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Get a Drone this Holiday Season? Know the Laws Before Taking to the Skies!


Drones were a popular holiday gift this past year, and if you were one of the many people who received one, you probably couldn’t wait to plug in the battery and take to the skies to see the world from a whole new perspective. However, very few people take the time to read up on what the laws have to say about flying these aircraft, and as a result some might find themselves in trouble with the law. So to help you avoid a run-in with authorities, here is what the laws have to say regarding drone operation.

Drone Registration

The recently-signed 2018 National Defense Authorization Act contains language that reinstates the requirement that anyone who wishes to operate a drone that weighs more than 0.55 pounds must register with the Federal Aviation administration. If you have any doubts about whether or not you need to register to fly your craft, use a kitchen scale to weigh it.

If your drone exceeds this limit with the battery included, then you must register with the FAA. Registration costs $5, is good for three years, and allows you to fly an unlimited number of aircraft under the same registration number. However, each craft you fly must display that number somewhere. This may not seem all that important, but those who fail to comply could be hit with both civil and criminal penalties, including heavy fines and even jail time if their flying causes a serious disruption.

Forbidden Flight Zones

Once you are registered, you need to adhere to airspace restrictions which cover both manned and unmanned craft. The most restricted airspace in the entire country is located over Washington DC, which is a strict “no-drone zone.” However, many other areas are also restricted, such as the space over many large cities, military operation areas, controlled firing areas, and more.

You are also forbidden from flying near any other aircraft (especially airports), near sports stadiums, directly over people, and flying at all while you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Also, don’t fly near any firefighting or rescue effort, as drones occasionally operate on the same crucial communication frequencies that these crews depend on.

Safety Guidelines

Finally, while these restrictions aren’t necessarily legal, you should always make sure to follow these FAA recommended safety guidelines to minimize the possibility of losing your drone, causing injury, or interfering with air traffic.

  • Always fly within your line of sight, even if you have a video connection
  • Never fly more than 400 feet above you
  • Stay away from any surrounding obstacles
  • Never fly within five miles of an airport without first notifying the air traffic control tower
If you find yourself facing criminal charges, don’t hesitate to reach out to a Bergen County criminal attorney who can help you fight back. Contact the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC online now to get started!
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