Know Before You Fly

Know Before You Fly (knowb4youfly) means making the airspace and below safe for everyone. Let's go over the rules and regulations for safe drone flight.


What is Recreational Use of a Drone?

The recreational use of a drone is the operation of an (UAS) unmanned aircraft for personal interests and enjoyment such as a for fun or a hobby. For example, using a drone to take photographs for your own enjoyment use would be considered recreational; using that same drone to take photographs or videos for compensation or sale to another individual would be considered a commercial operation.

Drones, currently operated for hobby and recreational purposes need to obtain a remote pilot certificate from the FAA. The only exception is for some non-commercial pilots who are active participants in and follow the safety guidelines of a community-based organization such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). These laws are somewhat changing as time passes. Always look to the FAA directly for the latest on the rules and regulations.

What are the Requirements to Fly A Drone for Recreation?

Recreational Remote Pilot Requirements:

  • Obtain a remote pilot certificate from the FAA or operate within the programming of a community-based organization such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)
  • Must be registered with the FAA
  • Must be properly marked with a label containing registration information
  • Keep your drone in eyesight at all times, and use an observer to assist if needed.
  • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations, and you must see and avoid other aircraft and obstacles at all times
  • Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property
  • Contact the airport and control tower before flying within five miles of an airport or heliport
  • Do not fly in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility
  • Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operation of the drone
  • Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.
  • Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property
  • Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual’s permission

What is Commercial Use of a Drone?

Any commercial use in connection with a business, including:

  • Selling photos or videos taken from a drone flight
  • Using a drone to provide contract services, such as industrial equipment or factory inspection
  • Using a drone to provide professional services, such as security

Some examples of commercial uses of drone include:

  • Professional real estate or wedding photography
  • Professional cinema photography for a film or television production
  • Providing contract services for mapping or land surveys
  • Using a drone for real estate business

If you want to fly your UAS for commercial use, you must follow the FAA’s set of operational rules (known as “Part 107”). These rules went into effect on August 29, 2016.

The FAA’s final rule for small, unmanned aircraft provides specific safety regulations for non-recreational use of unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds. That means drone users who want to fly for commercial use, such as providing aerial surveying, video photography, or real estate photography services must follow these regulations.

What is Required to Fly a Drone Commercially?

Commercial Remote Pilot Requirements:

  • Must be at least 16 years of age
  • Must take and pass the Aeronautical Knowledge and Safety Test
  • Must be registered with the FAA
  • Must hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of someone holding a remote pilot airman certificate
  • Must pass the applicable Transportation Security Administration (TSA) vetting

Drone requirements:

  • Must weigh less than 55 lbs.*
  • Must be properly marked with a label containing registration information
  • Must undergo pre-flight check by remote pilot in command (a.k.a. you or the person supervising the operation)

Location requirements:

  • Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace are allowed with the required Air Traffic Controller (ATC) permission
  • Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission

U.S. Air Space Drone Flight Map

How to Read the Drone Flight Map


Community-based guidelines require recreational operators to give notice for flights within 5 statute miles of an airport. Notice must be given to the airport operator or air traffic control tower, if the airport has a tower. Tap or click on an airspace area to see the airport operator phone number.


This layer indicates a 5-mile radius around designated heliports. These heliports may not be active, and in some instances may be an empty field where helicopters can land in emergencies. The layer adds a lot of detail in cities, where many buildings have heliports. This is included as an advisory area to help alert UAS operators that they should be particularly alert to helicopter traffic in the area.

Temporary Flight Restrictions/Wildfires

Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) are used by the FAA to temporarily restrict flights in certain areas. Some TFRs have become more permanent, like those around Disneyland and Disneyworld. But most are event based, for example when the President comes to town or to protect airspace for an airshow. The FAA publishes TFRs as necessary, but there are also “unpublished” TFRs for sporting events that AirMap also includes. A gray circle indicates that a TFR is not active at the moment, but is scheduled to start in the next 24 hours.

This layer also includes realtime wildfires sourced directly from the Department of Interior’s incident command system. The FAA does not issue Temporary Flight Restrictions for the vast majority of fires in the United States, even though many are fought with firefighting aircraft. In many states, interfering with firefighting activity is considered a crime.

Prohibited or Restricted Airspace

Prohibited areas protect the most sensitive areas in the United States, such as the White House and Camp David. Permission from the using agency (such as the Secret Service) is required to enter a Prohibited Area and is almost never available.

Restricted areas are typically located around military installations or other areas where flight could be hazardous. Permission from the controlling agency (air traffic control) is required to enter these areas and is often not available.

National Parks

This layer depicts areas within the boundaries of units of the National Park System. Launching, landing, or operating unmanned aircraft is prohibited on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within these areas. More information about the location of units of the National Park System and the National Park Service drone ban is available on the website of each park area which can be found on

NOAA Marine Protection Areas

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration regulations prohibit certain flights of powered aircraft (including drones) in these areas. More information available on NOAA’s website