Welcome to WallCloudChaser.com, home of storm chaser Jarrod Schoenecker from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I will state that this isn't a complete listing of all rules and regulations regarding drones, nor am I an expert. I am an enthusiast starting out droning who has had to do quite a bit of research myself. This information is my general findings on the subject, which I hope makes your experience a little easier.
(Above) The DJI Phantom 3 Standard is the drone model I chose to go with. I would have liked the extra few features on the Professional version or the new Phantom 4 more though. (Photo: DJI.com)
For the below, the FAA classifies your typical hobby/consumer drone as an aircraft in the category of a Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) for recreational use. The below general list of regulations applies for your run-of-the-mill public person. Different rules apply for different situations, such as if you are a commercial pilot.
Basic Regulations for Drones (sUAS)
(Above) Respect these signs if you see them. Such areas like sports stadiums will display such a sign and it is for the greater good of the safety of all fans and players at the stadium or event.
As noted above, you can make money off of your drone or use it for your business IF you apply for an exception with the FAA AND they grant you permission to use it for the criteria boundaries you listed.
In researching these, the applications are very specific as to the equipment you are going to use and the exact activities you will be using them for. Most of them were granted an exception with a time-frame of use of 2-3 years that I could tell.
If you change drones or run to the end of your exception time though, you must re-apply for an exception again and have it approved. As of right now, this is the only loop-hole out there to use it more than strictly a hobby other than becoming a commercial pilot of sorts.
Flying in Different Airspace
If you are a commercial pilot, certain government entities, or of the like you operate under some different rules. As well, if there is any type of special event going on such as an airshow or search-and-rescue operations, it may be possible that an area of restricted airspace has been set-up.
The first thing you will have to make sure of is what proximity am I going to fly my drone in relation to restricted airspace for it?
One more practical application of restricted temporary airspace is when a special purpose aircraft may be in the area to fulfil a job. This could be a crop sprayer, medical helicopter or of the like. This would likely be more common for most. If you see or can here a manned aircraft in the vicinity, it is best to bring your drone to the ground and check it out to see if you can continue flying or not.
Flying Out of Sight
Flying out of sight is not prohibited except with the use of a spotter. This means you cannot use your drones camera(s) as your guidance in flying it. If you or your spotter can't see your drone personally and IN THE DAYLIGHT hours, then you can't fly it.
I don't want to ruin all your fun in one day though. Drone racing has become extremely popular in recently and many major facilities are hosting events just for such a thing. Flying a drone with almost sole use of an on-board camera is necessary in this type of situation. This could very well be an outlet to some of the restrictive elements of owning and flying a drone.
Click HERE to see drone racing at Miami Dolphins stadium.
Thoughts on FAA Regulations
The Federal Aviation Administration has responded to the large increase in drone usage by the general public in the last couple years with avengance. Frankly, I can definitely see where they are coming from and it isn't all bad. Drones should have simply fallen under the guidelines for model airplane users with maybe an additions or two made for some of their unique capabilities. In fact, model airplane organizations have been heavily fighting back to not end up having the same regulations posed upon them that drone flyers are.
However, the rules surrounding drones are meant to protect the general public and property. The FAA has a duty to make sure that airspace is safe, as well as the ground below.
Let's face it, you don't want a drone falling out of the sky and hitting you on the head or smashing into your windshield. As well, you wouldn't want to be flying your Cesna on a nice sunny day and have one hit your prop. The consequences of these simple things are not very good.
(Above) A drone crashed into the stands at the US Open in 2015 piloted by a 26-year-old teacher. (Photo: NYDailyNews.com)
Besides physical harm there are also concerns with privacy. Who would like a crazy ex stalking you, an angry neighbor spying on you, or some other various examples using a drone above your property, your home? Not me. One should have the ability to protect their own privacy and generally feel safe from such drone uses. This thought does make me question those pilots that fly over the masses of the United States photographing your house or farm in order to sell you a picture of it.
What I most definitely do not agree with the FAA regulating is the use of what I can and cannot do with media I capture using my drone in the safe manner they have laid out.
Currently, you can not make a cent on any photo or video you capture using a drone unless you get special written permission from the FAA for the common person. Although anyone can apply for this exception, it is tedious, not guaranteed, and has a timeframe. That timeframe is typically with the next couple years, at which time, you will have to ask for an exception again. I do not understand how this is any different than taking out my DSLR and photographing or my video camera and videotaping something and selling it.
What I also do not agree with is having to publicly register your address or a PO box for everyone to see. Yes, they do consider this an aircraft but I am not going to fly a private jet into your house. This is just a drone, mostly used for the purpose of fun. I don't want to pay $100+ a year for a PO Box I am not going to use to protect my own privacy so people don't come hunt me down where I live for unknown psycotic reasons.
Having to PUBLICLY register your home address publicly is not a safe move and really is completely unnecessary. They could certainly keep your private contact information on file and not display it. There are means of getting that information if needed and I don't think it needs to be publicly displayed.
Should I Be a Droner?
Whether or not you should be a droner is mainly a question of whether or not you think you are responsible enough to be and whether or not you mind the hassel.
If you can deal with the following, you are probably going to be okay and have at least some fun being a droner.
Generally, if you said yes to those above five questions, droning is probably for you. There is a little bit of hassel involved and regulations are currently going under reform to be even more restrictive. I am hoping that does not happen.
Plain and simple, reading up on the current regulations and using your common sense on a cautious side will serve you well being a droner and let you enjoy your experience operating one (as much as one can).