For anyone filming powder, rapids or waves remotely from the air, drones are no longer considered toys. And that’s the official ruling coming down from the Department of Transportation this week. “Unmanned aircraft operators are aviators and with that title comes a great deal of responsibility,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox. Fox was debuting the new DOT regulations.
According to NPR, all drone operators over 13 must register their names and addresses with the Federal Aviation Administration by Dec. 21 (anyone under 13 must have a registered adult present when flying). Operators will then be given a number on a sticker that needs to be prominently displayed on the drone—devices weighing between .55 and 55 pounds. The registration fee is $5 but free for the first 30 days.
Check out any surf, snow or bike edit (any outdoor edit for that matter) and you’re bound to see crisp aerial footage captured by practiced pilots who’ve been operating in a loophole state during the drone revolution over the past few years. But no more getting “totally droned” without government regulation. The feds want in on the action. And for good reason: a study by Bard College in New York on drone interaction with manned aircraft found that between 2013 and 2015 there were more than 300 incidents where a drone got dangerously close to airplanes and helicopters, causing a serious safety risk. In 28 of those instances, the pilot had to use evasive action to avoid a collision.
Fines can be stiff for drone violations: from nearly $30,000 for lesser offenses and up to a quarter-million dollars and three years in jail for criminal violations. Expect additional regulations for commercial drone operators.
Basically, though, the rules are pretty simple so don’t panic: keep drones under 55 pounds, keep them within a line of sight below 400 feet and stay at least five miles away from airports. And keep getting us great footage to live vicariously through.