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Got Drone? New FAA Regulations: To Infinity and Beyond!

By Peter Clarke, JD on September 06, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the internet.

Drones are coming down in price, and they no longer are confined for deployment by military officials and high-level business moguls. So, can you just go out and buy and use a drone, completely unfettered? Sorry, no. Not under new FAA rules. But where there is a will, there is a way.

If you have a business purpose for your drone, you could be fined for using your drone without obtaining FAA approval. However, beginning last week, you can apply for a license by taking a multiple choice exam and by paying a modest fee.

With a "remote pilot license," you legally can operate your drone, even if you intend to make money, for example, by taking and selling photos or videos, or even by delivering goods. (Amazon has been interested in this new delivery method). You have to abide by various FAA restrictions.

If you want to use your drone for business purposes, what are the requirements? You must be at least 16-years-old. You need a government-issued, valid photo ID. You must take and pass the "knowledge test" at a authorized test center. You need to pay $150 to the testing company. You must apply for your Remote Pilot Certificate. You are required to complete a TSA background check. You then need to print out your temporary certificate while waiting for the final one to be delivered by mail. And, viola, you register your drone.

It can take weeks to get an appointment with a testing center. There are close to 700 such centers around the country. You have up to two hours to take the test for 60 multiple choice questions. To pass,you need to be correct on 70 percent of the questions (you can be wrong on 18 questions). Apparently, the questions are not too difficult. The FAA does offer a two-hour training course.

The rules that must be followed provide that you cannot fly: at night; over people; higher than 400 feet generally; out of your eyesight; at over 100 mph; from a moving vehicle; or within five miles of an airport.

While it is true you do not need a remote pilot license if you simply want to use your drone for personal, non-business purposes. But if your drone comes in at more than 0.55 pounds, the drone must be registered. And if you are a "drone racer," which means that your drone will weave around and through obstacles while operated with view glasses on your head, you still are required to obtain a remote pilot license.

This is simply a brief overview, and we thank CNET for a recent article on this subject. Plainly, if you intend to operate a drone soon, please consult the full FAA rules on your own and perhaps with an attorney.

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Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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