Investigating Drone Laws

Drones have many uses beyond their military potential. They can be used to deliver packages (as proposed by laws-for-drones-faa-rulesAmazon Prime Air), cover sports from fresh, exciting angles (FOX Sports being one), even performing tasks through terrains too rough for humans to navigate – like planting trees in Myanmar or aiding a search for missing people.

Why should you care? You might be interested in piloting a drone yourself (either for surveillance in rural areas like a farm or for fun); you might just want to find out more, or you might even be one of the unlucky people who find themselves on the wrong end of a voyeur’s drone surveillance like a couple charged in February 2017 for spying on their neighbors in Orem, Utah, USA.  Here’s a closer look at worldwide drone laws…

What Drones Are

Drones are controlled remotely, either by a human or an autopilot system, and they’re also referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems or Unmanned Aircraft Systems. That’s UAVs, RPASes and UASes for short. An article from Public Radio International notes that whether it’s considered a toy or more dangerous device depends on what it’s being used for and how.


According to the Federal Aviation Authority’s website, drones can be flown recreationally under two different laws.  Under The Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336) you’re only allowed to fly for recreational purposes and within an obvious line of sight; you’re also obligated to give way to manned aircraft, and if you’re within five miles of the nearest airport, you have to let the airport and traffic control tower know beforehand.  By law, there’s also a weight restriction of “no more than 55lbs (approximately 24, 95kg) unless certified by a community-based organization”.

Under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (14 CFR Part 107), your drone has to be registered with the FAA and the pilot will need an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate. Operational requirements can be downloaded directly from the FAA’s website.

Safe Airspace

Some airspace (including residential areas, military areas and sports events) are restricted for obvious reasons. drone_law_faa_rulesThe same (generally worldwide) goes for public areas (like parks), closed areas (indoors), near airports (unless arranging with the airport and air traffic control towers) and busy, public spots – yes, this is to avoid the obvious risk of injury by drone.  This seems to count world-wide. Here are some apps and websites that keep track of airspace safe (or not) for drones.

Also Read: The Case for Drones

In fact, the FAA released a study in 2017 documenting drones dropping from the sky and their potential to injure the people below them. If you’re going to fly one, fly it safely.

FAA’s Where to Fly
No Fly Drones (United Kingdom)
Swiss Map (Switzerland)
DroneMate App (Worldwide)
DroneMate for Android (Worldwide)

United Kingdom

Drones in the UK fall under the Civil Aviation Act 1982 and the Air Navigation Order 2009.  Smaller drones are classed as 20kg (approximately 44.09 lbs) and don’t need permission from the authorities to fly, providing they keep it flying where it can be seen and fly safely. Drones with cameras attached are prohibited from flying 150m (approximately 492, 13 ft) from a “congested area”, or 50m (approximately 162, 04 ft) from a person or vehicles not being driven by the owner/pilot of the drone. And, of course, you’re not allowed to “drop animals or objects” from a drone that could potentially damage property or hurt anyone.

Related: Drones For Security

Drones between 20kg and 150 are required to register for a permit according to, and the pilot must have a “certificate of worthiness” and a licensed flight crew, too.

Drone Insurance

Drones are valuable (and accidents happen). Would you pilot a plane that wasn’t insured? Luckily, many insurance companies have started offering a form of specialized insurance aimed at drones. Here’s a look at some of the options out there to get your UAVs insured.

Hollard (South Africa)
Insure my Drone
AIG UAS Insurance

Watching the Laws

Some law practices have specialized branches aimed at drone law. This might come in handy if you’re unsure about a certain aspect of drone law, if you get harassed by a drone or if you yourself are accused of anything drone-related. Keep an eye on worldwide drone laws through these sites, which are updated regularly.

Master List of Drone Laws (from UAV Coach)
Drone Law Journal (USA)
Drone Safe UK
Drone Law Japan

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