Recreational vs. Commercial Drone Regulations
One of the biggest hurdles to mass adoption of drones is the numerous regulations that restrict what drone owners and operators can do. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration has several regulations that have hindered drone market growth.
The most prevalent of these restrictions is the one colloquially known as the “line of sight rule,” which mandates that drone operators keep the unmanned aircraft within eye shot at all times. This clearly removes any potential application for drones in the delivery space, as the need to keep a drone in line of sight at all times defeats the purpose of sending off a drone to drop off a product at a consumer’s home.
But there are different FAA drone regulations for commercial use and for recreational use. Recreational drone laws are in some ways more lax than commercial ones, but the line of sight remains pivotal (more on these laws later).
Drone Pilot License
“Do I need a license to fly a drone?” It’s one of the most common questions prospective drone owners ask.
To act as a remote pilot for drones in accordance with FAA regulations, a person must obtain a remote pilot certificate. Those interested must pass a test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center (list of locations available here). Note that most Knowledge Testing Centers charge approximately $150 to those who want to take the initial exam.
After one passes the test, he or she must complete the FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application (known as IACRA) to receive a remote pilot certificate. Applications are typically validated within 10 days. Applicants then receive instructions for printing a temporary airman certificate, which is valid for 120 days. The FAA mails a permanent Remote Pilot Certificate within that 120-day window.
Those who fail the exam can retake it after 14 days.
The FAA recently released a list of drone registrations by state for both “hobbyists” and “non-hobbyists.” You can view the full data sets here (it includes breakdowns by city, as well) but we’ve provided a rundown of the hobbyist information below. Note that this information is as of May 12, 2016 at 12:50 PM EST.