. Does someone have a link to that??
It's not illegal for hobbyists to fly at night. You can find the hobby flying rules here.
 

GClef

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It's not illegal for hobbyists to fly at night. You can find the hobby flying rules here.
I believe there is a section that says
It's not illegal for hobbyists to fly at night. You can find the hobby flying rules here.
In the COA for limited recreational operations, under Provisions, 1. Flight Operations: c. “This Authorization and the Special Provisions shall be in effect between civil sunrise and civil sunset local time.”
Would this prohibit flying at night?
 

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