SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Many of you will soon be unwrapping those presents under the tree, if you haven't already, and if Santa brings you a drone this year there are some new rules you'll need to know before your first flight.
The FAA enacted the brand new regulations just this week, and the move is drawing some criticism. The FAA estimates hundreds of thousands of people will be receiving drones like this one for Christmas.
"That means lots of people who have never been pilots before will be responsible for operating unmanned aircraft," said FAA Communications Director Kathleen Bergen.
As of this week, all drone owners – new and old – will have to register their aircraft with the FAA if it's between half a pound and 55 pounds.
And you have to follow these rules:
- Stay below 400 feet in altitude
- Keep the drone in your line-of-sight at all times
- Don't fly near airports
- And never fly the drone over groups of people or stadiums
"If the pilot loses control of the unmanned aircraft, it could have dangerous results for the people on the ground," said Bergen.
For the FAA, safety is the priority. But some aren't too enthusiastic about the new rules.
"It definitely hampers the small business as well as the enthusiast, because they take the pleasure out of the technology," said Craig Davidenko, founder and director of DroneMedia.com.
Davidenko's Savannah-based drone company does aerial photography and surveying for clients. He says most people today - from real estate agents to your casual hobbyist - are only using drones to capture a certain point of view.
"So these drones are really not getting to an altitude that's going to disturb commercial traffic," said Davidenko.
But the way the FAA sees it, regardless of how you use your drone, it's still flying in the national airspace system.
"Unmanned aircraft are aircraft. And people who are operating the unmanned aircraft, even if they're hobbyists or recreational users, are pilots," said Bergen.
Which means you should go online and fill out that registration, before taking that new drone for a spin come Christmas morning. Registering your drone is free for the next 30 days. After that the cost is $5. You can find the link to the registry here.