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Unmanned Aircraft Systems/Drones

An Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), often referred to as a drone, is an aircraft without a human pilot onboard - instead, the UAS is controlled by an operator on the ground. Before flying an UAS in New Jersey it is the responsibility of the UAS operator to understand and abide by the rules governing UAS operations. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has exclusive authority over the use of airspace in the United States, including the airspace used by UAS/drones.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) licenses approximately 400 aeronautical facilities (pdf 3.6m) such as airports, heliports, balloonports and seaplane bases. UAS operators must give way and may not interfere with manned aircraft.

Effective December 21, 2015, anyone who owns an UAS weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds must register with the FAA UAS Registry. UAS registration is valid for three years. UAS owners who do not register could face civil and criminal penalties.

There are three types of civilian UAS users in the United States:

Recreational User:
A person who flies an UAS solely for hobby or recreational purposes is a Recreational User. Recreational Users do not earn money from UAS activities. More information is available for Recreational Users.

Commercial User:
A person or company using UAS/drone technology for compensation or business purposes is a Commercial User. This includes any person or company using a drone in any way to advertise, promote or demonstrate a product or service.

For example, if a real estate agent uses a drone to photograph a property in order to advertise or promote that real estate for sale or lease, then that UAS operation is commercial: the UAS was used for business purposes. More information is available for Commercial Users.

Public User:
A federal, state or local government entity that uses UAS/drone technology to carry out their functions is a Public User. This includes fire departments, law enforcement, state agencies and some universities. More information is available for Public Users.

Know Before You Fly, an informational campaign developed by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) in partnership with the FAA should be reviewed by new UAS users. Topics include:

Additional information is available from the FAA:
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  Department of Transportation
  P.O. Box 600
  Trenton, NJ 08625-0600
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  Last Updated:  June 17, 2019