The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented changes for recreational drone operators, as mandated by Congress in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.
On May 17, 2019, the FAA issued a notice about the upcoming changes for recreational drone use. The full ruling is posted on the federal register.
4 major changes hobbyist need to know about:
- Recreational flyers will be required to pass a knowledge test before flying.
- Operators will need to operate within the guidance of community-based organizations (CBOs), who have their own, FAA-approved sets of guidelines.
- Registration is required and each drone will require external markings.
- For any flight in controlled airspace (airspace other than class G), operators will need to obtain authorization through the low-altitude authorization and notification capability (LAANC) system. Individually requested access to air space will no longer be approved by air traffic controllers.
Despite the guidelines being announced, the knowledge test, the CBOs, and the LAANC system for recreational users are not ready yet. According to the FAA’s website, the agency plans to have all of these features and requirements fully implemented by the summer of 2019.
What should hobby pilots do in the meantime:
Knowledge Test for hobby drone pilots:
The FAA has 180 days to develop the knowledge and safety test. It will be a different test than the Part 107 exam for commercial drone pilots. Until the test is out, this requirement will be waived.
The FAA is developing the criteria and intends to collaborate with stakeholders through a public process. Until the FAA establishes the criteria and process and begins recognizing CBOs, it cannot coordinate the development of safety guidelines.
Until the CBOs are established, the FAA is asking recreational flyers to adhere to existing basic safety guideline for drone flights:
- Fly only for recreational purposes
- Keep your unmanned aircraft within your visual line-of-sight or within the visual line of sight of a visual observer who is co-located and in direct communication with you
- Do not fly above 400 feet in uncontrolled (Class G) airspace
- Do not fly in controlled airspace without an FAA authorization
- Follow all FAA airspace restrictions, including special security instructions and temporary flight restrictions
- Never fly near other aircraft
- Always give way to all other aircraft
- Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people
- Never fly near emergency response activities
- Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
LAANC for Recreational drone use:
According to Teri Bristol, chief operating officer of the Air Traffic Organization, the LAANC for recreational drones will be ready in the "the next weeks and months." Until the system can take requests from hobby drone pilots, the only recreational drone flight allowed in controlled airspace will be in certain "fixed sites." Hobbyist can check out this interactive map: fixed sites are depicted as blue dots on the map.
Remote ID and recreational drone use
Bringing recreational drone use in line with commercial use helps set the stage for implementing remote ID and making remote ID the most effective. The importance of repealing Special Rule 336 was to have recreational drone pilots adhere to remote ID. According to the FAA, rules for remote ID are expected to be released in July 2019.
For more information, please consult the FAA’s website on recreational drone flights.