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Drones Are Coming This Christmas

Updated: Jul 7, 2019

For safety's sake, help spread the word...

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)

The gift giving season is upon us.  Some of you may expect to give or receive a drone or model airplane.  Whether a simple one bladed drone or advanced digital camera-equipped quad-copter both of these are considered a "UAS" and flying them is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Regulation of UAS (aka "Drones") in the hands of civilian pilots took a big step forward December 14, 2015.  The Federal Aviation Administration announced units weighing between 0.55 pounds and 50 pounds must be registered by February 19th, 2016. Anyone flying a UAS without proper registration after that date could face stiff penalties. Civil penalties include a fine of up to $27,500 and Criminal penalties include a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years imprisonment. UAS come in a variety of shapes and sizes and serve diverse purposes. Regardless of size, the responsibility to fly safely applies equally to manned and unmanned aircraft operations. Currently, small unmanned aircraft systems ("sUAS") may be operated for hobby and recreational purposes under specific safety guidelines as established by Congress. Small UAS flown for recreational purposes are typically known as model aircraft and weigh less than 55 lbs. The recreational use of sUAS is the operation of an unmanned aircraft for personal interests and enjoyment. For example, using a sUAS to take photographs for your own personal use would be considered recreational; using the same device to take photographs or videos for compensation or sale to another individual would be considered a commercial operation and fall under a separate set of regulations.  Prospective operators should check with the FAA for further determination as to what constitutes commercial or other non-hobby, non-recreational sUAS operations. Under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, recreational UAS must be operated in accordance with several requirements, including a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). Operators not operating within the safety program of a community-based organization should follow the FAA's guidance at Know Before You Fly. The Watsonville Municipal Airport has a standing letter of prior notice for operations with a local AMA chapter, the RC Bees of Santa Cruz County. The FAA has partnered with several industry associations to promote Know Before You Fly, a campaign to educate the public about using unmanned aircraft safely and responsibly. Individuals flying for hobby or recreation are strongly encouraged to follow safety guidelines, which include: 1)   Follo