FAA Drone Legal Opinions Database (A Window Into the Mind of the FAA)

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

There are many different drone regulations but sometimes there are areas that are not so clear which is why there are FAA drone legal opinions. The FAA is the authority on the Federal Aviation Regulations. A person can request the FAA Office of General Counsel to write a letter of interpretation on a particular issue. The FAA then responds with a letter of interpretation which is helpful in understanding the FAA’s legal view on things.

While these opinions are NOT the law, they are a window into the mind of the FAA to see how they interpret certain things. If you want to try and stay out of the FAA’s crosshairs regarding an enforcement action, you can read through these to get an idea of what the FAA thinks. Keep in mind that if they tried to prosecute you for a violation of their interpretation, not the law, a judge may not agree with their interpretation. In short, these interpretations are really just FAA opinions, not the law.

The opinions below are not a complete database of all of the interpretations. I also intentionally left out the public aircraft operations related ones because public aircraft operations have multiple factors/issues and have different liability issues.

2014 FAA Drone Legal Opinions

Can I keep my drone manuals at my control station or do I need to put them in the drone? Mark Bury to John Duncan (2014).

2015 FAA Drone Legal Opinions

FAA Interpretation on News Gathering Using a Model Aircraft. Mark Bury to James Williams (2015)

2016 FAA Drone Legal Opinions

Do I have to register the drone in my closet? Lorelie Peters to John Rusinko (2016).

This legal opinion has almost no useful value seeing that the law was explicitly changed in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 with the 49 USC 44809 note to allow for educational use of unmanned aircraft. Think of this legal opinion as the father of the 44809 note’s language.  Reginald C. Govan to Earl Lawrence (2016)

2017 FAA Drone Legal Opinions

Do you have to obtain permission from private heliports to fly your drone? Letter from Mark Bury to Gil Aguilar (2017)

Did the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) fail to consult with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, improperly deny exemption requests from the media, and fail to sufficiently tailor the Temporary Flight Restrictions preventing essential media coverage in possible violation of the First Amendment? Patricia A. McNall (FAA) to Lee Rowland (ACLU) (2017)

2018 FAA Drone Legal Opinions

What constitutes the not-to-exceed takeoff weight for a drone? Lorelei Peters to Richard Jennings (2018)