New FAA rules for flying drones were instituted in 2018 and are in the process of coming into effect.
Most relevant to educational flyers are the updated “special rule” recreational drone standards. Educational flyers can choose to fly under these standards, which institute new training and authorization requirements, or seek a Part 107 (commercial) license, which requires an FAA-administered knowledge test and training course and has fewer restrictions on flying.
Under the new rules, educational and recreational users will also be required to pass a knowledge test. Additionally, educational users must seek approval from their institutions to fly anywhere in U.S. airspace (not just on campus). These rules have not been fully implemented as of September 2019; the FAA is currently developing a training module and test designed for recreational users.
At Princeton, we continue to require that all those seeking to fly sUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, including drones and model airplanes) on University property fill out a flight request form. Stay tuned for announcements of new approval requirements for off-campus flights.
All sUAS must be registered with the FAA and the registration number must be affixed to the outside of the device.
Airspace and Flight Approvals
Recreational and educational flyers may continue to operate in uncontrolled airspace without specific FAA authorization, as long as flights are below 400 feet.
Notification of flights within five miles of an airport or heliport is no longer required, but operators must seek FAA authorization to fly in controlled airspace around airports (Class D). Permission to fly in controlled airspace is available through the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) process. FAA-approved providers of LAANC include Kittyhawk and Airmap.
Operator knowledge of real-time, site-specific airspace rules and restrictions, including Class D and TFRs (temporary flight restrictions), is critical. There are several apps to help operators know when and where they can fly, the most important being the B4UFly mobile app.
More information on rules for sUAS flying are on our where to fly page.