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You got a Drone for Christmas? Now what? Part 2 – How High Can I fly?

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How high can I fly my drone?

This is Part 2 of our Drone Safety Series.  Whether you are a novice hobbyist or a serious videographer, these tips will help you take to the skies safely and legally.  We’ve studied drone safety and have been flying our Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) under FAA Part 107 regulations in northeast Wyoming since 2016.  Stay tuned for more articles to help you get started flying as a drone pilot!

Part 2 – How High Can I Fly?

One question that is asked frequently is “How high am I allowed to fly my drone?”  As a recreational pilot you might wonder if the sky’s the limit.  According to the FAA, the maximum allowable altitude is 400 feet above the ground.  That means 400 feet above the highest point around you.  For example, if you are flying near a hill, you can fly up to 400 feet above the top of that hill.  Of course, for safety reasons you should always keep your drone within line-of-sight.  This can get pretty tricky once your drone gets over 200 feet.

The reason 400 feet was chosen is because the lowest cruising altitude of manned aircraft is 500 feet, and this allows for a buffer to avoid close encounters between manned aircraft and drones.  Typically, 400 feet should be high enough for a wide variety of drone projects, and in many cases it will actually be too high.  For your reference, the drone photo shown above was taken from approximately 100 feet above the ground.

Many drones are programmed to not let you exceed the 400 feet, and if you are a recreational drone pilot flying for fun, there are no exceptions to the 400-foot rule.  Some commercial drones may allow you to set a maximum flight altitude higher than 400 feet.  For commercial drone pilots licensed under Part 107 (see our recent Drone Safety – Part 1 blog for clarification on this), there is an exception to this rule: a pilot can fly their drone higher than 400 feet if they are within 400 feet of a structure. The purpose of this exception is so that commercial drone pilots can offer services such as inspection of towers, bridges, or industrial equipment.

We hope you enjoy your drone, but please, help us all enjoy drones for years to come by enjoying them responsibly today.  Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or further discussion about flying your drone.

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