Drones are becoming more popular in the modern world, so much so that spotting a drone in the sky above us is becoming a common occurrence. The legal legislations and regulations are somewhat ambiguous, which means flying a drone can be safe, or it may get you into trouble if you do not understand the rules. This leads many drone pilots to wonder if drones with cameras are illegal?
Drones with cameras are not illegal. Using a drone with a camera for nefarious intent is illegal, but if the drone and drone pilot follow the guidelines and regulations for drone use determined by the FAA, drones that are equipped with cameras are legal for recreational and commercial use.
Flying a drone requires the pilot to follow certain regulations, but there are few laws dictating the flight actions and limits of privately owned and flown drones. However, this does not mean that drone pilots can do what they please in the air. Let’s take the time to understand the regulations regarding flying drones equipped with cameras.
Is It Illegal To Fly A Drone With A Camera?
Drones are becoming as common as smartphones and digital cameras. These days, so many people own and fly their own drones that it raises several questions regarding drone security and privacy that make flying a drone a sensitive activity in many places.
Regardless of the privacy concerns surrounding drones, there are surprisingly few regulations and restrictions limiting the use of drones and the equipment that they are allowed to carry. Part of these regulations omissions is the use of cameras on drones.
Most drones are equipped with a camera of some kind, either for navigating the drone itself or for capturing images and video footage remotely. There are no regulations that state that the use of a camera on a drone is illegal.
Flying or owning a drone with a camera is not illegal. Most drones on the market today are used for their video and image capturing capabilities, whether for recreational or commercial applications.
Related article: The 3 Best Cheap Drones For Photography
Drones with cameras are used for fun and personal recreation, but they are also used for commercial purposes such as land surveying, roof inspections, professional photography and videography, and even for law enforcement.
All of these drone purposes are made possible by the fact that they are equipped with cameras. This means that cameras on drones are not only legal, but they are useful and are used in many various applications.
However, while operating a drone that is equipped with a camera is not illegal, there are guidelines and regulations that should be adhered to when operating any type of drone, regardless of the equipment onboard the drone.
Speaking of camera drones, I encourage you to check out this guide where I explain whether or not all drones have cameras. In that guide, along with camera drones, I also explain which drones don’t have camera – which is worth checking out.
What Are The Regulations For Flying A Drone?
Drones that make use of an onboard camera are not illegal. Owning and flying a drone like this is legal and can be very useful. However, with that being said, there are regulations that every drone owner and drone pilot must adhere to, regardless of the type of drone and what it is used for.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) dictates that all drone pilots must follow their basic rules and regulations regarding drone flight and use. Drones used for commercial purposes have more regulations than personal-use drones, but there are regulations for all.
According to the FAA drone regulations, drones that are used for personal use only must follow the following regulations:
- The drone must only be used for recreational purposes and not used for any monetary or goodwill gains.
- A recreational drone must not weigh more than 55 pounds.
- All drone pilots must follow FAA safety guidelines outlined on the FAA website.
- All drones in flight must be kept within visual line of sight of the pilot or a co-observer in direct communication with the pilot at all times
- Drones must not interfere with manned aircraft and must give way to such aircraft.
- No drone may be flown in controlled zones and airspace without prior permission, and they must only be flown at or below 400 feet.
- All drones must be flown no more than 400 feet high in unrestricted zones.
- All drones must be properly registered with the FAA.
- Drone pilots must take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST)
- Drones must be externally marked with a registration number, and drone pilots must carry proof of registration.
- Drones must not be operated in a dangerous manner.
- Drones cannot be flown over emergency areas and must not interfere with emergency response or law enforcement units.
- Drones may not be operated by a pilot under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
All drones and drone pilots must adhere to these regulations, whether or not they are equipped with a camera. These regulations only apply to recreational drones and drone pilots. Commercial drones must follow their own set of guidelines and regulations found on the FAA website.
Concerned about noise? Check out my detailed guide: Do Drones Make Noise? (Sound Levels + Quietest Drones!)
If you would like to see some of the best drones that weigh under 55LBs (250 grams), please see my article: Best Drones Under 250 Grams With Detailed Review
Are The Regulations The Same Everywhere?
All drones must follow the regulations and guidelines outlined in the above list, but this list of regulations does not include area-specific rules that may be present where you fly your drone.
For this reason, it is always crucial to understand the drone flight and use regulations, rules, and guidelines that are specific to your area.
Some areas have more strict rules than others, and there are always exceptions to the regulations for drone flying.
For example, while capturing areal footage of a state park may be a fun use of a drone, this activity is illegal. All National and State parks have banned the use of drones within their borders. As these areas are considered private property, these parks are within their rights to prohibit the use of drones over their airspace.
This is only one example of learning the regulations specific to where you are and to where you want to fly your drone. The area where you live and the area where you travel to fly your drone may have different regulations, so it is vital that you do the necessary research before going to fly or risk facing heavy penalties.
Owning and flying a drone that is equipped with a camera is not illegal. In fact, most drones are equipped with cameras, and using a drone without one is somewhat pointless.
So long as both the drone and the drone pilot adhere closely to the regulations and guidelines set by the Federal Aviation Administration, using a drone for recreational or commercial purposes, regardless of onboard equipment, is perfectly legal.