Know the law before flying a recreational drone

December 8, 2016

Drones have become a popular recreational activity for many ages. Although they may be a great gift for children and adults alike, there are some legal requirements in order to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has specific requirements regarding flying of UAVs. Know Before You Fly has helpful information about regulations and flying responsibly.

Here is some helpful information to help get your started:
• You do not need permission from the FAA to fly your UAS (aka drone) for recreation, but you must always fly safely. There are air space restrictions in certain areas such as airports. Learning is key to keeping your UAV safe and out of harms way.
• Be respectful of wildlife, especially nesting shorebirds. Disturbing wildlife can be detrimental to their well being.
• Before you fly outside you must register your UAS if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds
• Label your UAS with your registration number
• Read and understand all safety guidelines
• Follow community-based safety guidelines, as developed by organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).
• Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible.
• Keep your UAS in eyesight at all times, and use an observer to assist if needed.
• Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations, and you must see and avoid other aircraft and obstacles at all times.
• Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.
• Contact the airport and control tower before flying within five miles of an airport or heliport. (Read about best practices here)
• Do not fly in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility.
• Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
• Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operation of the sUAS.
• Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.
• Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.
• Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission (see AMA’s privacy policy).
Label your UAS (PDF)

Questions about UAS Registration? Email or call 877-396-4636 or international (703) 574-6777 from 9 am- 5 pm CST, Monday through Friday.

Here are a few helpful links to area clubs and drone hobbyists:

Flite Test

Eglin Aero Modellers

Northwest Florida Drone Pilots

Area 51 hayfield r/c planes and trucks

Crestview Model Aviators

Flying in Florida State Parks

Florida State Parks has specific regulations regarding any aircraft. An aircraft is defined as: any machine supported for flight in the air by buoyancy or by the dynamic action of air on its surfaces, such as gliders, balloons, parachutes, drones, powered airplanes, helicopters, unmanned aircraft systems or other aerial apparatus. Kite: A toy consisting of a light frame with thin material stretched over it, flown in the wind at the end of a string.

No person operating or responsible for an aircraft shall cause any such apparatus to take off from or land in any park, except when the aircraft is either authorized by the park manager or needed in an emergency in which human life is endangered. The park manager may authorize the use of aircraft when the flight is beneficial to the Division. Kites are exempt from this policy.

City of DeFuniak Springs

DeFuniak Springs City Council has adopted an ordinance regarding Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or simply stated the “Drone Ordinance.”  This ordinance was enacted to help protect the welfare of it residents as well as the City.  Below is a summary of the provisions in regards to the ordinance:

•  Owners of UAVs must comply with all FAA requirements to include notification of DeFuniak Springs Municipal Airport if flying within 5 miles of the airport.
• Must have property owner’s permission to fly a UAV between 0 and 500 feet on any privately owned property.
•  Must have a Special Event Permit approved by the DeFuniak Springs City Council in order to fly a UAV on any public property within the city limits.
•  Commercial users of UAVs must comply with special requirements as noted in ordinance to include notification of the Assistant City Manager and the DeFuniak Springs Police at least 4 hours prior to flight.
•  Reckless, harassing, or annoying conduct in connection with a UAV is prohibited.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact DeFuniak Springs Police at 850-892-8513.