Flight Safety Guidelines

 This document is to provide guidelines that are easy to follow, and that prioritize safety, while allowing people to enjoy the full recreational, artistic, educational, and scientific benefits of model aircraft.

General Guidelines

  • Never fly your model aircraft in a careless or reckless manner.
  • Never interfere with, and always give way to, any manned aircraft.
  • Do not fly your model aircraft near major wildfires or other emergencies where manned traffic (such as air ambulances and water-drop aircraft) may be responding to the situation, without first coordinating with officials.
  • Before each flight, make sure your model aircraft is in good operating condition with all propellers tightened and undamaged.

Novice pilots

For your first two hours of flight time with your first model aircraft, only fly in open areas, well away from people, buildings, and cars, and keep the model aircraft below 200 feet above-ground-level and within 500 horizontal feet of yourself. Focus on learning how to fly with the camera pointed towards you, which will make it seem like the model aircraft’s flight controls are reversed. (Very small “toy” model aircraft may be flown indoors and count towards the two hours of flight time.) Consulting with an experienced pilot as you learn to fly is recommended but not required.

Distance offset

Do not fly your model aircraft closer than five feet laterally from spectators. (Very small “toy” model aircraft may be flown closer with the consent of the spectator(s).)

Overflight of people

Do not fly a model aircraft weighing more than 4 pounds directly over an unprotected person other than yourself. For model aircraft that weigh 4 pounds or less, do not fly directly over unprotected people who have not expressly consented to the overflight. Overflight should only be conducted once you are experienced with, and confident in, the equipment you are using. The duration of any overflight of unprotected people should be minimized.

Maximum Altitude

Keep your model aircraft below 400 feet above-ground-level (AGL) or below 400 feet above the top of a structure that you are flying over. In locations with sparse manned air traffic, and when visibility is excellent, you may exceed 400 feet AGL with the assistance of a spotter who continually scans the airspace in all directions to report to you any approaching air traffic.

Autonomous flight modes

Autonomous or self-piloting flight modes (such as follow-me, waypoint navigation, and GPS-guided orbital flight paths) should only be engaged if there is an override ability. When using such modes in a location where there may be manned air traffic, you or an assistant must always maintain the ability to engage the override and resume direct control of the model aircraft. Failsafe modes such as automatic return-to-home are exempt from this guideline.

Outdoor First Person View operations

When flying outdoors, you must keep your model aircraft within the distance limitation of your visual line of sight. Long-range FPV is not permitted. If wearing video goggles (or similar devices that block your view of the surrounding airspace) when flying outdoors, you must have another person act as a spotter to monitor the airspace for any manned air traffic and notify you about how to not interfere with and give way to any manned aircraft. However, if you keep your model aircraft’s flight below the top of nearby buildings, structures, or trees, or to very low altitudes such as a model aircraft race course, you are not required to have a spotter to monitor the airspace. Flight through obstacle-filled environments (such as forests) while wearing goggles is permitted without a spotter provided that you ensure in advance that the location is clear of people.

Night operations

Only fly your model aircraft at night if the model aircraft is equipped with lights sufficient for you to see the orientation and flight direction of the model aircraft. Prior to your flight at night, check for obstacles that may not be easily seen in the dark.


These Safety Guidelines are independent from any regulatory or legal requirements for model aircraft operation in your flight location. It is each model aircraft user’s responsibility to learn and comply with applicable laws.


Safety is everyone’s responsibility.