Currently in the United States of America, small unmanned aircraft systems may be operated for recreational, a.k.a. hobby purposes under specific safety guidelines as established by Congress. These small UAS are typically referred to as model aircraft and are governed by the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. These recreational unmanned aircraft must be operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization or CBO. The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is a good example of a CBO with a set of safety guidelines. If you are not operating within the safety program of a community-based organization then you should follow the FAA’s guidance located at this link: https://www.faa.gov/uas/getting_started/fly_for_fun/
The FAA does require all owners of sUA weighing more than 0.55 pounds to register-online before the aircraft is actually flown.
It’s of most importance for sUAS pilots to understand that in remote, rural and agricultural areas, manned aircraft, including fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, may be operating in close proximity to the ground. Pilots of sUAS should maintain good situational awareness, give way to and remain well clear of any and all manned airplanes and helicopters.
Operators controlling UAS in these areas should maintain situational awareness, give way to, and remain a safe distance from these low-level, manned airplanes and helicopters.
So what constitutes recreational use of my sUAS?
If you are operating an unmanned aircraft for personal interests and enjoyment, then you are considered a recreational pilot. For example, if you were taking photographs for your own personal use then you would be considered a recreational pilot. Conversely, if you were taking photographs for compensation or to simply further commerce in any way, then you would be considered a commercial operation and would in fact need to comply with 14CFR Part 107.
Safety guidelines for sUAS recreational users
- Adhere to community-based safety guidelines, as developed by organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).
- Fly no higher than 400 feet AGL
- Maintain Visual Line of Sight with you’re sUAS at all times / use a visual observer.
- Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations.
- See and avoid other aircraft and obstacles at all times.
- Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.
- Contact the airport and control tower before flying within five miles of an airport or heliport to notify them of your proposed flying activity
- Do not fly in high winds or reduced visibility (check manufactures guidance)
- Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operation of the sUAS.
- Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.
- Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.
- Always seek the permission of individuals before photographing their likeness especially when within areas where one has a reasonable expectation of privacy.