Unmanned Aircraft Systems / Drones

An unmanned aircraft system (UAS), sometimes called a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot onboard – instead, the UAS is controlled from an operator on the ground.

When you fly a drone in the United States, it is your responsibility to understand and abide by the rules.

What's New

The FAA has released a new video on the rules and regulations that operators must follow to safely operate UAS. Click here to view the video.

The NEW Small UAS Rule (Part 107), including all pilot and operating rules, will be effective on August 29, 2016. For more detailed information, please see: https://www.faa.gov/uas/

Calendar of Events

Watch for upcoming events featuring UAS presentations

Hobby / Recreational Users

Federal regulations define hobby / recreational operations as operations that meet the following criteria:

  • The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;
  • The aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;
  • The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;
  • The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and
  • When flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation.

For example, taking pictures for someone to use in the course of their business is NOT hobby / recreational use, even if you are not being paid.

Community-based organizations are membership based associations that represent the aeromodelling community within the United States; and provide members a comprehensive set of safety guidelines that underscore safe aeromodelling operations within the National Airspace System and the protection and safety of the general public on the ground. The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) is considered a community-based organization. The AMA National Model Aircraft Safety Code is considered a community-based set of safety guidelines.

Commercial Users

UAS operations that do not fall under the definition of hobby / recreational and are not public use are considered commercial use. Commercial use is regulated by Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 107, Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.  Part 107 covers:

Operating Rules (Subpart B)

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 pounds.
  • At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain in visual line-of-sight.
  • Small unmanned aircraft my not operate over any persons not directly participating in the operation.
  • Daylight operations only.
  • Must yield right of way to other aircraft.
  • Maximum ground speed of 100 mph
  • Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level.
  • Minimum visibility of 3 miles from the control station.
  • Operations in controlled airspace are allowed with the required Air Traffic Control permission. In Illinois controlled airspace is generally within 5 miles of an airport or heliport.

Most of these restrictions are waivable if the applicant demonstrates the operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver (Subpart D).

Remote Pilot in Command (Subpart C)

A person operating a small UAS must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who does hold a remote pilot certificate (remote pilot in command).

To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, a person must:

  • Demonstrate aeronautical knowledge.
  • Be vetted by the TSA.
  • Be at least 16 years old.

Public (Government)

Operators who plan to use a UAS as a state or federal agency, or for other government purposes, such as fire departments or law enforcement, have the option of operating under the regulations set forth in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 107, Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems or they may apply for a Certificate of Authorization (COA).

A COA is an authorization issued to a public operator for a specific activity.  Details on COAs, and application information, can be found on the FAA website under Certificates of Waiver or Authorization.

Resources

  • Know Before You Fly website: Your one stop shop for UAS information. Know Before You Fly defines the different types of UAS users; provides an airspace map; and even had links for registering your drones.
  • B4UFLY App: This is an easy-to-use smartphone app that’s helps you determine whether there are any restrictions or requirements in effect at the location where you want to fly.
  • IDOT Personnel: Division of Aeronautics staff monitor the constantly changing UAS arena. As aviation professionals, they are well versed in the State and Federal regulations and how these are applied to various operations. You can contact the Division’s staff at 217/785-8516 or aero@illinois.gov.
  • FAA Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO): Every FSDO has personnel who specialize in UAS operations. These folks can answer questions and assist with registration or certification requirements. This is also the place to go if you have a complaint regarding a UAS operation.
  • Advisory Circular 107-2: This document, published by the FAA, provides guidance for conducting UAS operations in the National Airspace System in accordance the Federal Regulations.
  • 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 107: Federal regulations covering registration, airman certification, and operation of civil small unmanned aircraft systems within the United States.
  • FAA website, Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA): This website provides information on waivers and COAs. The application for a waiver or COA is also available.