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According to the FAA's UAS getting started page, if I'm flying a drone for fun within a 5 statute mile radius of an airport, I need to contact the airport and any air traffic control tower before flying. As a Part 107 pilot, I can fly a drone in class G airspace up to 400 ft AGL (or over a structure) without having to contact anyone.

I have a current Part 107 remote pilot license. To me, this makes my ability to fly a drone more flexible.

  • If I want to fly for fun within 5 miles of an airport and the airspace is class G, I can decide I'm flying as a Part 107 remote pilot and then I don't have to contact ATC or the airport.
  • If I want to fly for fun within a surface non-class-G area, I can decide that I'm a flying as a hobbyist and contact ATC and the airport if I'm within the 5-mile airport radius, no airspace authorization necessary. This is a no-go if ATC says no, but otherwise a lot faster than applying to the FAA for a waiver to fly in controlled airspace.

In either case, I would ensure that I'm not anywhere near other air traffic, and that I fly safely.

When I'm flying for fun, can I pick and choose as to whether I fly as a hobbyist or a Part 107 pilot?

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  • $\begingroup$ That's a good question. Somehow I don't think the FAA will allow you to pick and choose which regulations you're going to follow on any given day. My guess would be that since you have the license they would consider all the flying you do to be happening under that license, but that's only a guess. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Apr 21 '17 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ Note that the privileges afforded by §101 are not so simple as to be allowed to operate within 5 miles of an airport after giving notification. §101 prohibits operating model aircraft so as to endanger the safety of the national airspace system. The FAA explicitly interprets this prohibition to include any operation over the objections of FAA air traffic or airport operators. In other words, if you were to call up an airport operator and give notification, and they objected for any reason, you would not be authorized to fly there under §101. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Apr 21 '17 at 19:17
  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanWalters Correct. I should have tightened up that part of my question to include the fact that I would not continue if refused authorization. To the edit function! $\endgroup$ – Dranon Apr 21 '17 at 19:20
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The simple answer to your question is yes. If you meet all qualifications to fly either under §101 or §107, you may elect to operate under either part.

Any operation of civil small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) within the United States is subject to §107 by default. The three exceptions are air carrier operations1, hobby operation of model aircraft under §101, and operation under the provisions of a 333 exemption. This is spelled out in 14 CFR 107:

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, this part applies to the registration, airman certification, and operation of civil small unmanned aircraft systems within the United States.

(b) This part does not apply to the following:

(1) Air carrier operations;

(2) Any aircraft subject to the provisions of part 101 of this chapter; or

(3) Any operation that a remote pilot in command elects to conduct pursuant to an exemption issued under section 333 of Public Law 112-95, unless otherwise specified in the exemption.

Assuming that your aircraft and operation meets the applicability requirements of §101, you could elect to operate under that part. One reason for this is due to the fact that some of the applicability requirements for operating under §101 are elective. All of those applicability requirements are found in 14 CFR 101.1 and 101.41.

14 CFR 101.1 states, in pertinent part:

For purposes of this part, a model aircraft is an unmanned aircraft that is:

(i) Capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

(ii) Flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

(iii) Flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

14 CFR 101.41 states:

This subpart prescribes rules governing the operation of a model aircraft (or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft) that meets all of the following conditions as set forth in section 336 of Public Law 112-95:

(a) The aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;

(b) The aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;

(c) The aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;

(d) The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and

(e) When flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation.

You could elect to not fly the sUAS strictly for hobby or recreational use. Likewise, you could elect to not operate in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines or within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization. If you did so elect, you would then be subject to §107.


1 To my knowledge there are no air carriers operating or authorized to operate sUAS at this time. I could be mistaken. I understand that this provision prepares the way for a future with air carriers operating sUAS in accordance with other authorizations. Think Amazon delivering packages, etc.

Note: This answer does not address what it means for an aircraft to be flown strictly for hobby or recreational use. Nor does this answer address any requirements to be met in order to operate in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines or within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization. Nor does this answer address how the FAA will interpret the prohibition against endangering the NAS, such as if operating over the objections of FAA air traffic or airport operators. Nor does this answer address the operational requirements of §107.

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According to the FAA's own FAQ, you can do either (emphasis mine):

There are two ways for recreational or hobby UAS fliers to operate in the National Airspace System in accordance with the law and/or FAA regulations. Each of the two options has specific requirements that the UAS operator must follow. The decision as to which option to follow is up to the individual operator.

Option #1. Fly in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336). Under this rule, operators must:

[...]

Option #2. Fly in accordance with the FAA's Small UAS Rule (Part 107). This requires operators to:

[...]

So, it's your decision. But as always, ask yourself first how you would justify that decision to the FAA if something goes wrong. As a certificated pilot, you actually have something to lose if the FAA decides to take action against you.

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  • $\begingroup$ I feel bad that I can't accept your answer as well. I gave it to Jonathan Walters because he quoted the regs, but it was a very tough choice to make. $\endgroup$ – Dranon Apr 23 '17 at 1:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Dranon No problem! It's your question, so you should pick the answer that's best for you. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Apr 23 '17 at 13:57
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I had actually asked the FAA this very question in the late summer of 2016 by email. The answer is yes, of course, and I agree with both the good answers already given. I just wanted to add a minor point: If you choose to fly a particular flight under Part 107 instead of Part 101, it's not enough that you're personally certified for Part 107, the aircraft you use on the flight must also be specifically registered under Part 107.

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