Ways Your Drone Hobby Might Get You Arrested

Consumer-grade drones have been booming in popularity in recent years. Why? Maybe because people like piloting these unmanned aerial vehicles while they still can. You know, before the drones become self-aware and enslave humanity. Until then, however, you can purchase a decent drone for anywhere from $500 to $3,000. Although you shouldn't think that you can simply buy a drone and fly it where you please. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)—the government entity that regulates all air traffic in the United States—places several restrictions on the use of consumer drones. So with this in mind, here are some of the drone-related activities that could get you an all-expenses paid visit to the hoosegow.

Using drones for profit

Yes, your pet photography business may benefit from aerial shots. What client wouldn't want to see photos of their adorable dog Muffy from 400 feet? Keep in mind, however, that the FAA prohibits drone hobbyists from using their aircraft for commercial gain unless you apply for an exemption. How strict is the FAA with this rule? In 2015, a drone hobbyist in Tampa, Florida received a cease-and-desist letter from the FAA for posting his drone videos on YouTube. The FAA's argument was that, since YouTube contains ads, the videos were for commercial use.


No, you can't use your drone to spy on your ex's wedding. Privacy and drones mix like Harrison Ford in a slapstick comedy...poorly. In September 2015, a Valdosta, GA police officer was fired, arrested, and charged with felony eavesdropping for using his personal drone to spy on neighbors. In short, stick to Facebook stalking. It's way safer for everyone, you creep.

Interfering with manned aircraft

Flying your personal drone around an airport is a pretty bad idea. There is a high possibility that your drone can cause an accident by distracting a pilot or simply colliding with another aerial vehicle. Plus, no one wants the jet engine of a Boeing to rip their drone to shreds. The FAA recommends that hobbyists do not fly their drones within five miles of an airport. Also, it prohibits pilots from flying drones higher than 400 feet. In 2015, a hobbyist in Los Angeles was given three years probation and had his drone confiscated after he obstructed a police helicopter that was searching for a suspect. 

Flying in a crowd

The FAA recommends keeping drones away from groups of people. Crashing a drone into someone's head at top speed is a great way to ruin an otherwise peaceful picnic. Not only might you get sued for this, but also arrested. In September 2015, a man was arrested for reckless endangerment after flying a drone into a seating area of a New York City park. 

Photographing famous landmarks

Taking aerial pictures is probably the most popular use for consumer drones. But this can land you in trouble, too. First of all, flying a drone near a landmark presents a national security hazard. Second, there's a good chance you can crash your drone if you don't know what you're doing. In February 2016, a man was arrested for reckless endangerment after inadvertently crashing his drone into the Empire State Building. Trust us, a night in the slammer with Bubba is not worth a few photographs that you easily download from Flickr. 

Abjectly stupid things

You aren't Walter White. You'll get caught and arrested. As did two men in August 2015 who were trying to smuggle drugs and pornographic DVDs into a Maryland state prison. Their buddy on the inside will have to wait for parole before he can see the latest in high-quality adult entertainment. Stick to flying your drone in the park and call it a day.