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New rules for drones now in effect

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) unveiled new rules for drone operators on June 21. The N.C. Department of Transportation Division of Aviation wants to help drone owners understand the new rules and how they impact drone operations in the state.

Drones, also called unmanned aircraft systems, are an increasingly popular technology with many potential uses. The FAA’s new rules apply to both commercial and government operations of small drones (weighing less than 55 pounds.)

Operators who previously received the required exemption or authorization from the FAA can continue to fly their small drones without further action. Once the new rules take effect in August, all other small drone operators will need to either obtain a Remote Pilot’s Certificate from the FAA or else operate the drone under the supervision of someone who has obtained the certificate.

To obtain the certificate, operators must be at least 16 years old, pass a background check and pass a knowledge test administered by the FAA. Each certificate will be valid for two years. More information about the certificate is available on the FAA website.

In addition to the certificate, the FAA released several updated guidelines for drone operators:

  • Operators may fly both during the day and in twilight (30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, local time);
  • The maximum allowable altitude is 400 feet above the ground, and the maximum allowable speed is 100 mph;
  • Operators cannot fly a drone over anyone not involved with the drone operation; and
  • Operators must keep a drone within their line of sight while it is flying.

For small drone operations that fall outside of the restrictions imposed by the new rules, the FAA maintains the ability to grant authorizations on a case by case basis. Drone operators must also register their drones with the FAA. For a full list of federal drone regulations, visit the FAA’s website.

Drone operators in North Carolina must obey all state and federal laws. In January 2016, the Division of Aviation introduced a permitting process for commercial and government drone operators in North Carolina. In addition to observing the FAA’s rules, operators must obtain a permit before conducting commercial or government drone operations in North Carolina.

The Division of Aviation will continue to update its permitting system and website as the FAA introduces new drone regulations. For more information about operating a drone in North Carolina, visit the Division of Aviation website.

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