Central New York, Technology

The Laws You Didn’t Know You Were Breaking

© James Groh, 2017

The Laws You Didn't Know You Were Breaking

By James Groh SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) —Many people are breaking FAA law every time they fly their drone.

These unmanned flying vehicles (UAV) are becoming more and more popular as the technology improves and its price tag goes down. These factors invite hobbyists and professionals to take to the sky with their new toys. However, most of the time, these pilots don’t know that they are held to the same standard as FAA-licensed pilots.

“A lot of people don’t even know that there are rules. And that the device that you just bought from Best Buy or whatever is an aircraft and is federally regulated and you must follow rules in order to use it,” said Matt Waite a drone expert and professor at the University of Nebraska.

These rules include; no flying at night, no flying above people, and no flying within a five-mile radius of most major airports.

Most people don’t know these rules and constantly break them. Videos on Youtube from professionals to hobbyists can be found that are in direct violation of these laws.



Even though people are expected to know these laws, Waite says that their ignorance is not entirely their fault.

“The FAA has not done a very good job of this over the years. The clarity of the rules for people has not been very easy to follow,” he said.

In addition, he said that since it’s such a new technology the laws are changing constantly, which is another reason why it’s hard for people to keep up with the laws.

It’s not just the FAA that has laws about flying drones. Private companies and municipalities are drafting their own rules too. Syracuse University has a campus-wide ban on any drone flying. It’s something that president of the drone club, Kyle Foley, is very familiar with.

“We’re a drone club on SU campus, but since it’s private property DPS (Department of Public Security) can actually take your drone,” Foley said.

He said that it’s the department of risk management that is behind the drone ban. The reason for the ban is safety concerns, which is also the rationale behind many of the FAA’s laws too. You can’t fly at night or above 400 feet because it is easy to loose sight of your drone. Pilots aren’t allowed to fly over people either because if something were to happen to the drone in midair then it may fall and hit someone on the head or cut someone with its propellers.

The consequences for breaking these laws is hefty. The FAA can fine you up to $10,000. If you are a licensed pilot for commercial purposes, they can revoke your license too.

However, this doesn’t happen much. It’s mainly because there aren’t enough FAA officials to enforce the law. Mickey Osterriecher, the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, says that these laws act primarily as a benchmark if anything goes wrong. When the FAA does need to enforce the law and take someone to court, there is a precedent set to determine the case.