My son and I have been playing with small drones for over a year now. He has shown an affinity for anything remote piloted and his skill develops way faster than mine. Given that we do several activities in remote areas, I decided to purchase a larger and more professional style drone.
The first drone I bought for my son was the Cetus brushless fpv drone from Beta FPV. I paired that with a set of FatShark FPV goggles and off we went. Josh and I were able to successfully pilot it up and down our street and around the nearby park without issue. We also had fun piloting it around our house when the weather was bad. We made the decision to go bigger and better because I thought it would be fun to fly farther with better quality FPV.
My brother has been an aviation enthusiast for years. He has purchased and crashed several RC planes over the years. He had shown me a DJI FPV drone a couple years ago when I was at his house but mentioned he wasn’t able to fly it due to a local airport being too close to home. This year, I reached out to him and asked if he would be willing to sell it.
After paying my brother for the DJI FPV drone, he shipped it out to me. I had never flown a drone of this size or caliber before. My brother mentioned that because of it’s size I needed to check local regulations. This seemed like a logical and straight forward step until….
For better or worse I am pretty good at what I do. When set to task, I will do my best to find as much information as I can before moving forward. What I found with Drone regulations was complicated and at times difficult to navigate. I will do my best to summarize what you need to know and why.
Operation of an “Unmanned aircraft” is based on intent and not the exchange of money. To be considered a commercial use, money does not have to change hands directly related to the drone footage for it to be considered a commercial use. If you take video or photos of anything and then put them on a website that is at all monetized through any means, you are a commercial use pilot for drones. There are several examples of the FAA going after people and collecting fines of $100k or more for violations.
To protect yourself from these fines, it is important to obtain a remote unmanned aircraft license from the FAA. If you fly drones and do anything other than fly them for your own personal enjoyment, you NEED this license.
In addition to the license, there are other FAA requirements to register your drone and your flight plan. Understanding the airspace requirements and safety issues in your area is pivotal to safe recreation. Again, I will do my best to over-simplify the process for safe flight below.
- Download the “B4UFLY” app for your phone
- This application shows real time airspace notifications and flight restrictions. It also gives you a way to notify the local air traffic control towers of your intended flight plan.
- Download the “LAANC” app for your phone
- This gives your a quick way to apply for authorization for flying in controlled airspace and a pre-flight checklist to ensure you are meeting requirements.
- Visit the Pilot Institute and obtain the TRUST certificate
- This is a safety certificate for the recreational pilot that indicates you reviewed the information and are aware of specific airspace requirements and safety hazards or restrictions
- Register your drone with the FAA
- Register with IACRA
- Use the FTN from the IACRA to register for a Unmanned Aircraft General license exam
- Study for Exam
- I highly recommend taking the course from Pilot Institute to prepare for the test
- Alternatively, you can review the FAA handbook and then take the test
- File your flight plan through either the LAANC app or use your account at the FAA DroneZone and enjoy your flight.
I am in the process of taking my licensing exam now. I will post some drone video footage once I am able to legally fly and obtain it. The goal of my flights is educational and recreational, but I want to teach my kids and any of my followers how to do it right. Stay tuned for the follow up.