Aerial Photography Laws: Laws Beginners to Quadcopters Should Know

Aerial photography can sure be great fun. Model aircraft have been used for aerial photography for a long time. But at no time in the past were model and craft and quadcopters as popular as they are currently with the general public.

Many beginners to quadcopters do not seem to realize there are laws in place regulating quadcopters and aerial photography.

If you are relatively new to quads, the very first thing to do of course would be to master flying. That way, you will most likely not accidentally lose control and run the risk of hurting someone or damaging property … that could be a lot more serious in most cases than violating someone’s privacy unintentionally. 

Privacy vs aerial Photography

Privacy may not be a right enshrined in the Constitution, but you sure would not want to intrude upon anyone’s privacy.

If you use your camera quadcopter to film someone or their property, chances are fairly good that you could be violating their right to privacy.

Even in case they want you to film their property, you’ll want to get a written permission from them.

The very first thing you would want to do before using your quadcopter for videography or photography would be to consult an attorney. Explain what exactly you’re going to be doing and get to know whether it would be legal. Anyway, if you plan to make use of the footage you will need written permission.

Several states are now debating passing bills that ban any kind of aerial photography from model aircraft. Texas house bill # 912 is an example. It would not be surprising if other states followed suit.

Aerial Photography Laws

New rules are being crafted to regulate quadcopters under the model aircraft. Here are few of the current laws that you might want to be aware of…

  • Stay below 400 feet at all times. 
  • Avoid flying over populated areas
  • Always keep your quadcopter within visual line of sight. Which essentially means your quadcopter should not fly more than 100 meters away from you.
  • Do not fly within 5 miles of an airport
  • Do not fly within 50 m of any structure, vehicle or vessel that you do not own.
  • Do not fly within 50 m of another person
  • The weight of the quadcopter should not exceed 15 kg.
  • Using your quadcopter for any kind of commercial activity is strictly not allowed.
  • If you are a professional photographer, it is the last rule that would be the most worrying.

It is your legal responsibility to ensure each flight is conducted safely. So you would want to take time to clearly understand the spirit of the law.

You’d also want to follow safety precautions to minimize chances of any untoward incident while you’re flying. Many beginners are so eager to get started filming that they do not check whether the quadcopter is in perfect condition. There are a host of things that need to be checked before every flight and neglecting to do the required checks is surely not what you would want to do. Take all of the necessary precautions before every flight.

As mentioned earlier, before you do any kind of filming you’d want to discuss your plans with an attorney. You would want to do everything you can to ensure that you do not break any of the laws. In addition to the ones mentioned above, there could be other state or county laws that you might want to be aware of.

And unless you have written permission from the authorities, you would not want to carry out any kind of commercial activity using your quadcopter.