Recently returned from AUVSI Xponential 2019 in Chicago, we learned a lot about the drone industry as a whole. We sat with many manufacturers of parts, accessories and drones, providing one perspective, we also sat with the FAA for an entirely enlightening conversation about hobby drone regulations.

We had your needs in mind going into this meeting, but we also had to check in on commercial needs as well. Here’s what you need to know.

Special note: This was not an official meeting with the FAA media outreach team. This was a personal conversation. We are doing our best to provide you the most accurate info possible, but the interpretations of the rules by their conference booth employee, and thus our understanding of the rules, may differ from the actual laws posted at the FAA. Please follow all FAA posted rules for your flight.

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We’ve made this painfully clear in the past, if you are going to be paid for your drone flight, or will be in any way compensated for it or the photos and video you capture from the sky, it is a commercial operation.

That goes for us as well, every time we fly a drone to produce a review for you, we have to manage the flight via Part 107 regulations.

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What is hobby flight?

The FAA has a very narrow view of what constitutes a hobby flight. They publish the guidelines which you’ll have to actively not read them when you do your part to register with the FAA. I suppose that is where we start the topic, if your drone weighs 0.55 lbs or more, you must register with the FAA before you fly.

As we chat with the FAA, there was one small thing they focused on that is wildly under-represented in your registration package: You must follow local hobby club rules.

The AMA, Academy of Model Aeronautics, has local clubs across the country. There may be several in your city or region. You must follow their rules to qualify for an FAA approved hobby flight. Here’s the thing, how do you know or prove you are following those rules? You have to sign up for the club.

The representative of the FAA made it clear, even for simple flights in your backyard, become a member of the local club as proof you are following the rules.

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Why do these rules exist?

Things may change as the FAA revamps the rules, but as it sits, all aircraft must follow commercial aircraft regulations, with a few exceptions. Ultralight aircraft are an example of an exception, as are the exceptions made for the modeling clubs. Simply put, if you are then not a member of the local club, you are operating under commercial regulation.

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Get your Part 107 certification

With this knowledge in hand, joining the local club and getting your Part 107 certification both sound like smart moves. Hit the AMA website to find your local club, let us help you train for your Part 107.

The test is fairly easy with some studying. Be sure to explore your options, but we urge you ton consider following our guidance.

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More to come from the FAA

This is not over, we’ve mentioned that the FAA is making major changes, particularly for hobby flight. These upcoming changes are expected to include licensing for hobby flight, not just commercial flight, as well as enhanced registration for all drones.

Please do not make long term decisions at this time, but please don’t be scared off either. Things sound confusing and difficult, but they are easier than they sound, and totally worth it to get into the sky.

What’s next?
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