What the new drone laws mean for Charlotte

What the new drone laws mean for Charlotte
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Editor’s note: The author is the founder of DroneCLT, a digital media production community using drones.

What are drones?

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are small aircraft that are usually controlled by pilots on the ground via a remote control. Drones come in all shapes and sizes and can range in price from $10 to well into the thousands of dollars.

I’ve heard lots of things on the news, what’s exactly going on?

Drones have been one of the most popular gifts over the past few holiday seasons but with no concrete rules or regulations in place to govern the use of the drones we started hearing stories in the news over various dangerous drone incidents.

There have been numerous reports of close encounters with airplanes, one pilot crashed his drone at the White House and a local pilot interfered with a police activities when he decided it was a good idea to record a police helicopter in the middle of a search for a suspect.


Our nations airspace basically became a free-for-all for drone pilots and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) realized it needed to act quickly. Unfortunately, like most things in government, the administration of new drone laws has taken years to put into place but the drone usage landscape is finally starting to become clear.

What should I know about the new laws?

If you fly your drone as a hobbyist, the first thing that you need to do is register the drone with the FAA (the registration fee is $5) or risk being fined. Other than that, make sure to stay at least 5 miles away from Charlotte Douglas International Airport, fly below 400 feet, keep visual line of sight of your drone and always yield to manned aircraft.

If you are like our company, DroneCLT, and want to fly your drone commercially because of the unparalleled perspectives for photography and videography it offers to your clients then you should be excited about the news from the FAA this week.


In an effort to regulate commercial airspace use by drones as quickly as possible, the FAA initially placed drones in the same category as manned aerial vehicles and required companies to get an exemption from the FAA in order to use the drones commercially. Our company has that exemption but it took us over six months to get and many of the rules we have to follow just don’t make sense for drones.

The new commercial laws, which the FAA announced this week and go into effect in August, are specific for drones and have reduced the barrier to enter the space significantly. Now to be able to use drones commercially, one will have to pass a TSA screening and an FAA aeronautical knowledge test. Besides that, the pilot will have to follow the same laws as a hobbyist but also not fly over 100mph or at nighttime and over people (without permission).

Beyond the new laws, safety is key whether you fly commercially or recreationally. Use common sense when flying and avoid flying next to people or in close proximity to buildings (especially Uptown). Plan you routes ahead of time and practice before taking your drone out to public and populated areas. Ask for permission before flying over someone else’s property and stay educated on all things drone operation.

How will this impact Charlotte?

With the drone laws becoming clearer and the barrier to enter the commercial drone world significantly reduced expect to see a lot more drones in the air in the Queen City. There are estimates that these new drone laws will create over 100,000 jobs in the United States and we are sure to see an impact locally.

Drones will become more and more part of the Charlotte culture and landscape. Our crew gets approached all the time when shooting events, like the one we did for Cam Newton, and when getting shots of the our cities underrated skyline and now those interested by-standers will have the ability to fly the drones themselves.

More and more of the cities creative types will get their hands on the drones and create some incredibly unique and visually appealing shots of Charlotte.

Charlotte is already experiencing a real estate boom and more of the cities premium properties will be captured by drones to entice buyers.

The commercial applications for drones are limitless and a growing and creative city like our own is bound to play a major part in shaping the drone usage landscape nationally.

Interested in the Charlotte Drone Community?

If you are interested in learning more about the Drone Community in Charlotte you can attend one of the local meetups or reach out to us at DroneCLT directly.

We have also partnered with flymore and Argos Advisors to host a Drone Racing event at the historic Savona Mills just outside of Uptown on July 23. There will be a viewing party next door at Blue Blaze Brewing and the race will feature some of the best racers on the East Coast competing for spots in the 2016 U.S. National Drone Racing Championships.

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