Laws for Drones and Aerial Photography

Whether you are just thinking about it or you’ve already bought a drone, make sure you know the flying drone laws where you live before you take it for a flight. If you live in the United States, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has set up a web site called Know Before You Fly that will spell out the civilian drone laws for UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) or UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems), as they are also called.


United States Federal Drone Laws

Recently the FAA proposed rules to regulate the use of small drones in the US. The provisions include items such as:

  • the UAV must weigh less than 55 lbs or 25 kg.
  • the UAV must remain in the visual line-of-sight (VLOS) of the operator at all times. (Binoculars and telescopes aren’t allowed)
  • the operator can only operate one UAV at a time
  • the maximum airspeed is 100 mph and maximum altitude is 500 feet above ground level
  • UAVs can only be operated during daylight hours (official sunrise to official sunset, local time)

There are also proposed operator certifications and responsibilities such as minimum age of 17 years old. aeronautical knowledge testing every 24 months, and being vetted my the TSA. I am assuming you won’t need to take off you shoes and belt for that, but then again we are talking about the TSA. 🙂

On March 19, 2015 the FAA issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to Amazon Logistics, Inc. The certificate is in line with the previously announced provisions for the use of small drones including requirements that the operations be below 400 feet, during daylight hours, and the UAV must always remain within VLOS of the operator. Those rules aren’t going to make drone delivery fast and cheap if each UAS cannot fly itself to the delivery destination. The VLOS in on the tree lined streets of suburban America can be pretty limited. What is Amazon supposed to do? Have a driver taxiing their operators (who, by the way must also have at least a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certification) so to keep them in sight of the delivery drone? It doesn’t sound feasible with these provisions. Time will tell if Amazon drones will be flying over the US any time soon.

State Drone Laws

The federal government and FAA aren’t the only ones playing catch up with the technology. Most of the individual states have at least started talking about drones.  And as with most things, the laws for drones vary from state to state. About a dozen states have enacted laws (yellow in the map below). A couple of dozen have proposed legislation (light blue in the map below). The states colored dark blue have discussed drone legislation but it has died or been put on hold and the three purple colored states have yet to discuss the matter.

Canadian Drone Laws

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has a page discussing drones in Canada that was last updated in November of 2013. On it they conclude:

The current state of domestic drone use in Canada is still fairly limited, given the existing aviation regulations and constraints on licencing. Some police forces in Canada have reported using them in limited circumstances, but there has been no indication that drones have been used for surveillance in Canada in either the public or private sectors. That being said, in view of the global focus on developing safe flight regulations, the increasing availability of the technology, and the projections for the global drone markets, the prospects are high for the proliferation of drone use in Canada in the foreseeable future.

Where to Buy A Drone

As the demand for drones grows, the choices for where you can buy them is also growing. You can pick up small, affordable RC drone toys at Amazon.com and Walmart. The Best Sellers in the Hobby RC Helicopters category are almost all under $100, some are less than $20. But if you want to get serious, check out the selection of UAVs at amazon.com. These are for people who are probably going to do more with their drones than buzz around in an open field somewhere. These UAVs can be used for aerial photography, a growing, trendy marketing tool for realtors. If you like photography and flying RC helicopters, why not get paid and makes some money while you’re having fun!

Best Drone Aerial Photography

There is a wide and growing selection of drones on the market to day that can carry a camera and be used for aerial photography. The DJI PHANTOM2 VISION+ is getting rave reviews. It is easy to learn to fly and it has a 3-axis camera stabilization gimbal to steady the 14 megapixels, 1080p video capture. It also shoots still pictures, saved in JPG format. There is a video downlink streamed via Wi-Fi with a 700 meter range. Apps for iOS and Android are available and the built-in GPS can return it to home safely automatically when the battery gets low.

Amazon.com has a DJI Phantom Aerial UAV Drone Quadcopter and GoPro bundle that comes in a custom hard shell carrying case with a foam lining with cutouts to keep all the accessories together, organized, and protected.


Mark Crosby


  1. Hi Mark,

    Great site mate! Lots of really interesting information laid out in an easy to read format. Keep up the good work.

    • Hi Brad,

      Thanks for stopping by. The more I get into robots and robotics, the more there is to learn!
      I’ll keep adding posts, hopefully you and others will find them interesting and useful.


  2. Thanks so much for sharing this info. I’ve been wondering about the laws, and how they work. A few friends who are realtors have started using drones to take pictures of properties they list…very cool idea…and the pics can be awesome….but I wasn’t so sure about the rules around it. Now I have a much better idea!

    • Hi Bryan,
      Thanks for the kind words. There are laws in place in some places but they are not uniform. I think it is typical that legislatures and the laws they pass will lag behind technology. Hopefully they aren’t too far behind or too out of touch.

  3. I’ve always wanted to own a drone after seeing them in several shops in the past, but I didn’t actually think of the laws that are involved when using one. But it does make sense when you really think about things!

    Thanks for the video and for the informative post on laws for drones. I will certainly hold this in mind if ever I consider to purchase a drone for fun in the future.

    Cheers. Neil

    • Hi Neil,
      Thanks for reading the post, I am glad you found it helpful. I don’t have a drone yet, but would like to get one some day. I hope the laws don’t become too restrictive over time.

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