Im sure a lot of this has been discussed in previous threads, but I have a lot of individual questions that I've been trying to get definitive answers on for several days.
I just got my first drone, a GoPro Karma, and I'm trying to ensure I don't break any regulations so I can avoid he hefty fines that the FAA put in place. These regulations seem to be all over the place.
I'm from Massachusetts. I know that you need to obtain permission from air control towers when flying in the vecinity of an airport (5 miles). I also know that you can not fly near other people or buildings. My concern comes with licenses.
I am a hobbyist. I do not fly commercially. So here are my questions:
1. Do I need a license or permit to fly my drone for recreation? (I hear a lot about having to pass a test, etc. is this just for commercial use?)
2. Do I need to register my drone as a hobbyist?
3. If I do not need to register it, and I do not need a license, where can I fly without being hassled by authorities/park rangers/FAA?
4. Can someone be fined for posting a video or photo online from flying in a restricted area? How are these people being caught and fined thousands of dollars?
5. If I would like to fly near an airport, and I call to get permission, what happens if there are several airports within 5 miles? (Including hospitals, landing sites, etc). Do I need to notify every single one, or just one tower?
6. Has anyone else flown or owned a drone in MA? Where have you flown and have you had any trouble?
1. No. There is a licensing requirement if you fly in FURTHERANCE of a commercial enterprise. That's probably best interpreted as 'If any commercial enterprise benefits in any way from my flight, I had to be licensed to do it'.
2. No. A Federal district court just ruled that the FAA has no authority to regulate hobby flying of small drones and struck down the registration requirement.
3. You are specifically forbidden to fly IN U.S. National Parks. Local laws vary. The consensus is that other government entities can probably regulate taking off or landing in their respective areas, but not flying over them. Only the FAA has the authority to regulate use of the national airspace.
4. Maybe. The simplest answer is 'why test it and find out?' The only dumber thing than engaging in criminal activity is posting video of it.
5. You need to do a lot of research on airspace classes before you consider flying anywhere near (for this discussion, let's say within 5 miles of) an airport. If you are 5 miles away from the nearest airport, you should be fine. Heliports (hospitals, police department heliports, etc.) are not regulated in the same way as airports. Few (in my experience) will even bother to talk to you if you call to advise them of a nearby sUAS flight. Exit the airspace if any manned aircraft approaches. Common sense says not to fly TOO close to a heliport. Where I fly frequently, there are two heliports within 2 miles of me, one being the local PD. When I hear them approaching I drop to as low as possible, usually 60-80' above ground level, lower if possible, hover, and wait for them to clear the area.
6. Hopefully we have someone in here from your part of Mass. who can partner with you.
The FAA has taken the position that if you are flying within the guideline recommendations of a Community Based Organization (CBO), you are OK. The specifically recognize the AMA as a CBO. Joining the AMA is a good plan as well, since they work very hard to represent the interests of RC flyers of all types whenever legislation or regulation is on the table.