Flying an R/C (radio controlled) airplane can be a lot of fun, but it's also important to note that there are laws governing the correct way to do it. Many of those who purchase an RC airplane are unaware of these local and state laws, and fly their planes with no understanding of their obligations to the community at large. Understanding the laws governing the use of RC airplanes will make for a safer experience for all.
Laws Regarding Types of RC Planes
There are different ordinances for RC planes using electric motors vs. those that use gas-powered motors. Gas-powered RC planes are more dangerous if involved in a crash because gasoline can drip and ignite, so checking with the local laws is necessary as a gas-powered RC plane might be outlawed from use completely.
Flying in Public Places
There is a general rule not to fly an RC plane in a public place like a park or beach due to the number of people who are there. This rule is often ignored, especially if the person flying does not abuse the opportunity to fly the plane. Be aware of the proximity to trees, structures like houses and other property.
Checking with the local RC Flying Club
Checking with the local RC flying club will not only provide the most up-to-date laws for your area, but also provide an outlet for meeting other like-minded enthusiasts. It also can aid in finding locations where flying the RC plane is allowed, even though it might be vaguely listed as not being OK to do. Keeping up with the local laws is vital because the authorities are under no obligation to notify you.
Laws Vary from State to State
It is necessary to find out the laws governing flying an RC plane in the state you will be flying it in. Local laws vary as some states outlaw RC planes in all areas, while others might have certain areas where flying the plane is allowed. As hefty fines can result from being caught flying in a restricted area, it is important to know what the legal issue for that area before proceeding.
Flying Near an Airport
Flying an RC plane near an airport is not allowed for a number of reasons--one being that the radio control could possible interfere with the control tower or the planes taking off or landing and vice versa with the RC plane as well. There is also the fear of terrorism about an RC plane being flown into an airport. The person flying the plane could suddenly be grabbed by security and charged with an offense by Homeland Security.
Purpose of Laws
The laws restricting or banning flying an RC plane are not there to keep someone from having a good time, but to protect the public from possible hazards. Those flying an RC plane for the first time could easily lose control and crash the plane into something or someone, for instance. Local laws have been put into effect based on situations that have happened in the past, which explains why some areas restrict flying an RC plane to a specific area, while others won't allow it at all.
Just because there isn't a law doesn't mean that common sense should be abandoned when flying an RC airplane. As an example, flying the plane around power line transmitters is obviously not very smart to do. Nor is it wise to fly an RC plane in an area congregated by children or pets.