There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation about unmanned aircraft system (UAS) regulations. Here are some common myths and the corresponding facts, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Myth #1: The FAA doesn’t control airspace below 400 feet.
Fact: The FAA is responsible for the safety of U.S. airspace from the ground up. This misperception may originate with the idea that manned aircraft generally must stay at least 500 feet above the ground
Myth #2: Commercial UAS flights are OK if I’m over private property and stay below 400 feet.
Fact: The FAA published a Federal Register notice (PDF) in 2007 that clarified the agency’s policy: You may not fly a UAS for commercial purposes by claiming that you’re operating according to the Model Aircraft guidelines (below 400 feet, 3 miles from an airport, away from populated areas.) Commercial operations are only authorized on a case-by-case basis. A commercial flight requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval. To date, only one operation has met these criteria, using Insitu’s ScanEagle, and authorization was limited to the Arctic
Myth #3: Commercial UAS operations are a “gray area” in FAA regulations.
Fact: There are no shades of gray in FAA regulations. Anyone who wants to fly an aircraft — manned or unmanned — in U.S. airspace needs some level of FAA approval. Private sector (civil) users can obtain an experimental airworthiness certificate to conduct research and development, training and flight demonstrations. Commercial UAS operations are limited and require the operator to have certified aircraft and pilots, as well as operating approval. To date, only two UAS models (the Scan Eagle and Aerovironment’s Puma) have been certified, and they can only fly in the Arctic. Public entities (federal, state and local governments, and public universities) may apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). The FAA reviews and approves UAS operations over densely-populated areas on a case-by-case basis.
Flying model aircraft solely for hobby or recreational reasons doesn’t require FAA approval, but hobbyists must operate according to the agency’s model aircraft guidance, which prohibits operations in populated areas.
Source: Federal Aviation Administration