Investigating Drone Laws

Drones have many uses beyond their military potential. They can be used to deliver packages (as proposed by laws-for-drones-faa-rulesAmazon Prime Air), cover sports from fresh, exciting angles (FOX Sports being one), even performing tasks through terrains too rough for humans to navigate – like planting trees in Myanmar or aiding a search for missing people.

Why should you care? You might be interested in piloting a drone yourself (either for surveillance in rural areas like a farm or for fun); you might just want to find out more, or you might even be one of the unlucky people who find themselves on the wrong end of a voyeur’s drone surveillance like a couple charged in February 2017 for spying on their neighbors in Orem, Utah, USA.  Here’s a closer look at worldwide drone laws…

What Drones Are

Drones are controlled remotely, either by a human or an autopilot system, and they’re also referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems or Unmanned Aircraft Systems. That’s UAVs, RPASes and UASes for short. An article from Public Radio International notes that whether it’s considered a toy or more dangerous device depends on what it’s being used for and how.


According to the Federal Aviation Authority’s website, drones can be flown recreationally under two different laws.  Under The Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336) you’re only allowed to fly for recreational purposes and within an obvious line of sight; you’re also obligated to give way to manned aircraft, and if you’re within five miles of the nearest airport, you have to let the airport and traffic control tower know beforehand.  By law, there’s also a weight restriction of “no more than 55lbs (approximately 24, 95kg) unless certified by a community-based organization”.

Under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (14 CFR Part 107), your drone has to be registered with the FAA and the pilot will need an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate. Operational requirements can be downloaded directly from the FAA’s website.

Safe Airspace

Some airspace (including residential areas, military areas and sports events) are restricted for obvious reasons. drone_law_faa_rulesThe same (generally worldwide) goes for public areas (like parks), closed areas (indoors), near airports (unless arranging with the airport and air traffic control towers) and busy, public spots – yes, this is to avoid the obvious risk of injury by drone.  This seems to count world-wide. Here are some apps and websites that keep track of airspace safe (or not) for drones.

Also Read: The Case for Drones

In fact, the FAA released a study in 2017 documenting drones dropping from the sky and their potential to injure the people below them. If you’re going to fly one, fly it safely.

FAA’s Where to Fly
No Fly Drones (United Kingdom)
Swiss Map (Switzerland)
DroneMate App (Worldwide)
DroneMate for Android (Worldwide)

United Kingdom

Drones in the UK fall under the Civil Aviation Act 1982 and the Air Navigation Order 2009.  Smaller drones are classed as 20kg (approximately 44.09 lbs) and don’t need permission from the authorities to fly, providing they keep it flying where it can be seen and fly safely. Drones with cameras attached are prohibited from flying 150m (approximately 492, 13 ft) from a “congested area”, or 50m (approximately 162, 04 ft) from a person or vehicles not being driven by the owner/pilot of the drone. And, of course, you’re not allowed to “drop animals or objects” from a drone that could potentially damage property or hurt anyone.

Related: Drones For Security

Drones between 20kg and 150 are required to register for a permit according to, and the pilot must have a “certificate of worthiness” and a licensed flight crew, too.

Drone Insurance

Drones are valuable (and accidents happen). Would you pilot a plane that wasn’t insured? Luckily, many insurance companies have started offering a form of specialized insurance aimed at drones. Here’s a look at some of the options out there to get your UAVs insured.

Hollard (South Africa)
Insure my Drone
AIG UAS Insurance

Watching the Laws

Some law practices have specialized branches aimed at drone law. This might come in handy if you’re unsure about a certain aspect of drone law, if you get harassed by a drone or if you yourself are accused of anything drone-related. Keep an eye on worldwide drone laws through these sites, which are updated regularly.

Master List of Drone Laws (from UAV Coach)
Drone Law Journal (USA)
Drone Safe UK
Drone Law Japan

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8 comments… add one
  • Roger November 24, 2017, 3:07 pm

    What rights do you have concerning drones that may be spying on you? After all, the operator could be law enforcement or a stalker or even someone looking for their next victim! Can I legally shoot it down? And what would be the best way to do it; they are small moving objects, fairly quiet, just detecting them in the first place could be difficult! The only anti-drone weapons that I’ve seen advertised seem to involve launching some kind of netting at the drone. Though some have claimed to have shot down a drone with a shotgun, I would think that the drone would have had to be very close to them! Any homemade DIY options that you can suggest would be appreciated (no death rays, please)! They could be used as a first-strike weapon. I don’t know the carrying capacity of a small (or larger) drone but even if they can carry ten pounds that’s enough to drop a gallon milk jug of gasoline with a pre-determined length of lit cannon fuse on your house’s roof! And it’s quite hard to fight a roof fire if you also taking ground fire. That wouldn’t take any advanced weapon systems like firing air-borne guided missiles would! Yes, I don’t feel that this is a likely scenario, but if I can think of it…? GLAHP!

    • NSA December 6, 2017, 1:44 pm

      Shooting down a drone would be ill-advised, just as shooting down or at a low flying helo/aircraft would be. Discharging a firearm in a non-deadly force situation might get you a reckless/deadly conduct charge and destroying the drone, an additional charge of criminal mischief. Privacy issues would revolve around the height the drone was being operated at. For example: Hovering 10 feet from your daughters window, might be treated differently (baseball bat) then one at 500 feet above your backyard/pool (not a whole lot to be done, other then mooning them!). You don’t have unlimited air space rights over your property when it comes to privacy.

      • NSA December 6, 2017, 1:47 pm

        I guess you could also use a cheap drone and just ram the offending drone. “Oh no, we’ve had an accident. So sad!!!! Crowded air space.

    • Bill April 30, 2018, 7:38 pm

      Drones are very low altitude and the motors aren’t quiet, you can easily detect them in this manner. You can just use good old no. 4 shot to take them out no expensive B.S. needed. As far as legality goes, it would only be legal if you were deep within your private property and they couldn’t be operating it within line of sight without being on your property.

  • jerek November 24, 2017, 9:07 pm

    It beginning to look like GUN CONTROL.

    • irishdutchuncle December 15, 2017, 4:58 am

      well yeh,

      it is always about control…
      their aim is to disarm you totally. (especially if you are a middle class,
      sis-gender male, or have a brain) it’s a problem to exterminate any class that’s willing to resist…

      • Anonymous December 15, 2017, 3:24 pm

        cis-gendered that is…

  • Dave H November 27, 2017, 12:18 pm

    In Colorado it is illegal to use drones for hunting or scouting.
    You cannot fly your drone in any of the 350 state wildlife areas.

    Drone usage is also banned in most (not all) Colorado State Parks

    Regardless of your state you need to check your laws.


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