Overview of current hobbyist FAA rules (updated 7/23/19)

With the release of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 and new Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft notice released today, a few rules have been changed for hobbyists. Those changes include the following:

  1. Follow the safety guidelines of a nationwide community-based organization (CBO)

    The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires the FAA and community-based aeromodelling organizations (CBOs) to coordinate the development of safety guidelines for recreational small unmanned aircraft operations. As of today, no recognized CBOs or coordinated safety guidelines exist. Until the FAA establishes the criteria and process and begins recognizing CBOs, they are allowing pilots to do one of the following:

    1. Operate in accordance with existing safety guidelines of an aeromodelling organization (like the AMA) as long as those guidelines do not conflict with existing FAA rules.

    2. Follow the FAA’s existing safety guidelines – which are based on industry best practices.

    Note: When following the rules of a CBO (or aeromodelling organization), you should be able to explain to an FAA inspector or law enforcement official which safety guidelines you are following.

  2. Keep your drone within your visual line of sight (VLOS) of the person operating the drone or visual observer (VO)

    Previously, the FAA required the operator to maintain VLOS. As of today, the FAA also allows a (VO to maintain VLOS. The VO must be near the operator and be able to communicate verbally without the assistance of an electronic device. Using a VO generally is optional, but a VO is required if the operator is wearing FPV glasses/goggles that make it impossible to maintain VLOS.

  3. Don’t fly above 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace (Class G)

    Class G airspace is uncontrolled airspace in which the FAA does not provide air traffic services. You may operate your drone in this airspace up to an altitude of 400 feet above ground level (AGL).

  4. Don’t fly in controlled airspace (Classes B, C, D, and E) without FAA authorization

    Classes B, C, D, and E are controlled airspace. The FAA has created different classes of airspace to reflect whether aircraft receive air traffic control services and to note levels of complexity, traffic density, equipment, and operating requirements that exist for aircraft flying through different parts of controlled airspace. These airspace classes are usually found near airports.

    In order to fly in controlled airspace, you must do one of the following:

    1. Request authorization through the FAA’s online LAANC system using an app like AirMap or one of the other apps listed here.

    2. Fly in a recreational flyer fixed site that has a written agreement with the FAA. A current list of authorized fixed sites can be found in this spreadsheet or on the FAA UAS Data map (represented as blue dots).

      Note: When flying at a fixed site in controlled airspace, you must adhere to the operating limitations of the fixes site’s agreement. See the fixed site’s sponsor for more details.

For a complete list of current hobbyist rules, see this thread: