Drones have become increasingly popular over the past few years. In addition to playing with them for fun, they are used to take aerial photos of homes for real estate listings, survey tracts of land, even find where farmers may be illegally growing narcotics! Nevertheless, these flying objects have the potential to cause problems, not only in terms of privacy (using them to take pictures of people and private property without consent) but also in terms of air safety. Drone operators do not need to file flight plans before using them, but aircraft operators do. Without flight planes established, drones have the potential of running into aircraft and causing a crash. To help prevent these kinds of scenarios, some states have enacted laws that regulate the use of drones.
All states except for Alabama, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, and South Carolina have laws regulating the use of drones either at a state or a local level. Some states merely have an advisory board but no definitive laws, some states ban specific uses of drones (such as for spying on individuals), and some states require registration and training before using a drone. If you want to operate a drone, make sure that you check your state’s laws first to prevent any legal trouble later.
Additionally, there are federal policies that regulate the use of drones. You can only operate a drone at 400 feet in the air or lower because once you pass 400 feet, you are in air space that is tightly regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). You must keep the drone within your line of sight so that you can see it at all times and carry a drone registration with you while operating it. Federal law does require that, as of 2018, drone operators register their drones with the federal government and obtain a license. There are other federal regulations for the operation of a drone, and new legislation is passed somewhat regularly.
If you have a drone, check your state and local laws to make sure that you are in full compliance; doing so now can save legal trouble later. Remember that these laws are designed to protect people’s privacy and to ensure public safety. Using a drone can be much fun and also very helpful for many occupations (such as realtor and land surveyor), but landing a fine or other legal issues will kill the fun.