June 5, 2016

Federal Laws

Model Aircraft (Hobbyist)

(1) A model aircraft flown strictly for hobby or recreational use.

(2) Most small UAS are owned by individuals and cannot be used for commercial purposes. Individuals flying for hobby or recreation should follow safety guidelines outlined in AC 91-57A which include:

    (a) Fly at or below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles.

    (b) Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times.

    (c) Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations.

    (d) Don't fly within 5 miles of an airport unless the hobbyist contacts the airport operator and control tower (if operating at a tower controlledairport) before flying.

    (e) Don't fly near people or stadiums.

    (f) Don't fly an aircraft that weighs 55 lbs. or more.

    (g) Don't be careless or reckless with the unmanned aircraft – hobbyists could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft.

    (h) Model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (if operating at a tower controlled airport).

    (i) Model aircraft must not operate in Temporary Flight Restriction Areas(TFR), Prohibited Areas, Restricted Areas, Special Flight Rules Areas, or the Washington National Capital Region Flight Restricted Zone, without specific authorization.

(3) AC 91-57A advises that hobbyist UAS operators provide notice to the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) if the operation will take place within 5 miles of an airport. However, if the airport operator or the air traffic control facility believes the operation could impact safety, the facility may deny the operation and notify the UAS operator of the specific objection.

NOTE - The FAA recognizes that people and companies other than model aircraft operators might be flying UAS with the misunderstanding they are legally operating under the authority of AC 91–57A. AC 91–57A provides guidance to model aircraft operators and does not apply to use by persons or companies for business purposes.

Emergency COA (ECOA) application requests.

(1) The FAA must ensure procedures are available to accommodate real-time application requests that will directly support emergency and law enforcement-type operations.

An ECOA may be considered when the following conditions apply:

  • There is a situation of distress or urgency
  • The proponent is operating under a currently approved COA
  • The operation does not introduce any new risk in the airspace where the operation is proposed (determined by FAAHeadquarters)

(2) Emergency UAS COAs will not be considered for demonstration flights, flights to test capabilities or training.