Written by: Mary Ramsey
Drones have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more amateurs and professionals alike looking to take the skies above Charlotte and beyond.
While some high-end models can still cost into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, there are now plenty of options available from retailers such as Amazon for less than $100 that can take photos and videos.
But there are numerous federal and state laws and regulations you have to follow when flying a drone. The rules are also different based on what you’re going to do with your drone, too.
Here’s what to know about the laws, rules and regulations surrounding drone use in North Carolina:
What are the FAA rules on drones?
The Federal Aviation Administration regulates drone usage in the U.S. and has different sets of rules and requirements for “recreational flyers” and those flying drones “for commercial, government or any other non-recreational purposes.”
“Recreational use” is defined by the FAA as “simply flying for fun or personal enjoyment.” Examples of non-recreational flights offered by the FAA include “taking photos to help sell a property or service, roof inspections, or taking pictures of a high school football game for the school’s website.”
Recreational pilots need to make sure their drone is registered and pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). They need to keep their drone “within the visual line of sight or use a visual observer who is co-located (physically next to) and in direct communication with you” and fly them “at or below 400 feet.”
To fly a drone for non-recreational purposes, you need to become an FAA-certified drone pilot. To do so, you have to be 16 years of age or older and pass a “knowledge test” administered by an FAA-approved testing center. You can find study materials at faa.gov/uas/resources/policy_library#107 and a testing center at faa.psiexams.com/faa/login.
Once you’ve passed the test, you’ll need to register your drone.
You can register your drone and, if needed, start the process of becoming an authorized pilot online using the FAA’s “DroneZone.”
NC drone laws
In addition to the FAA rules governing the use of drones in all 50 states, North Carolina has its own set of drone-related laws.
Under state law, “it is illegal to use an unmanned aircraft system to take or distribute images of a person or their home without their consent.” And you can’t launch a drone or recover a drone “from either private or state property without the consent of the property’s owner.”
You’re also not allowed to fly a drone over any prison in North Carolina or to aid in hunting or fishing.
It’s a felony in North Carolina to attach a weapon to a drone.
Commercial operators need to get a permit from the state Department of Transportation’s Division of Aviation before flying and need to have passed “the UAS Operator’s Knowledge Test as a prerequisite.”