Drone Laws in the United States of America (USA)

Flying Drones in the USA

In this article, you’ll learn what you need to know about flying a drone in the USA.

Before you can fly in the US, you need to register your copter with the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). The registration requirement applies to both private and commercial drone users. However, commercial pilots must pay a $5 processing fee.

After completing the registration, you will receive a number for your drone that you need to attach to your aircraft.

New rules for recreational flyers

Please note that since May 2019, new rules concerning recreational flyers are in force. Currently (August 2019), not all have been implemented. We encourage you to check the FAA website regularly for updates if you plan to travel to the US with your drone in the next few months.

The new law requires recreational drone pilots to pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test. This test will probably be available by fall 2019.

Furthermore, you can now only fly in uncontrolled airspace up to 400 feet (about 121 meters).

Flights in controlled airspace require a permit. These can be requested through the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system. In addition, there are some approved locations which are marked with a blue dot on this site (note altitude restrictions). Another way to learn more out restricted airspace is using the official app B4UFLY.

Overview: Drone rules in United States of America

Recreational use of drones allowed? Yes, after registration or approval
Commercial use of drones permitted? Yes, after registration or approval
Maximum Altitude:400 Foot (121,9 Meter) in uncontrolled airspace.
Is drone insurance mandatory? No. Learn more about drone insurance here.
Does the drone need a badge?Yes.
Drone labels can be ordered here
Is a registration necessary? Yes.
Keep distance to airports
Respect the privacy of other people
Contact information

For general questions about drones, contact [email protected]

Maximum Altitude: The maximum allowed drone altitude in uncontrolled airspace is 400 feet (about 122 meters)

Maximum horizontal distance and FPV: Multicopter must always be operated in visual line of sight. FPV is possible with a spotter, as long as this visual contact holds.

Compulsory insurance: There is currently no mandatory insurance in the USA. Nevertheless, you should always protect your flights accordingly. We have collected detailed information on drone insurances here.

Maximum take-off weight (MTOW): Private pilots may take aircraft up to a mass of 55 pounds (25 kilograms) into the air.

Distance to airports: At airports, a distance of 5 miles (8,047 meters) is required.

Other safety distances: Keep your distance to crowds, public events, stadiums and emergency operations.

Flight bans: Flight bans apply in all national parks. Also, you can not fly in Washington and New York City.

Operating Times: Drones may only be used during the day and at dusk. Specifically, this is the time from 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.

Special regulations: At present, the rules in the individual states or even cities may differ from the laws at the federal level. You should also check the local regulations during a USA trip.

For example, New York City prohibits the use of drones completely. Exceptions are only possible for TV stations. The maximum allowed speed of the drone is 160 kmh (which is more than sufficient).

Rules for Commercial Pilots: If you want to upgrade a copter for commercial use in the United States, you will need to take a test and qualify for a Remote Pilot Certificate (there are preparation materials here).

We have researched the listed drone regulations for the USA to the best of our knowledge. We cannot guarantee the correctness of the information. If you want to be on the safe side, contact the competent aviation authority. Alternatively, you can also ask the embassy in your country for further information about the regulations. Please leave us a comment when you receive news and/or gain experience with your copter in the United States of America!

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About the author

Since January 2015, we travel around the world. In our backpack we carry a camera drone which we use to capture the best places from a bird’s perspective. First we travelled with a DJI Phantom 2. But now we use a Yuneec Typhoon H. On our blog we share the best tips for you about travelling with a copter. If you have questions about this article or new information, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment!

Discussions

  • Tom Kirdas | 05.02.2019

    re Flying drones at night: The FAA specifies 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset for commercial drone pilots (107) but not for recreational pilots. This video insists that hobbyists can fly at night IF they maintain VLOS at all times: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZM1m9o5Ars I have three very powerful strobe lights on my Mavic Pro that enable me to see it easily — and I live in such a rural area that there’s almost no chance of my flying over people. Your blog is excellent, and I envy your ability to travel around the world.

  • Chris Barnde | 17.03.2019

    I am seeking registration to fly in the US as an Australian Tourist, however the process seems to only allow US residential and mailing addresses?

  • Dawn Simonelli | 03.04.2019

    As a licensed Drone Pilot in France, do I have to take the FAA 107 in USA to fly commercially or just follow their rules.

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