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Frequently Asked Questions

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  • What is an unmanned aircraft system?

    Commonly referred to as drones, North Carolina law defines an unmanned aircraft system as "unmanned aircraft and associated elements, including communication links and components that control the unmanned aircraft that are required for the pilot in command to operate safely and efficiently in the national airspace system."

  • What is the difference between an unmanned aircraft system/drone and a model plane?

    A model aircraft is an unmanned aircraft system that is flown solely for hobby or recreational purposes and is not used for any monetary or business means.

  • Do I need an exemption or license to fly if I'm only flying for recreational purposes?

    No. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that unmanned aircraft systems/drones should be flown a sufficient distance from populated areas.

    Recreational users should always fly their aircraft during the day, within their visual line of sight, and should only fly aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds (unless certified by an aeromodelling community-based organization and is not being used for business purposes).

    For more information, visit the FAA's website on hobby and recreational flying.

    New regulations, referred to as the Remote Identification (ID) rule (Title 14 CFR 87), effective March 2021, will require some drones to have Remote Identification, a “digital license plate" for drones weighing more than .55 lbs.  Drone operators have 3 methods of compliance available: 

    • Purchase a drone with Remote ID. Manufacturers have 18 months from the effective date of the rule to include Remote ID technology on manufactured aircraft.
    • Purchase an add-on Remote ID unit to install on an existing drone. Operators have 30 months after the effective date of the rule to comply.
    • Without Remote ID, remote pilots will still be able to operate their UAS legally in specific approved FAA Recognized Identification Areas (FRIAs).  The FAA will begin accepting applications for FRIAs 18 months after the effective date of the rule, and applications may be submitted at any time after that.


  • How do I know if my unmanned aircraft system/drone use is recreational?
    Recreational operators cannot fly for monetary compensation or other business purposes.​
  • What restrictions are there as to where and when I can fly a UAS/drone?

    Unmanned aircraft systems/drones should be flown a sufficient distance from populated areas.

    Operation near and over stadiums, prisons, public events or directly over people is prohibited under state and federal laws.

    For the safety of those in the air and on the ground, temporary flight restrictions can be enacted an hour before a scheduled event starts and last until one hour after the event concludes.

    Temporary flight restrictions are specifically requested, so before flying a UAS/drone, check the Federal Aviation Administration's website for any restrictions in the area. During a temporary flight restriction, you must fly at least 5 miles away from the center of the venue.

    The FAA’s B4UFly App​ is another a tool to determine acceptable airspace to fly.​​​​​

  • What are the Federal Aviation Administration's requirements to fly?

    To fly your unmanned aircraft system/drone, you must comply with federal airspace authorizations and North Carolina General Statutes​.

    The Federal Aviation Administration divides unmanned aircraft system usage into three categories: government, commercial and recreational.

    • Government aircraft operators may operate under the Small UAS Rule (Part 107) or apply for and obtain a Public Use Certificate of Authorization (COA).
    • Commercial operators may operate under the Small UAS Rule (Part 107).
    • If you are operating for recreational purposes only, FAA guidance says that UAS/drones should be flown a sufficient distance from populated areas. Model aircrafts should be flown during the daytime, within visual line of sight of the operator and should weigh less than 55 pounds (unless certified by an aeromodelling community-based organization, and are not for business purposes.)

    More information on federal requirements can be found on the FAA's website​.​

  • Do I need approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly for business purposes?

    ​Yes. There are currently three avenues to choose from to obtain the necessary approvals:

  • Do I need a North Carolina operator permit if I passed the Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate Exam?

    Yes, a North Carolina operator permit is required for commercial and government unmanned aircraft system operators. The test ensures drone operators are knowledgeable about state law not covered in federal regulations related to drones. ​





  • Where can I get information of the Federal Aviation Administration Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate Exam?

    ​​​Information about the Federal Aviation Administration's Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate Exam can be found on the FAA's website. There are many resources that can assist in studying for the exam, known as the Knowledge Test. It’s suggested to do an internet search for Remote drone Pilot certification study guides. 

    Here’s a step-by-step checklist of the process:

    1. Study for the FAA Remote Pilot certificate by studying via commercially available FAA Remote drone Pilot certification study guides along with FAA material via the FAA's Remote Pilot Study Guide​. ​
    2. When you are ready, schedule to take the Remote Pilot test​, called a Knowledge Test, at an approved FAA testing center. You must be 16 years old to hold a Remote Pilot certificate. There are 60 questions on the multiple choice test. Minimum score to pass, 70.
    3. With your passing test results, apply to FAA for the Remote Pilot certificate via the IACRA website (FAA’s online form system). After processing and security vetting, a Temporary Certificate will be issued (the testing center will be a resource in this process). 
    4. Take the NCDOT Division of Aviation UAS state test. The test consists of 27 multiple choice questions with 70 minimum score. A study guide​ is available. The state test is focused to address North Carolina laws not addressed on the FAA test, such as property, wildlife and privacy laws. 
    5. Print your s​​tate test certificate and retain it along with your FAA Remote Pilot certificate. Certificates must be made available for inspection by the FAA, law enforcement and other approved agencies.

    See the FAA’s information on Commercial ​Certified Remote Pilot certificates.


  • What are North Carolina's basic requirements to obtain a license to fly an unmanned aircraft system/drone?
    ​In addition to Federal Aviation Administration requirements, an operator must be at least 16 years old and possess a valid driver license issued by any U.S. state or territory. In addition, you must pass the N.C. Department of Transportation​'s Unmanned Aircraft System Operator's Knowledge Test.

    There is not a state test for recreational pilots. Although not required, the Division of Aviation encourages recreational drone users to take NCDOT's Unmanned Aircraft System Operator's Knowledge Test to learn the rules and regulations for operating drones in North Carolina.​

  • What is a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization?
    ​A Certificate of Waiver or Authorization is an authorization issued by the Federal Aviation Administration to a government or commercial operator for specific unmanned aircraft activity. After a complete application is submitted, the FAA conducts a comprehensive operational and technical review.
  • Who needs to take the Division of Aviation's Unmanned Aircraft System Operator's Knowledge Test?
    ​Any individual who plans to operate an unmanned aircraft system/drone within North Carolina for any purpose other than recreation must pass the  Unmanned Aircraft System Operator's Knowledge Test prior to operation. The only exemption is for those individuals operating a UAS/drone under the authority of a federal agency of the United States, such as military personnel.
  • Who has regulatory authority over unmanned aircraft system/drone operations?

    The Federal Aviation Administration and the federal government have exclusive authority over airspace in the United States. The FAA establishes operating rules governing the airspace in the form of federal regulations.

    The State of North Carolina is responsible for ensuring that anyone operating unmanned aircraft systems/drones in the State understand North Carolina-specific regulations to facilitate responsible use of the technology – allowing the benefits associated with various applications of the technology to be realized while also protecting the safety and privacy of North Carolina citizens and visitors.

    The N.C. Department of Transportation's Division of Aviation is responsible for all public, non-federal, and commercial UAS/drone operations concerning knowledge testing, commercial permitting and stands as a primary point of contact for all state-related unmanned aircraft system issues. The Division of Aviation is not responsible for pilot certification, commercial licensing, airworthiness standards, law enforcement or airspace issues.

    The FAA does not have jurisdiction over indoor flight, which is governed by North Carolina general statutes.


  • What are the limits and exemptions in regard to use of unmanned aircraft system technology by law enforcement?

    Law enforcement falls under governmental use and, therefore, must comply with both federal and North Carolina laws and regulations. Law enforcement is only exempt from North Carolina laws related to using unmanned aircraft system/drone surveillance in the following instances:

    • To counter a high risk of a terrorist attack if the secretary of Homeland Security or the secretary of the N.C. Department of Public Safety determines that credible intelligence indicates that such a risk exists.
    • To conduct surveillance in an area that is within a law enforcement officer's plain view when the officer is in a location the officer has a legal right to be.
    • If the law enforcement agency first obtains a search warrant authorizing the use of a UAS/drone.
    • To photograph gatherings to which the public is invited on public or private land.

  • What are the regulations on unmanned aircraft systems/drones regarding privacy?

    A person may not use unmanned aircraft systems/drones to conduct surveillance on a person or private property without their consent, subject to the law enforcement exception described above. You may not photograph an individual without their consent for publishing or otherwise publicly disseminating the photograph. This does not apply to newsgathering, newsworthy events or places to which the public is invited. All other state and federal privacy laws must be followed when using a UAS/drone.​

  • Who do I call if I see somebody operating an unmanned aircraft system/drone in an unsafe manner?
    ​If you see somebody operating in a dangerous manner, contact local law enforcement. In addition, you can call the Federal Aviation Administration's Flight Standards District Office in Charlotte, at (704) 319-7020, or in Greensboro, at (336) 369-3900.
  • Why does NCDOT require commercial and governmental UAS/drone operators to take a State of N.C. test?

    Early in the implementation of the commercial Part 107 certification process State legislators found that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations didn’t cover State specific issues such as privacy laws, property rights, wildlife laws, etc. Federal regulations stipulate operators be aware of State and local laws related to UAS/drone operations.​

  • I have a commercial drone certificate (Remote Pilot, Part 107), how can I do business with the State of N.C.?

    ​​​The first step is apply and get approved to do business via the NCDOT Connect site​. After approval contact us​ to be added to our list for upcoming opportunities.   




  • ​What are the steps to become a fully certified UAS/drone pilot?
    1. ​Study for the Federal Aviation Administration​ Remote Pilot certificate. Search online for the many commercially available FAA Remote drone Pilot certification study guides along with resources via the FAA website.​
    2. When you are ready to take the Remote Pilot test schedule to take the test, called a Knowledge Test, at an approved FAA testing center (see list). 
    3. With your passing test results in hand, apply to FAA for the Remote Pilot certificate for security vetting purposes (consult with your testing center for details). 
    4. Take the NCDOT Division of Aviation UAS state test that consist of 27 multiple choice questions with 70 minimum score. Study the guide​ available on the NCDOT website. The state test is focused to address North Carolina laws not addressed on the FAA test, such as property and privacy laws. 
    5. Print your state test certificate and retain it along with your FAA Remote Pilot certificate. Certificates must be made available for inspection by the FAA and law enforcement.

  • What is Remote ID?

    ​Remote Identification, or Remote ID, regulations covered under Part 89 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs), will become effective in March of 2021 requiring a “digital license plate” for some drones weighing more than .55 lbs. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has suggested that Remote ID manufacturers will typically use WIFI and Bluetooth technologies as a means of distributing historical and active flight data. 

    Remote ID devices will allow the active monitoring of Unmanned Aircraft (UA) by the FAA, law enforcement and other approved agencies. UA manufacturers will be required to integrate Remote ID electronic equipment 18 months after the effective date. Drone operators that own non-equipped aircraft will have 30 months after the final rule date to install (retrofit) a Remote ID device to their aircraft. 

    Drone operators that elect not to install a Remote ID module or purchase a new drone without installed equipment will be limited to operating at FAA Recognized Identification Areas (FRIA). Applications to establish a FRIA will open, such as for schools and colleges/universities, 18 months after the final rule effective date (see information below). Hobbyist drone pilots that want to fly outside of geographical areas of a FRIA should consider earning commercial Part 107 FAA Remote drone Pilot certification and fly their UA with Remote ID.

    Also in the rule are provisions allowing flight over people and night flight if specific criteria are met (see information below). Additionally, FAA commercial Remote Pilot certificate holders will be allowed to renew their certificate through online commercial course providers, rather than in-person testing at an approved FAA testing center.

    Important: As an emerging technology, UAS are changed, updated and revised regularly. Read about the details of Remote ID along with other resources via the links below:

7/17/2019 6:40 PM