Is Flying A Drone Illegal?
” There’s no really delicate way to say this, so I’m just going to do it: The vast majority of people have no idea what they’re talking about when they talk about drone law.
I’ve noticed this in comment threads on Facebook, on Twitter, on comment threads on Reddit, in bar conversations, etc. If you’ve engaged in one of these misinformed debates, though, I forgive you: It’s not your fault. Surely there are more complex areas of law than Federal Aviation Administration drone regulations (hello, copyright law), but few are so intentionally misleading, arbitrarily enforced, or regularly misreported by the press.
If you’re looking for a simple answer to the question posed in the headline, I’m sorry, I can’t give you one. But what I can give you is an exhaustive guide to drone law in the United States.
In order to have any idea what’s legal to do with a drone and what’s not legal to do with a drone, it’s necessary to have paid close attention to the FAA’s actions over the last three years or so. Some conversations with actual lawyers help, as well.
After publishing three separate stories about FAA enforcement of drone regulations last week and watching the online conversation about them, it occurred to me that it might be useful to get deep into the weeds on this issue and unpack what the current legal situation actually is.
I’ve put together this guide after spending the last four years reporting on US drone law. Its sourcing is pulled from my own reporting reading hundreds of pages of legal statutes, FAA enforcement actions and statements, and court arguments and decisions. I’ve also had dozens of conversations with the nation’s top drone attorneys about these issues over the years*. Fair warning: I’ve tried to keep the article as conversational as possible, but at times it might get a little bit dense.
The most important thing you can possibly know about the current state of drone law is this: THE FAA IS NOT A RELIABLE NARRATOR. If you are taking notes, write this in your notebook and circle it and then put a million tiny little stars all around it.”