Category Archives: Q&A

Do I have to remove the drone from its bag when going through airport security?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about taking your drone through the TSA. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I had a question regarding going through airport security with a drone. I have a DJI Phantom 3 and want to know if I have to remove the drone from its bag when going through security?

Ah, traveling with a drone! The answers seem to change based on who, and when you ask.

First, let me make it clear: you can bring a drone through airport security if you are traveling in the U.S. Here’s the wording, directly from the TSA’s website:

“Drones are allowed through the checkpoint. Please check with your airline for their policy.”

But to answer your question more specifically about whether you have to remove it from your bag? That answer is more unclear.

The TSA does require you to remove large electronic items, such as laptops and printers from their bags, but it’s unclear whether a drone is a “large” electronic item, or if it’s more in line with a small electronic item, such as a smartphone, which you don’t have to remove. The TSA sometimes even requests that you remove books from your bag when going through screening!

Based on my experience alone, it varies not just by airport, but by who is doing the screening.

I was just traveling this summer in Canada as part of a trip to the Arctic Circle with Quark Expeditions. The airport in Edmonton, Canada specifically told me to not remove my drone (I asked the screener as I got in line!). However, the security in Calgary, Canada stopped me and had to check my bags.

My advice is this: politely ask the screener at the front of the security process what they suggest. Say, “By the way, I have a drone that weighs about 3 pounds in my bag. Do I have to take it out?” Continue reading Do I have to remove the drone from its bag when going through airport security?

Can I fly my drone in X spot in the U.S.? 3 simple steps to know if your flight is legal

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about where you can legally fly drones as a hobby user. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I was hoping to get some info on flying my drone around Twin Peaks in San Francisco. My city is covered in helipads. Can I still fly there? Can I fly over a bridge if there is a big international shipping port nearby?

This week’s “Ask Drone Girl” question is not just one question, but a culmination of what is 100s of reader emails I get! People want to fly in a specific area, but aren’t sure if they legally can!

This post will (hopefully) answer all of those emails, once and for all! Note that this post is directed at people flying as hobby pilots, meaning you aren’t making a business out of your drone pilot (if you’re flying for commercial purposes, you need to fly under Part 107).

But if you simply have a drone that you want to take on your vacation to grab great photos for your social media profile, this is for you! Here’s your guide to knowing whether you can legally fly your drone, anywhere in the United States — in just 3 steps.

Step 1: Check Know Before You Fly. Know Before You Fly is a website founded by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration, so you can assure the data on the site is accurate. Continue reading Can I fly my drone in X spot in the U.S.? 3 simple steps to know if your flight is legal

I’m flying a drone for “X” reason, but I’m not getting paid! Do I still need a license?

“…I’m flying a drone as a volunteer to take pictures for a non-profit.”

“…I’m flying a drone in an outdoor racing competition, and there are prizes involved.”

“…I’m flying a drone to take pictures of my friend’s house, which I’m giving to her for free, but she is going to use them in the marketing materials to sell her house.”

“Do I need a license?”

So you’re flying a drone, and aren’t sure if it’s a hobby or commercial use case. And, if the latter, you’re not sure if you need a license?

I get a LOT of questions from people who walk the “grey area” line about whether they need a Remote Pilot Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, under Part 107.

The FAA clearly states that anyone who is flying a drone for business purposes needs to have a license, which requires passing a test.

The thing that is less clear? What really dictates a “business purpose.” Many drone flights, such as those done as a volunteer or for compensation that isn’t in the form of money, fall into a grey area, and many wonder if they really need to have a license.

“Using a sUAS to take photographs for your own personal use would be considered recreational,” according to the FAA’s website. “Using the same device to take photographs or videos for compensation or sale to another individual would be considered a commercial operation.”

But is receiving a trophy or free drone for winning an FPV race considered compensation? Is a non-profit using photos that were donated to them still considered commercial? There are lots of grey areas here.

Let me preface this by saying the information below is NOT legal advice. Please contact an attorney to get legal advice — but I can weigh in.

First, you should get a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate anyway.  Passing this test is your first entry into U.S. airspace — the safest airspace in the world. Plus, many insurance providers require a Part 107 license, and often companies won’t hire you to do a drone job for them if you are unlicensed. Continue reading I’m flying a drone for “X” reason, but I’m not getting paid! Do I still need a license?

Drone pilot directory search: Where can I find a drone pilot for hire?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about finding a licensed drone operator in your area to do some sort of job for you. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I was wondering if you know a link to who has a Part 107 license by state? Where can I hire a licensed drone pilot? How do I find other licensed drone pilots in my area?

I get asked about the existence of a drone pilot directory quite often. While the Federal Aviation Administration maintains a directory of all pilots with a Remote Pilot Certificate, the database is not searchable by state or area. The only real way to use it is to type a pilot’s name and confirm whether or not they have a license.

But what if you want to find a list of pilots in your area? What if you want a directory of pilots with  a certain skillset — mapping, real estate, etc.?

There are dozens of websites that serve as a drone pilot directory. The websites are primarily self-reported, so do your own research to find if that pilot is legitimate (and of course, check the FAA’s website to make sure they really do have a license before hiring them for a job).

And with so many websites, it can be hard to know where to look. Some of my favorites include DroneBaseDroneDeploy Mapping DirectorySkytangoUplift and UpSonder.  Continue reading Drone pilot directory search: Where can I find a drone pilot for hire?

Which racing drone propellers are the best? Gemfan? DAL? Something else?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about upgrading your racing drone propellers. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I have a Kingdowin & Hitec 280’s quad racers, and would like to change the blades to nylon props.  What do you suggest for these 2 prop quads?  I was looking at GemFan & DALs.

Hey there!

I reached out to some of the world’s top drone racers to get you a better answer than I ever could (when it comes to drone racing, I’m a total novice).

First, you need to decide what more you want out of your propellers. Do you need more thrust? Are you a racer? Do you prefer freestyle?

#Kwads & #Braap #Braap all day long! Such a fun day 😀 Met up with the Santa Cruz FPV crew, and found this little custom built miniature 3inch #Alien! It’s friggin adorable. Huge shout out to the local crew for holding it down and throwing such a great event- was fun not organizing for once and getting to show my #3D moves off. Then over to meetup with the Motorcycles & Misfits at the Re-Cycle Garage garage to do a bit of maintenance on the Shadow, its slowly running better and better- just needs a little TLC after sitting for a couple years. Check out their podcast, it’s one of the most legit and funny #motorcycle #podcasts on the net! Psssss, @genstattu… Your high powered drone batteries might work great for some custom motorcycles hint-hint 😉 #AirVuz #Tattu #Dronehart #Drones #FPV #WorldsCollide #RotorRiot #GoPro #GemFan #BeeRotor

A post shared by Zoe FPV (@zoefpv) on

From there, my friend and drone racing pro Zoe Stumbaugh put together an extremely thorough guide for you (Zoe runs the site HexinAir. Check it out!):

DAL 5045 Cyclones: These are durable, decently efficient, and a good mix of top end speed and low end “grip/torque” in the air.

“I don’t replace broken props- just heavily damaged ones,” Stumbaugh said. “They’re an incredibly durable material mix. You could even call them the original indestructible prop.” Continue reading Which racing drone propellers are the best? Gemfan? DAL? Something else?

Can I take my drone through TSA in my carry-on baggage?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about taking your drone through TSA in your checked baggage. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m going to Maui in three weeks, and I would love to bring my GoPro Drone.  I was wondering if you know the regulation at SFO regards to having drone in my carry-on.   Any tips in Maui? What spots are good to fly drones at? 

I’m jealous you’re heading to Maui! And yes, it is totally okay to take a drone through a U.S. airport. It’s clearly written on the U.S.’s TSA site that drones are allowed to be brought through security in your carry-on.

That being said, before flying, check with your individual airline’s website to make sure drones are not on the prohibited packing items list.

As a personal tip, before I send my drone through the scanner, I usually give the person working it a head’s up there is a drone inside. Every time I don’t, they also see its weird shape and feel the need to inspect it! This always ends up just saving everyone time.

Continue reading Can I take my drone through TSA in my carry-on baggage?

DJI Phantom 3 left joystick stuck? Here’s what you need to do

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about a problem with the left joystick on the DJI Phantom 3. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

We have a DJI Phantom 3 Standard Drone and on the left joy stick when you pull it straight down to the bottom it just stay there and locks to get it back to center you have to nudge it upward and it pops free and returns to center. Is this normal or a defect?

This is totally normal! But if it is impacting your flying, there are things you can do to “fix” it. It sounds like what you experienced is the “throttle lock” feature which DJI created for the Phantom 2 Vision Plus and carried over to early models of the Phantom 3 Standard.

It was actually intended to be a safety feature to help shut down the motors after landing, as well as to allow high altitude decent without holding the stick down.

However, considering you don’t see it in newer drones today, it sounds like many agree it may not be the best feature.  Continue reading DJI Phantom 3 left joystick stuck? Here’s what you need to do

Where in Orange County can I fly drones — and can I fly drones near helipads?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about how to read the Know B 4 U Fly map. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’ve been scanning B 4 U Fly and some of the forums for tips on where I can fly (legally) in Orange County and it looks like the abundance of helipads/airstrips makes the whole County a no drone zone. Any recommendations?

For new pilots, it can be extremely unclear where people can or can’t fly. You’ll want to bookmark this site, which is the U.S. Air Space Map on the Know B 4 U Fly website.

The great news about flying as a hobbyist is you have far fewer restrictions than commercial pilots.

There are three things you need to pay attention to:

You DO need to pay attention to airports. Drone community guidelines ask that recreational operators give notice for flights within 5 miles of an airport. You can give that notice to the air traffic control tower, simply by calling them.

You also need to pay attention to temporary flight restrictions (TFRs). It is actually illegal to fly  a drone that is under a TFR – which are typically enacted during natural disasters (don’t fly over fires) or for major political events, such as if the President is in town. Continue reading Where in Orange County can I fly drones — and can I fly drones near helipads?