What happens if you fly a drone above 400 feet? When speaking with drone pilots, many will say that they could fly around 400 feet. Why? What’s so particular about 400 ft? And what exactly do 400 feet look like?
400 ft is the maximum elevation the FAA allows an sUAS (minor unmanned aircraft system), or drone, to function to not interfere with other aircraft in the skies. This retains drones a safe space away from planes, helicopters, and other aircraft programs and helps accidents.
What do the Part 107 rules say?
For the ideal reference to precisely what the legislation states especially, we will proceed with the authoritative aeronautical laws made for drone flight that the Part 107 rules. Though 14 CFR Part 107 employs drone pilots, it’s also the strictest criteria created for drone flight. To ensure we are working within legal boundaries, it’d be safer to place the Section 107 principles as the norm.
The applicable principles under Part 107 are outlined within Section 107.51. This segment is entitled “Running limits for small unmanned aircraft” and has a set of limitations connected with speed, elevation, and visibility. About height, item B of this Department says that:
“The elevation of this tiny unmanned aircraft cannot be greater than 400 feet above floor level unless the little unmanned aircraft is flown inside a 400-foot radius of a construction, and doesn’t fly greater than 400 feet above the structure’s instant uppermost limit.”
How the rule is said instantly provides an exclusion: that it is likely to fly over 400 ft if you’re flying in the area of a (presumably) big arrangement. However, there is still a little bit of ambiguity as Part 107 doesn’t define the structure or just from what benchmark point of the 400-foot limitation ought to be quantified.
To have the ability to dissect the particulars of this rule, it might be a fantastic idea to know the reason for it. Just what is that the FAA trying to prevent when it enforced the 400-foot limitation?
Read all Regulations & Policies of FAA: https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/
What happens if you fly a drone above 400 feet?
What’s the basis of the 400-foot rule?
The principle that places a maximum elevation of 400 feet for drone flight’s existed for quite a while yet continues to be quite controversial up before a couple of short years back.
The principle is based upon the minimal cruising altitude of human-crewed aircraft, which can be 500 feet. The FAA deems the 100-foot buffer is sufficient to prevent close encounters involving uncrewed airplanes and drones.
The principle is crucial in locations where aircraft are more common because helicopters tend to fly at low altitudes.
Since we are on the subject of the flying altitude of this human-crewed aircraft, it is well worth mentioning that this minimal cruising altitude also fluctuates depending on the topography directly beneath an aircraft’s flight path and the existence of giant, artificial structures.
For example, a helicopter flying over a massive skyscraper will decide on a minimal cruising altitude that’s 500 feet over the building. Sectional graphs typically indicate the elevation of the tallest barrier in a place so that pilots understand how to correct so.
As we will see later, this information is essential to determining the particular mechanics of this 400-foot principle on drone flight as well as the corresponding exceptions
Are there different rules for professional and recreational drone pilots?
Let us handle the elevation rule for recreational drone pilots because it’s much more manageable. Ahead of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, the principles that governed amateur drone flight were called “guidelines,” making them prone to non-compliance. But, implementation of these principles became necessary when the FAA Reauthorization Act has been passed.
One of the rules was the limit to fly beneath 400 ft in uncontrolled airspace and a blanket limitation for flight within controlled airspace.
Even though there’s currently a means to ask for consent to fly into uncontrolled airspace, the 400-foot rule has remained in place and does not have any provision to be granted a “waiver” for. Additionally, there are no exceptions to this 400-foot principle for recreational drone pilots.
For industrial drone pilots accredited under Part 107, this principle is very similar with one big difference: in line with the code, a pilot could fly their drone over 400 feet if they’re within 400 feet of construction.
The exclusion has been inserted so that industrial drone pilots could provide services like a review of mobile towers, skyscrapers, and industrial equipment.
The justification is the aircraft will nonetheless clear of those tall structures, which makes it perfectly good for the drone to fly at greater altitudes. Licensed drone pilots are also anticipated to be proficient enough to take care of these conditions.
Are there drones that prevent you from flying above 400 feet?
For the most part, compliance with all the 400-foot principles is a voluntary issue. There’s no current mechanism for the FAA to track whether there are drone pilots, accredited or otherwise, that will fly over this elevation limitation.
That’s fine and well until you get to an intimate encounter with a human-crewed aircraft, for that you might be facing hefty penalties when the FAA will identify you as the pilot.
Many high-end drones sold now include a default max elevation setting equal to precisely 400 feet to assist by this principle.
The drone steps this by the point in which you remove, so it is likely to be on the peak of a skyscraper and fly over 100 ft of the take-off stage even when you’re already well over 400 feet measured from the floor. This is not a problem because this kind of surgery falls under the exclusion of flying close to a tall arrangement.
A frequent illustration of this technology in practice is at the DJI drones, like those in the Mavic line. Should you dive deep into its configurations, you will realize that the maximum elevation is set by default for 120 meters or 400 feet. If you try to fly past this limitation, the drone will just quit gaining any more height and hover in place.
The problem with this approach is that it does not consider any substantial structures within 400 ft of the drone, which would have let the drone flight outside 400 feet. The drone doesn’t have a way to discover or confirm the existence of this type of construction. Therefore it only sticks to its pre-set limits.
To provide drone pilots a little flexibility, many drones permit the most elevation limitation to be shifted. In DJI drones, the end could be changed to any value between two to 500 meters. Changing the rule will prompt you to confirm that you take all duties regarding the change of this elevation limitation.
If your drone includes a programmer kit, then it’s possible to disable the 500-meter max limitation. This option needs a lot more work and is not something that you can do in the center of a drone flight assignment.
Other drone manufacturers set different maximum altitude values. Yuneec drones can go around 1000 meters, and Autel drones can go up to 800 meters.
Changing these constraints is merely a matter of upgrading the drone firmware. These values could readily already be wrong by the time this report was published. But in case you’ve got a brand-new drone from a reputable brand, the odds are that its elevation limit was set to the default value of 120 meters or 400 ft.
See more: How Will Drones Affect The Future
Should you be flying above 400 feet?
All this discussion begs the question: is there a compelling reason for flying over the 400-foot limitation? Should you fly drones professionally, you will find several drone projects that will ask that you change the default elevation limit in your drone.
You may be commissioned to shoot aerial photos of a tower or even inspect the bottom of a bridge. In both these instances, you are flying in proximity of construction that puts you crystal clear regarding legal limitations and airspace security criteria.
How about amateur drone slopes? With no related exceptions, they appear to be getting the short end of the pole regarding elevation constraints. On the other hand, the capability to go beyond the 400-foot limit inside the proximity is one of those rights the FAA grants to Part 107-licensed drone pilots if they require the exclusion to provide their drone flight support.
On the flip side, recreational drone pilots probably don’t have any business flying about industrial equipment or communications systems, particularly if they don’t have any consent from the owners or operators of the vital pieces of infrastructure.
In the end, the 400-foot elevation limitation was set in place for the interest of airspace security. The airspace past 400 feet is enormous, and the odds of running into a different aircraft are astronomically low.
Still, the possible consequence of a drone flying right to a human-crewed aircraft could be catastrophic. We are confident that no drone pilot might wish to be the origin of a catastrophe at the scale.
The 400-foot principle for drones might look to be an absolute limitation, but it is among the most elastic of the drone limitations. Not only could drones remove from high altitudes if you’re flying in the area of a vast construction, but also drone pilots may also ask for a waiver to fly over 400 ft AGL.
Regardless of the scenario, remember that the ultimate objective is to keep the protection of domestic airspace. Even when you’re flying within 400 feet, you still need to give means to human-crewed aircraft.