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Where Do I Find the Drone Zone?

Navigating Cyberspace for Official UAS Resources

by Paul Cianciolo, FAA Safety Briefing

The World Wide Web is a big place. Navigating from point A to point B through the internet can be trickier than old-fashioned dead reckoning. Your starting point is simply faa.gov/uas. We’re here to help, so let’s chart a path to unmanned aircraft bliss.

Identifying Your Drone

Even if you just want to tootle around the skies with your new drone or remotely controlled model airplane, you still need to know a few things before flying outside. The first thing, is knowing how and where to register your drone with the FAA if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds — or 8.8 ounces or 250 grams — depending what units of measure you prefer. This includes anything attached or carried.

If your UAS weighs more than 55 pounds, or you don’t meet the requirements to register online, then scroll down the registration website to the N-number section. The link there will take you to more guidance.

Unmanned Aircraft Registration
Website: registermyuas.faa.gov
Phone: 877-396-4636 (M-F, 10am to 6pm Eastern)
Email: UASregistration@faa.gov

When registering online, it’s important to know if you will be flying for fun, which means you are not receiving any compensation — even indirectly such as a taking pictures of a house in support of your real estate business. When you are flying under model aircraft rules, you use the same UAS registration number for all of your model aircraft. Any other type of UAS operation requires that each unmanned aircraft have a unique registration number. Let’s take a look at the different types of flying.

Flying for Fun

If you are strictly flying for recreational or hobby purposes, you must operate in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft found in section 336 of Public Law 112-95, and adopted in regulation under part 101 of Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR). Everything you need to know to fly safely and within the law is outlined in FAA Advisory Circular 91-57A, Model Aircraft Operating Standards.

A common question about operating under model aircraft rules stems from operations by educational institutions and community-sponsored events. As long as the operator is not compensated or any compensation received is not directly nor incidentally related to the operation of the aircraft, it is allowed under model aircraft rules. Students may conduct model aircraft operations at an accredited educational institution so long as the faculty member’s manipulation of the model aircraft controls is incidental and secondary to the student’s. See the legal interpretation for more information.

Of particular note, though, you do need to be aware of any Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) issued in your vicinity. These can pop-up at any time, and they may restrict model aircraft and other types of flying.

You also need to know if you are within five miles of an airport, which includes a heliport or seaplane base and may be public or private use. One way to review the airspace you are using is to download a VFR Aeronautical Chart for your area. On the Flight Information website, click on Aeronautical Charts and look under Digital Products, which is where you will see a Downloads area. It includes a user guide to help you learn to read the chart. Click on VFR Raster Charts and then Sectional Chart Index to determine which chart to download.

An easier way to determine proximity to an airport is to use an app. The FAA provides the free B4UFLY app in the Apple Store and Google Play.

Another great resource is the Know Before You Fly educational campaign. It was established by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) in partnership with the FAA to educate prospective users about the safe and responsible operation of UAS.

Remember that just because you can buy a drone doesn’t mean you can fly it anywhere, or for any purpose. If flying just for fun, then make sure to register and operate in accordance with model aircraft rules.

AC 91-57A, Model Aircraft Operating Standards: 1.usa.gov/2lUkwBf

TFR Listing: tfr.faa.gov

Flight Information (Aeronautical Charts): aeronav.faa.gov

Know Before You Fly: KnowBeforeYouFly.org

Flying for a Purpose

We all know that flying is fun! If you want to fly for money or beyond what the model aircraft rules allow, then you need to become a FAA certificated remote pilot. There are two ways to do that.

If you are a current 14 CFR part 61 pilot, then you have the option to take the short route because you already possess certain aeronautical knowledge. You start by taking the part 107 sUAS Course on FAASafety.gov, which anyone can take for educational purposes. It’s important to save a copy of the completion certificate, which you will need to upload to the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website in order to apply for your remote pilot certificate. This document is separate from your other pilot certificate(s).

All other remote pilot applicants must first take the Remote Pilot Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center. To see the list of testing centers, go to the Airman Testing webpage under Training & Testing on faa.gov. Click on Knowledge Testing and look for the commercial testing center list in order to make an appointment to take the test. A study guide for taking the test is available on the Airman Testing page. It is called the Remote Pilot — Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide (FAA-G-8082-22). The guide also provides a list and links to additional resources.

The testing process for both types of remote pilot applicants is outlined in its own guide, which is called the Remote Pilot Knowledge Test Guide (FAA-G-8082-20). It is best found by typing the name in the search bar at faa.gov. After passing the knowledge test or completing the online course for current pilots, you must apply for your remote pilot certificate through the IACRA website.

FAASafety.gov Part 107 sUAS Course: 1.usa.gov/2lUK5C3

Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA): iacra.faa.gov

Airman Testing: faa.gov/training_testing/testing

Remote Pilot — Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide (FAA-G-8082-22): 1.usa.gov/2mZz0os

Remote Pilot Knowledge Test Guide (FAA-G-8082-20): 1.usa.gov/2nfe8Wn

Flying as Remote Pilot in Command

As a certificated remote pilot, you fly under the rules of 14 CFR part 107. You can find the regulations online at eCFR.gov. Select Title 14 from the dropdown menu, and then click on part 107.

Specific sections of 14 CFR part 107 may be waived, and flying in other than Class G airspace can be authorized. To do that, you need to visit the Request a Waiver/Airspace Authorization webpage. It is very important to ensure that requests are correctly completed, and that they include the purpose of operation and method by which the proposed operation can be safely conducted.

If you have an accident, you are required to report it within 10 days to the FAA if it resulted in serious injury, loss of consciousness, or more that $500 in property damage (excluding your UAS). This is accomplished on the Report an Accident (part 107) webpage or at your local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).

To ensure you are operating within the appropriate rules, be sure to read Advisory Circular 107-1, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): eCFR.gov

Request a Waiver/Airspace Authorization: faa.gov/uas/request_waiver

Report an Accident (Part 107): faa.gov/uas/report_accident

FSDO Map: 1.usa.gov/1baedlO

AC 107-2: Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems: 1.usa.gov/2mGQW6s

If you have a general question, comment, or complaint about UAS, you can email UAShelp@faa.gov or call 844-FLY-MY-UA.

The FAA is working to streamline the faa.gov/uas website later this summer to enhance usability, so stay tuned — but it is still your one-stop-shop for all official UAS resources.

It may seem like we’re droning on here with a list of links, but these resources answer the majority of questions that come into the FAA. The process of earning your remote pilot “wings” is the number one concern from citizens, but as explained here, you may not need that if flying under model aircraft rules for recreational/hobbyist purposes. Our goal is to safely integrate UAS into the airspace with manned aircraft, and we want to ensure that everyone can fly in the NAS.

Paul Cianciolo is an assistant editor and the social media lead for FAA Safety Briefing. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran, and a rated aircrew member and public affairs officer with Civil Air Patrol.