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Did You Receive a Drone This Holiday Season?

By Colby S. Hearn | Categories: Articles, Litigation | Share January 2016

LEGAL UPDATE Know the Rules of the Sky Before you Fly!

drone-giftAs expected, many received a drone this holiday season.1 There are, however, certain recently enacted federal regulations that must be satisfied prior to lift-off. Effective December 21, 2015, anyone who owns a drone of a certain weight must register with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System (“UAS”) registry before they fly outdoors.2 Further, a drone pilot must be familiar with no-drone zones3 and mindful of privacy concerns.4

For aircraft operations in the vicinity of aerial demonstrations and major sporting events, the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) has authority to establish Temporary Flight Restrictions (“TFRs”) to protect persons or property on the ground or in the air, to maintain air safety and efficiency, or to prevent the unsafe congestion of aircraft in the vicinity of an aerial demonstration or sporting event.5

All owners using a drone for commercial purposes (other than for hobby or recreation) must first seek approval from the FAA pursuant to section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.6 Currently, this authority is being leveraged to grant case-by-case authorization for certain drones to perform commercial operations. As of January 5, 2016, the FAA granted 2,817 commercial drone petitions.

Now you know the rules of the sky! Safe travels.




1 This article will address the recently enacted federal registration requirements regarding drones. For a further discussion of drones, see

2 Owners must register their drones online if it weighs more than 0.55 lbs. and less than 55 lbs. There is a $5.00 registration fee (register by January 20, 2016, and the fee will be refunded). Your registration is valid for three years. Once you receive a registration number, you can use it on all of your drones if they meet the online registration criteria. You must mark the registration number on all aircraft you own so that it is visible (e.g. by engraving, creating a permanent label, or utilizing a permanent marker).  The owner must be 13 years of age or older and a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident. To register, visit:

Owners must register their drones by paper application if it meets the following guidelines:

  • Your drone is used for commercial purposes;
  • Your drone is used for other than hobby and recreation;
  • Your drone is greater than 55 lbs.; or
  • You intend to operate your drone outside of the United States.

People who previously operated their drone must register by February 19, 2016. Failure to register may result in civil and criminal penalties.

3 Review the U.S. Air Space before you fly by visiting Also, the B4UFLY app for iOS is now available for free download in the App Store. For an example of no-drone zones, visit

4   See Florida Statutes § 934.50(3)(b) (2015), “A person may not use a drone equipped with an imaging device to record an image of privately owned real property or of the owner, tenant, occupant, invitee, or licensee of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property captured in the image in violation of such person’s reasonable expectation of privacy without his or her written consent. For purposes of this section, a person is presumed to have a reasonable expectation of privacy on his or her privately owned real property if he or she is not observable by persons located at ground level in a place where they have a legal right to be, regardless of whether he or she is observable from the air with the use of a drone.”

An aggrieved party may initiate a civil action seeking injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.  The prevailing party is also entitled to their reasonable attorney fees. Florida Statutes § 934.50(5) (2015).

5 14 C.F.R. § 91.145. See FDC 9/5151, issued under 14 C.F.R. § 99.7 on “Special Security Instructions,” restricts flight over stadiums during Major League Baseball (“MLB”), National Football League (“NFL”) regular season, NCAA football, and motor speedway events. The so-called “stadium TFR” prohibits all aircraft and parachute operations at or below 3,000 AGL within a 3 nm radius of any stadium with a seating capacity of 30,000 or more people when there is an MLB game, regular or post-season NFL game, NCAA Division I football game, or major motor speedway event occurring. This TFR applies to the entire US domestic national airspace system, and takes effect from one hour before the scheduled event time until one hour after the event concludes.

6 Aircraft Registration requirements and directions are provided in Title 14 C.F.R. § 47. For step-by-step instructions, visit

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