Explanation of the Iowa Drone Laws


Gordon Tuomikoski

A photograph I took of the sunset after the storm a few days ago with my Mavic 2 Pro.

Gordon Tuomikoski, Contributor

Drones are adept machines. Reaching bird’s eye views, these unmanned aircraft take high resolution (4K) photos and videos.

As a drone pilot myself, there are many things drone flyers have to be cautious to abide by U.S. airspace restrictions, especially when Glenwood is so close to an airfield like Offutt Air Force Base. Disobeying these laws can earn the operator massive fines, especially if they are commercially licensed.

UAVCoach.com explains that before even flying, if the drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds it needs to be registered to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Whether it be for recreational, commercial, or governmental use, the fee is $5.00 and the registration lasts three years. This is to ensure ownership and can also be used to help if the drone is stolen or lost. Registration can be easily completed on the FAA website.

According to FAA.gov, the basic drone laws include staying under 400 feet from ground level when in an uncontrolled Class G airspace, flying within visual line-of-sight, and never flying near other aircraft or over crowds of people or emergency response services. A class G-airspace means ‘uncontrolled’ or anything below or above flying areas like close to the ground. Restricted areas include airports, military zones and prisons. Some schools and national parks will also have signs posted acknowledging no-fly zones. Operators should always check an area using an online flight map like airmap.com before flying.

To fly a drone for a business or commercial reason, such as selling photographs or anything paid like real estate, the user must obtain a FAA 107 commercial drone license. The test is very similar to a learner’s permit driving test. Those interested can study using multiple online resources and practice tests to prepare for the exam.

Although it sounds simple, there are many curveball questions that may have nothing to do with drones and instead relate to airplane pilots, so studying is a necessity.  The test has a $150 fee and can be taken at an official certified FAA location. Locations can be found online.

With all these rules and laws, there is still a lot of fun to be had, so operators should not let restrictions deter them from the experience of flying a drone. Drones are equipped with cameras and features to take 4K videos, photos, and even automatic flying sensors where the drone can follow a moving target. Many features can lead to a new hobby.