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Thinking of capturing Fourth of July fireworks with a drone camera? Better think again

Drone regulation is a work in progress, and it’s always smart to check what the current regulations are in advance

Photo (c) RyanKing999 - Getty Images
While America gets ready to light up the sky with Fourth of July fireworks shows, a new law from the Federal Aviation Commission (FAA) puts a possible kink in how you can capture that moment on video.

If you’re planning on capturing footage of fireworks shows with a drone, the FAA says to hold your horses.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve been able to do in the past with a drone. The FAA has a new law (PDF) that describes how, when, and where you can fly drones for recreational purposes.

In short, here’s the list of no’s:

  • Don’t fly your drone in or near fireworks

  • Don’t fly over people

  • Don’t fly near airports

If you have questions about what you can and cannot do with a drone, the FAA has an app for that. To download the app, go to faa.gov/uas or download the B4UFLY app for free in either the Apple App Store or Google Play store.

Drones are still trying to find a safe space in the sky

Thanks in large part to the irresponsible things drone owners do with their new flying machines, drones have moved from the toy phase to the serious concern phase. While companies like Amazon and Uber are testing drone-delivered orders, the FAA has spent the last five years working on a basic set of safety rules that keep both the consumer and those registered to fly a drone out of harm’s way.

"We have a mandate to protect the American people in the air and on the ground, and the public expects us to carry out that mission,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta told Forbes when the agency started trying to find its way through the process of regulating drones

“The problem the FAA encountered with unmanned aircraft (drones) is that they had to deal with a new disruptive technology within the constraints of a regulatory regime that was based on manned aircraft,” explained Bill Carey, author of Enter the Drones

“They were forced to apply the standards for building and flying manned aircraft to things like quadcopters, and of course they often didn’t carry over all that well. There was always that balance that had to be struck.”

ConsumerAffairs sees advances in drone regulations almost every time we check in with the FAA. In the last month alone, the agency has given a waiver to fly drones equipped with parachutes, more access to drone-approved airspace, and new authorization requirements for flying drones around airports.

The U.S. isn’t the only country showing concern about drones. While it may seem like fun to take a drone to China and capture footage of the Great Wall, or Iceland to catch the Northern Lights, more than 20 countries have special drone regulations of their own. Before you head off somewhere overseas with your drone, it’s smart to take a look at any local restrictions in advance.

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