Drones Dos and Don’ts

What you should know before operating a UAS

Just for fun

If it’s for recreational use only, then you don’t need a special license or permit to operate a drone or Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in the U.S., you just need to follow a set of safety guidelines that are mostly common sense, such as flying within visual line of sight and giving way to manned aircraft.

You do have to be careful where you fly, however, and the FAA has a long list of no-fly zones and airspace restrictions you should be aware of. These include military bases, major sports stadiums, major airports, and certain national parks and monuments, such as the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, and a number of sensitive dams, among other sites.

The FAA has developed a mobile app called B4UFLY to help recreational drone operators know whether there are any restrictions or requirements where they want to fly.

Strictly business

If it’s for professional purposes, such as agriculture, infrastructure, goods delivery, etc., then the rules are rather formal. There are three ways to get authorization to fly a UAS in this case:

  • Following the requirements in the Small UAS rule (Part 107)
  • Following the rules in your Section 333 grant of exemption
  • Obtain an airworthiness certificate for the aircraft

For more information, see the FAA’s UAS FAQs.


In Europe, things are more complicated, with different regulations in each country across the continent, though efforts are underway to harmonize these across the European Union.

For example, in France, any flight over the city of Paris needs authorization from aviation authorities. In Germany, drones cannot weigh more than 25kg, and in Britain, drones above 20kg are subject to the same regulations as manned aircraft.

The European Commission has released a blueprint of standards that it proposed in November, which will unify rules across the EU and be operational by 2019. On November 22, the European Commission, national authorities and the industry made further progress with the Helsinki declaration. This specifies three priority areas to allow safe commercial drone operations by 2019: setting up legal requirements for drones, investing in demonstrators that help open up the market, and setting industry-wide standards.

The new measures would create a common low-level airspace called the U-space that covers altitudes up to 150 meters. The U-space will be governed by a system similar to existing air traffic control management, which will be automated using tools like e-identification and geo-fencing.

The world

And, if you want to know what the drone regulations are in other parts of the world, check the Global Drone Regulations Database.

Safe flying!

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