Drone Federal Air Regulations

A tethered blimp is not considered a drone by the United States FAA.

Background of FAA Oversight of Model Aircraft OperationsHistorically, the FAA has considered model aircraft to be aircraft that fall within the statutory and regulatory definitions of an aircraft, as they are contrivances or devices that are “invented, used, or designed to navigate, or fly in, the air.” See49 USC 40102 and 14 CFR 1.1. As aircraft, these devices generally are subject to FAA oversight and enforcement. However, consistent with FAA’s enforcement philosophy, FAA’s oversight of model aircraft has been guided by the risk that these operations present. The FAA first recognized in 1981 that “model aircraft can at times pose a hazard to full-scale aircraft in flight and to persons and property on the surface,” and recommended a set of voluntary operating standards for model aircraft operators to follow to mitigate these safety risks.SeeAdvisory Circular 91-57, Model Aircraft Operating Standards (June 9, 1981). These operating standards included restricting operations over populated areas, limiting use of the devices around spectators until after the devices had been flight tested and proven airworthy; restricting operations to 400 feet above the surface; requiring that the devices give right of way to, and avoid flying near manned aircraft, and using observers to assist in operations. These guidelines were further clarified in 2007, when the FAA issued a policy statement regarding unmanned aircraft s ystems (UAS) operations in the NAS. See 72 Fed. Reg. 6689 (Feb. 13, 2007). In this policy statement, the FAA also recognized that UAS fall within the statutory and regulatory definition of “aircraft” as they are devices that are “used or [are] intended to be used for flight in the air with no onboard pilot.” Id.; see also49 U.S.C. 40102; 14 CFR 1.1. The FAA noted that they can be “as simple as a remotely controlled model aircraft used for recreational purposes or as complex as surveillance aircraft flying over hostile areas in warfare.” The FAA then stated its current policy regarding UAS based on the following three categories: (1) UAS used as public aircraft; (2) UAS used as civil aircraft; and (3) UAS used as model aircraft. With respect to UAS used as model aircraft, the FAA reiterated the operating guidelines in AC 91-57, and further noted that to qualify as a model aircraft, the aircraft would need to be operated purely for recreational or hobby purposes, and within the visual line of sight of the operator. The policy statement also clarified that AC 91-57 applied only to modelers and “specifically excludes its use by persons or companies for business purposes.” 72 FR at 6690.

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