October 10, 2014 By Matthew Wallin

Is It Illegal to Fly a Drone?

illegal to fly a drone
It can be illegal to fly a drone.

The word “drone” makes most people think of news stories about the U.S. military’s use of remote controlled drones to launch air strikes in the war on terrorism. In truth, a drone can be almost any unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). They can be the size of a plane or small enough to fit in your hand.

They are also not just for the government’s use anymore, as private owners and businesses are looking for new ways to use this technology for business and pleasure. Companies like Amazon are looking to use drones to deliver packages to their customers’ front doors, and motion picture production companies want to use them as remote camera platforms. However, it is important to understand the laws regarding drone use if you wish to fly a drone.

Who Controls the Skies?

All of these ideas for business sound great, so why are the skies not filled with drones? The problem is that someone has to manage that traffic, and that job belongs to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA sets the rules for piloting all aircraft (including drones) in the United States.

In order to legally operate a drone, you must obtain a Special Airworthiness Certification from the FAA.1 Until recently, the agency banned all civilian use of drones other than for research, demonstrations and sales, and training.2 The only commercial drone use had been aerial inspection of oil operations in the Arctic regions of Alaska, far away from any private and commercial flights.3

However, on Sept. 24, the FAA granted waivers to six movie and TV production companies allowing them to fly drones as long as they meet certain conditions for safety.4 Many see this as the first step to opening up the national airspace to drones, and soon more companies may be eligible to operate drones in the United States. For now, though, most drone flights are limited to recreational use only.

Is It Illegal to Fly a Drone for Recreation?

Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration controls airspace.

Currently, the FAA does not allow drone flights more than 400 feet off the ground. Flights are prohibited within a few miles of any airport and within any densely populated urban area, which is known as Class B airspace.5 Other important spots are designated off-limits to drone use. For example, the air over Disneyland is designated a no-flight zone by the FAA.6

Violations of FAA rules could result in monetary fines, loss of certification, and, if the operator knowingly and willfully violated the airspace restriction, potential criminal penalties.7 For example, the FAA fined one drone pilot more than $2,000 for flying a small drone off a building in Manhattan, crashing it into other buildings before landing the drone on a public sidewalk.8

Contact the Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich to Learn More

Do you have questions about whether your drone use is breaking the law? Are you facing criminal charges for flying a drone? Wallin & Klarich is here to help you navigate the legal landscape of how federal aviation law applies to you. Our attorneys have been successfully defending clients facing criminal charges for more than 40 years. Let us help you, too. Contact us today for a free, no obligation consultation.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

1. [https://www.faa.gov/aircraft/air_cert/airworthiness_certification/sp_awcert/experiment/sac/]
2. [https://www.faa.gov/uas/]
3. [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-09-26/amazon-to-buffett-shown-path-to-drone-use-by-hollywood.html]
4. [Id.]
5. [http://www.npr.org/2014/08/10/339181964/where-can-drones-fly-legal-limits-are-up-in-the-air]
6. [http://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_9_5145.html]
7. [https://www.faasafety.gov/files/gslac/courses/content/55/707/SFRA Course Notes 111130.pdf]
8. [http://www.npr.org/2014/08/10/339181964/where-can-drones-fly-legal-limits-are-up-in-the-air]

AUTHOR: Matthew Wallin

Matthew B. Wallin is an experienced and knowledgeable attorney at Wallin & Klarich. He approaches each case as an opportunity to help an individual at a time when they need it most and understands that he is the one they have turned to for help.   Mr. Wallin has represented hundreds of our clients in cases involving DUI and DMV hearings, domestic violence, assault and battery, drug crimes, misdemeanors and serious felonies. With extensive experience handling DUI cases, Mr. Wallin is one of the premiere DUI defense attorney in Southern California.

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