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Aerial Photographers: Drone Laws You Need to Know Before Flying {Infographic}

By Hanssie on March 12th 2016

I recently spoke to a photographer at WPPI that told me jokingly that if his apartment was burning down and he could only save one thing, he’d reach for his DJI Inspire Quadcopter. Forget the hard drives and photos; his love and obsession for his drone was so great.

Over the years, as the popularity of drones and aerial photography has increased among photographers and hobbyists, the FAA has scrambled to put forth rules and regulations for the safety of the general public. As they continue to work to solidify laws for the usage of drones, for new drone operators, it can be difficult to ascertain what is legal and not legal when flying (You’d hope that people would use common sense, but we know that’s not always the case). It’s wisest to educate yourself, whether you’re an amateur or a hobbyist, so that you don’t unwittingly harm others or ruin your very expensive toy.


Late last year, the FAA mandated that drone owners register their UAV’s with the FAA and pay a small fee or face some hefty fines. (You can do so here if you haven’t already). That’s a good place to begin as soon as you take your drone out of the box.

If you’re a commercial operator, you need to know all the information in the infographic below. Compiled by All Digital, it tells you general information on where you cannot fly, special drone laws for various states, and special rules for professional drone operators all in one handy place.

*Note* As one astute reader pointed out, the infographic made no mention of the ‘DC No Drone Zone’ law; not surprisingly, the airspace around our nation’s capital is the most restricted airspace in the country. You can find more details on the FAA website here.

Infographic: What You Need To Know About Shooting Video With a Drone
Source: Infographic: What You Need To Know About Shooting Video With a Drone

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Nicole Rin

    Good information about Aerial Photography. It is required to have an airplane having open windows to get the best shots. it becomes very important to pay attention over the camera and lenses in order to protect them from shocks. I know INFINYTE Media is a good photographer company for aerial photography.

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  2. robert garfinkle

    So, let’s see. If you live in a high-rise in Chicago, and wish to film in Chicago, you can forget the use of a drone period, as the chances are, you cannot operate a drone even flying it out the window looking back in, because out of the window is NOT your property…

    So, you’d have to go out of the city in order to use it, as city parks, are out – according to the chart above, right? Welcome to legislation that effectively is harsher than gun laws in that city…

    Having said that. I am a technology guy tethered with interest in photography and flight, so drones are of interest. The BIG HOWEVER is this. I can totally see the FAA’s point, not just because I am a contractor for them – and I’ll be clear, in no way a spokesman for them AT ALL, but from a safety and privacy point of view. a drone, as recreational and as purposeful as one could be used for creativity-wise, can be used as a weapon and a way to invade someone’s privacy for sure. And I believe in safety first with respect to it, followed by privacy, but can’t emphasize more how much I am a freedom of speech / expression guy – and this presents it’s issues.

    I also don’t think drones should be used commercially. I think the technology is too young for ANY commercial use, too many unknowns and environments influences. And no corporation should have the ability to push their way through legislation and put at risk not one life, not one.

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  3. Mark Hopkins

    The “Section 333 exemption” is not law or a rule at this time… the only law the FAA has been able to pass is the registration portion. The no-fly areas have been law long before drones became so prominent, and that applies to far more than drones, which is why it applies to drones as well. While the FAA WANTS the rules around 333 to be law, it currently isn’t and the FAA has no legal grounds to enforce it, although they have tried, but each time they fail as the courts have ruled that the FAA has (as yet) no grounds to fine. It’s not likely that it will become law either as the requirements for their so called ‘exemption’ are outrageously difficult.

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  4. Ralph Hightower

    Of the intro about what to save if things were burning… Equipment can be replaced; memories cannot. But I’d probably grab my film cameras (A-1, F-1N) since insurance wouldn’t them like my 5D Mk III.

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  5. Alex Kartashov

    FAA’s really cracking down hard with these limitations. Good thing I live in a country without any laws regarding drones.

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    • Hanssie

      What country do you live in? Or is the U.S. the only country that has drone laws?

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    • Alex Kartashov

      I currently live in Israel, which has no laws regarding piloted drones like these, since they’re relatively new in the market here and there have been no serious incidents so far.
      Though I expect these laws to change in the following months/years. There are laws to define aircraft and the likes but no one actually upholds them, they’re more relics from decades past.

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