So You Got a Drone for Christmas. Now What?

OK, so maybe you didn’t get an official Red Ryder carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time. That’s OK. You did, however, get a new drone for Christmas, which is much safer and cooler than a 1940s BB gun.

Yes, we know you’re excited. You want to rip the thing right out of the box and get to flying. Before you do, however, here’s our gift to you—a few helpful tips before you ascend to the heavens:

Register your drone

It’s the law (in the U.S.). Whether for commercial or recreational purpose (more on that below), you must register your drone with the FAA. Fortunately, the process is easy. Just visit the FAA registration page, create an account, pay $5, mark your drone with the provided registration number and carry proof of registration with you. You can print proof of registration and the label online. You can also engrave the number on your drone or write it with a marker.

Commercial or Recreational?

Do you plan to use your drone to capture stunning, evocative imagery – video or photo – for your own enjoyment? How about just because you like flying drones as hobby? If so, you’re a recreational drone user. That means, you’re not planning to use the drone for commercial purposes. FAA regulations for recreational drones are not as complicated as commercial status; but they are still strict and must be followed.

If you plan to make money with your drone, it doesn’t matter if you’re launching surveying startup or just freelancing as an occasional videographer – your drone is commercial and you must follow stricter rules.


Whether you’re flying a drone to capture some awesome fall foliage or just flying it around your yard for fun – keep in mind that you are subject to FAA rules and must abide by its safety guidelines. As the FAA states:

Fly your drone at or below 400 feet above the ground when in uncontrolled (Class G) airspace. Obtain authorization before flying in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E). You can obtain authorization in three ways: Keep your drone within your visual line of sight, or within the visual line-of-sight of a visual observer who is co-located (physically next to) and in direct communication with you. Do not fly at night unless your drone

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