Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules apply to the entire National Airspace System -- there is no such thing as "unregulated" airspace. Drone operators should be familiar with the difference between controlled and uncontrolled airspace, and where you can legally fly. Controlled airspace is found around some airports and at certain altitudes where air traffic controllers are actively communicating with, directing, and separating all air traffic. Other airspace is considered uncontrolled in the sense that air traffic controllers are not directing air traffic within its limits.
In general, you can only fly your drone in uncontrolled airspace below 400 feet above the ground (AGL). Commercial drone operators are required to get permission from the FAA before flying in controlled airspace. Learn more about the rules for Certificated Remote Pilots and commercial operators on Flying Drones Near Airports (Controlled Airspace) – Part 107.
Read more about controlled and uncontrolled airspace, as well as the different classifications of controlled airspace in the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PDF) in chapter 15 (see page 377).
Remember, there are thousands of private pilots who fly in both controlled and uncontrolled airspace at various altitudes, and they usually cannot see your drone until it's too close for comfort. Drone operators are responsible for staying away from manned aircraft, not the other way around!
Flying Near Airports:
Generally, drone operators should avoid flying near airports because of other air traffic. It is very difficult for other aircraft to see and avoid a drone while flying, and drone operators are responsible for any safety hazard their drone creates in an airport environment.
Option 1: If you have a Remote Pilot Certificate and are following part 107 rules, you must get permission from air traffic control to fly in controlled airspace. The FAA can grant permission two different ways – LAANC or DroneZone.
Option 2: If you are a recreational flyer, flight in controlled airspace is temporarily limited to recreational flyer fixed sites that have an agreement with the FAA.
Option 3: If you are a public entity (law enforcement or government agency), the FAA may issue you special permission to fly in a designated location near an airport. Read information about the requirements for law enforcement and government drone operations.
Still unsure if Part 107 rules work for you and your intended operation? Check our user identification tool.
Some operations are not covered by Part 107 and will require a waiver. Here are some common examples of Part 107 sections that are subject to waiver:
- Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft (§ 107.25) *
- Daylight operation (§ 107.29)
- Visual line of sight aircraft operation (§ 107.31) *
- Visual observer (§ 107.33)
- Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems (§ 107.35)
- Yielding the right of way (§ 107.37(a))
- Operation over people (§ 107.39)
- Operation in certain airspace (§ 107.41)
- Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft (§ 107.51)
*The FAA will not waive this section to allow the carriage of property of another by aircraft for compensation or hire.
If your operation will require a waiver, read about the Part 107 Waiver application process.
Approved Areas to Fly Drones in Hot Springs:
Zoom in on this map to Hot Springs (or any other location) to see the approved areas to fly drones.
- Always be sure to fly your drone safely and within FAA guidelines and regulations.
- It is up to you as a drone pilot to know the Rules of the Sky, and where it is and is not safe to fly.