What to consider before gifting a drone this holiday season

best drones Christmas

With the holiday season quickly approaching, you may be looking at a drone as a gift. A drone can be a fantastic gift for your loved ones that are into technology and the RC hobby. However, there are some things you should consider before committing to purchasing a drone.

Drones as gifts have seen a surge in recent years as the costs have decreased and selection has increased. With this surge in popularity, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has cracked down on drone usage to keep airspaces and the general public safe. From drone registration to the newly implemented Remote ID system to different weight classes, there are some important things to note before you purchase a drone. Broken down into sub-250 gram drones and over-250-gram drones, make sure you are aware of the requirements before you make that purchase.

It is also important to note that FAA regulations could change over time, so be sure to stay up to date on the latest rules. With that out of the way, here’s what you need to know!

Drones under 0.55 pounds (250 grams)

DJI Mavic Mini 2 | Image Credit: DJI

Sub-250-gram drones are currently subject to less regulation than those weighing more, so they are definitely easier to gift!

If you are flying a sub-250-gram drone for only fun and recreation, you don’t have to register the drone. The pilot will, however, will have to earn the TRUST (The Recreational UAS Safety Test) certificate.

The two-part test is free to take online from FAA authorized providers. The first section educates the test taker on everything they need to know while the second section is the actual test. The whole test is all multiple choice, and should you get a question wrong, it will explain the answer. Upon completion of the test, a TRUST certificate will be issued. It never expires, but if you lose the certificate you will have to retake the test. This is because neither the FAA nor the test administrator keeps any personally identifiable information on the test takers.

TRUST Certificate Example | Image Credit: UAV Coach

Once the TRUST certificate is acquired you are allowed to fly your drone, but make sure you follow the general guidelines listed below. Also, a more in-depth look into regulations and rules for sub-250 gram drones can be found here.

Here are some sub-250-gram drones to consider this holiday season

Drones over 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and under 55 pounds

DJI Mavic 3 | Image Credit: DJI

Gifting heavier drones is a bit more complicated, as drones over 0.55 pounds (250 grams) must be registered with the FAA. There are two ways to register can either be registered under Part 107 or for Recreational purposes. Most people who opt for a heavier drone are looking for more professional-type features, like higher resolution video, so these larger drones are often registered under Part 107.

Part 107 is the certification for remote pilots that allows you to use your drone for commercial purposes and allows you to fly in areas other users would not be authorized. The test for Part 107 is significantly more challenging than the TRUST test for recreational fliers. There are many courses and websites that can assist you in getting your Part 107 certification. If you aren’t whether you need to get a Part 107, the FAA has a User Identification Tool to help you determine what you need.

Whether you plan to fly the heavier drone under the recreation exception or Part 107, drone registration itself costs $5/drone and is valid for three years. Once you register your drone, you have to carry your registration certificate on your person whenever you fly, and your drone has to be labeled with the registration number. Drone registration can be completed through the DroneZone website for both Part 107 and Recreational Flyers.

Of course, as with lighter drones, be sure to follow the guidelines for drone use.

Here are some over-250-gram drones to consider this holiday season

General guidelines for drone use

  1. Follow safety guidelines.
    1. FAA-Recognized Community Based Organizations (CBOs). However, the FAA hasn’t begun recognizing CBOs. Follow Advisory Circular 91-57B until then.
  2. Keep drone within line of sight or fly with a visual observer next to you and is in direct verbal contact.
  3. Give way and do not interfere with manned aircraft.
  4. Fly at or below 400 feet in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) and with prior authorization by using LAANC or DroneZone.
    1. LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability)
    2. DroneZone
  5. Fly at or below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace (Class G).
    1. Use B4UFLY to figure out what type of airspace you are dealing with and get LAANC authorization.
  6. Do not operate your drone in a dangerous manner.
    1. Do not interfere with emergency response or law enforcement activities.
    2. Do not fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If you have any doubts about whether you can fly as a recreational flyer, you can check this FAA page at any time.

Remote ID – The future of drones

Love it or hate it, Remote ID is the way forward for drones. The Remote ID is a system for providing identification and location information to third parties. The primary reason for Remote ID’s existence is for authorities to be able to track down the controller of a drone that is flying in an unsafe manner. Remote ID is also meant to allow for more complex drone operations.

How different implementations of Remote ID will affect flight | Image Credit: FAA

Drone manufacturers have until September 16, 2022, to implement Remote ID into their new drones, while pilots have until September 16, 2023, to have their existing drones meet the new regulations. DJI’s new Mavic 3 drone has a Remote ID system built-in, but manufacturers are still working on fully implementing the system. Drones under 250 grams will not be required to have a Remote ID system unless they are flying under Part 107.

To wrap up, it is important to do your research when getting a drone as a gift. They are exciting and fun, but with the increasing regulation around them, you need to be cautious. Especially if your new drone pilot gets a Part 107, the FAA can dish out hefty fines for people who violate the regulations.

Are you considering gifting a drone this holiday season? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image: Featured image by Josh Spires

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