How Old Do You Have to Be to Fly a Drone?

Man in 40s showing his daughter how to setup his drone for flyin

With the recent laws by the FAA that make drone registration mandatory, another question was asked — How old do you have to be to fly a drone? And although the question is pretty self-explanatory, there are a few different answers.

In this article, we’ll answer this question and mention some other FAA regulations all of us should know so that we can always be safe when flying our drones.

Of course, different states might have different age limits, and that’s why we should always check with our local authorities. We think that kids should be able to fly drones just like adults because we see drones as amazing tools for education.

Not only can they have loads of fun while flying, but they also get to learn about science. From topography to aeronautics, drones are sure to spark curiosity amongst children.

But, the FAA is very strict about their rules, and for a good reason.

Let’s take a look at the most important ones.


Drone Registration, Pilot Licensing, and Regulations

Drone flying through the mountains

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As of February 2016, all drones have to be registered with the FAA. This regulation applies to all, both hobbyists and commercial drone pilots.

The FAA created a system of accountability for drone pilots and even threatens with large fines for unregistered devices. And in order to register a drone, we have to be at least 13 years old.


How to Register Your Drone

Surprisingly, compared to other “vehicles,” drone registration is incredibly easy. All we need to do is go to FAADroneZone and input the required information. As we said before, we have to be at least 13 years of age to register. If we’re younger than that, however, we can get our parents to register instead.

Registration is incredibly cheap, at only $5, and it’s valid for all of our devices for 3 years. Yes, one registration number applies to all of our drones because it’s actually us who are registering as a hobbyist pilot.

One slight catch is that we have to place the registration number in a clearly visible place on our drone. We can also place the registration sticker inside the battery compartment under one condition: the battery compartment has to be accessible without the use of tools.


FAA Drone Flight Rules and Regulations

Depending on how and why we’re flying our drones, different rules apply. If we plan to use our drones only for recreational flying, we have to adhere to a relatively relaxed set of rules.

Most noteworthy regulations for recreational flying are:

  • Fly at or below 400ft of altitude
  • Never fly in bad weather, and steer clear of clouds.
  • Always notify airports or other authorities in FAA-controlled space prior to our drone flight
  • Don’t fly at night, even with night lights — The official limit states 30 minutes before and after sunrise, and it’s often referred to as civil twilight
  • Always keep a visual line of sight — We have to have an unaided view of the craft, without the used camera feeds or binoculars. We can, however, have a friend watch it while we focus on filming
  • Never fly over groups of people — This rule is in place in order to avoid any chance of an accident if the drone stops working and falls out of the sky.


How Old Do You Have To Be To Fly a Drone Commercially?

Happy father with cute little kids playing with drone together at park

First, we have to define what “commercial” stands for. Basically, a commercial drone flight is any flight that in some way or another earns or saves us money. That ranges from filming professional footage in order to sell it and even surveying our property for damage, measurement, etc.

And for commercial flights, an FAA regulation called Part 107 applies. The first and most important thing about Part 107 is the requirement for a remote pilot license.

We have to enroll in a course in order to get this license, which is sometimes called a UAS (unmanned aerial systems) certificate. In order to apply for the UAS certification, we have to be at least 16 years old.

Further requirements for the license are:

  • We have to be able to read, write, and understand English
  • Be in a good physical and mental condition in order to fly a drone
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test


What Steps Do We Need to Take in Order to Become a Drone Pilot

Children playing with hexacopter drone

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First, we need to schedule an exam in an FAA testing center where we will both take the initial exam and all recurrent exams after 2 years of licensing.

Secondly, we, of course, have to pass that exam. The exam focuses on the following topics:

  • Regulations for small unmanned aircraft systems, including limitations, privileges and flight operations
  • Airspace classifications and operating requirements
  • Weather sources and effects on unmanned aircraft performance
  • Radio communication procedures
  • Emergency procedures
  • Aeronautical decision-making
  • Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Airport operations
  • Pre-flight operations, maintenance, and aircraft performance

After we finish the exams, and hopefully pass, we have to fill out the FAA remote pilot certificate form 8710-13. Thankfully, all this can be done electronically using the FAA’s IACRA system.

In the system, we have to register and create a new application for a license. After following the prompts, we will have to input the 17-digit code linked to the exams we took.

And after we submit the required information, we might have to wait a few days for the FAA to process everything.

The FAA will then perform a TSA safety screening and send us a copy of a temporary certificate. The permanent one will be sent shortly after the FAA completes all processing and they will send it via email.

Finally, once we get our certification, we are required to have it with us whenever we’re flying our drone.


What About Existing Certificate Holders? — Part 61

Due to the recent changes to the FAA regulations, existing certificate holders still have to undergo a certification process. This set of rules applies to other pilots in the industry, that already have licenses. In order to be eligible, we have to be a certified pilot under Part 61 and to have had a flight review in the last 24 months.

Although the process is almost the same as in the previous heading, the key difference is that we have to make an appointment with an FAA office to validate our identity, online course completion, and flight review in person instead of receiving the license online.

Man operating of flying drone at sunset

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How Old Do You Have to Be To Fly A Drone — Conclusion

Although we believe that everyone should have access to drones certain age rules are in place all over the world. Drones are amazing tools for both learning and having fun, but safety comes first and we just can’t argue with that.

We hopefully covered everything important for safe drone flights; from how to register our drones and safety rules, to passing the aeronautics exams and getting a pilot’s license.

So, how old do you have to be to fly a drone? For recreational flights, where we only have to register, we have to be at least 13 years old. However, if we don’t pass the age requirement, we can always have our parent or guarding register for us.

As for professional applications, we have to be at least 16 years old to apply for a drone pilot certificate. However, we should always check with our local authorities and ask if their rules are different.

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