Drones are big business in California. Enterprising entrepreneurs are using these unmanned aerial vehicles to do everything from mapping crop yields to taking wedding videos to performing roof inspections. But, personal and commercial drones are governed by several different sets of laws and regulations. If you want to avoid facing heavy fines, you need to make sure you are in full compliance. Here is a guide to some of the basic laws that govern most drones.
What the FAA Has to Say
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enacted a set of revised rules for commercial drones that went into effect in 2016. The purpose of these rules is to free up the FAA from having to grant waivers and special permission every time someone wanted to use a drone.
The details of these rules will be discussed more fully below. If a business wants to use the drone in a way that violates the FAA rules, they can still apply for a waiver. However, it is important to remember that waivers often take several months to process.
California's Drone Laws
The FAA rules apply throughout the United States. On top of the FAA rules, California has set up its own rules. Most of the rules relate to permitting. For example, if you are going to be filming over a street or highway that the California Department of Transportation is responsible for, you will first need to secure a permit.
California also has rules about drones that interfere with first responders, and invasion of people's privacy.
It is possible to obey all of the FAA regulations and still get into legal trouble if you break any of the California specific rules for drones.
Basic Rules and Laws Governing Drones
Here are the basic rules you need to follow when flying a drone:
- Operators must have a visual line of sight with their drones. In other words, you have to be able to see the drone with your naked eye while you are flying it.
- You cannot operate a drone after dark. You can operate it during twilight if your drone has an anti-collision alarm.
- Drones cannot fly over people who are not directly part of operating the drone.
- Drones cannot go higher than 400 feet.
- Drones cannot go faster than 100 MPH.
- You must have a remote pilot's certificate from the FAA to fly a commercial drone.
If you are going to be using a drone for commercial purposes, you should make sure your insurance policy covers any drone related damage.
Drones are a continuously evolving area of law. If you have questions about drone law compliance, drone permitting, or lawful drone operation practices, contact the Law Office of Mohsen Parsa.