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Unmanned Aircraft Systems / Drones

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones as they are commonly referred to, are a growing part of the aviation community. Aside from the exploding proliferation of recretaional drones, more and more commercial and government operators are taking to the skies to take advantage of the many benefits of this new technology.

Before operating a UAS, operators must be aware of the rules and regulations that govern the use of drones.

UAS Registration

All drones, both recreational- and commercial-use weighing between 0.55 lbs and 55 lbs, must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  Please visit the FAA drone registration webpage for more information.

Operating Your UAS

Recreational Use

Recreational users are asked to follow the FAA's basic guidelines for flight safety

  • Operate in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines.
  • No heavier than 55 pounds (unless certified).
  • Always keep the drone within eyesight.
  • Give way to and do not interfere with manned aircraft.
  • Contact the airport operator or Air Traffic Control (ATC) when within five (5) miles of an airport.
  • Do not fly higher than 400 feet.
  • Do not fly over or within 25 feet of pedestrians, moving vehicles, or public infrastructure.
  • Do not interfere with emergency response activities.
  • Comply with No Drone Zone locations.

Commercial Use

Commercial operators must comply with 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 107 for pilot certification and operating limitations.  Unless waived by the FAA, the following limitations apply:

  • Be at least 16 years of age or older.
  • Obtain remote pilot certification by passing an aeronautical knowledge test.
  • Always keep the drone within eyesight.
  • Give way to and do not interfere with manned aircraft.
  • Do not fly within controlled airspace without prior coordination.
  • Do not fly higher than 400 feet.
  • Do not fly over or within 25 feet of pedestrians, moving vehicles, or public infrastructure.
  • Do not interfere with emergency response activities.
  • Comply with No Drone Zone locations.
  • Do not fly at night.
  • Comply with weather minimums.
  • As a courtesy, coordinate with airports when operating within one (1) mile of the airport.

Pennsylvania UAS Law

Please note that Pennsylvania UAS Law makes it a crime to operate a drone:

  • to conduct surveillance of another person in a private place;
  • in a fashion that places another person in fear of bodily injury; and
  • to deliver, provide, transmit, or furnish contraband.

No Drone Zones

To help UAS operators understand where they can and cannot operate their UAS, the FAA has developed the B4UFly smartphone app that identifies whether there are any restrictions or requirements in effect at the location where you want to fly.

For state and local authorities, the FAA has numerous tools available online to help public safety officials understand safe drone operations and their authority.

For more information and news on UAS operation and registration, go to the FAA's Unmanned Aircraft Systems page.