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Drone Laws: What You Need to Know

What are the existing drone laws, and why do you need to be aware of them?

By
Eric Escobar,
Episode #189

All of this to say that there aren’t many existing laws surrounding drones. The main agency in charge of making decisions when it comes to drones is the FAA or Federal Aviation Administration. As of now, you do not need FAA approval to fly a drone for recreational use as long as you stay under 400 ft. There’s also a nationwide law that prohibits any drone from being flown in a national park.

The FAA has begun to outline other guidelines for flying drones, such as speed (they must fly slower than 100 mph), eyesight of the operator, proximity to pedestrians, and weight (less than 55 lbs). These issues are not yet true laws, but may soon come into effect.

But there are regional laws that prohibit certain activities with drones. Note that I’m only going to mention a few, so check with your local law enforcement agency if you want to know more. In my current home of California, it is against the law to take pictures of anyone who would normally have the expectation of privacy (say in a backyard). It’s also against the law to take a picture where a person would have been trespassing.

In Colorado, it’s against the law to use drones for hunting. In Connecticut and Wisconsin, it’s a felony to mount a weapon to a drone, and in Alabama, drones cannot be used to harass fishermen or hunters. In both Texas and Tennessee, it is against the law to perform surveillance on property that is not yours.

Now that drones have become so popular, many people are using them for commercial uses. In the beginning this was mostly for photography, although drones can be used for inspections of hard to reach places such as large wind turbines, radio towers, and even for home inspections and real estate deals. Drones are even being used in agriculture to check on crop conditions. What’s really interesting is that you are not allowed to fly a drone in the US without special permission from the FAA if you intend to do so for business.

Take the following scenario. A farmer can fly a drone over his orchard for fun, but if uses what he sees (say crop damage in a particular area) for business decision making, then it’s technically illegal. In order to fly a drone for commercial purposes you need to get an allowance from the FAA. I believe the government is having a hard time keeping up with the sudden explosion of drone usage.

It will be really interesting to see how companies like Amazon and Google use drones for their business uses. Amazon has made statements on using drones for instant deliveries, but it’s really too soon to see if that will be viable from a business point of view.

For more information on commercial flying of drones, and for some rock solid guidelines for flying your drone, check out the following links:

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

http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/

Now I really want to hear from you. Have you ever flown a drone? Are you creeped out by drones? What laws do you think should govern drones? I’d love to hear what you think so please post on my Facebook Page.

Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post them on Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple! 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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