USA here. I am a software engineer and hobby roboticist and I have just successfully built a quadcopter drone with a full-fledged microcontroller (running firmware that I wrote myself) inside of it, that flies around my backyard, identifies certain things that it finds and sends me reports of what it finds. I do not need to control it with any sort of remote at all.

Are there any laws or regulations banning selling this as a consumer product? Never mind the electronics testing/certification/verification aspect (i.e. all the processes and hoops you have to jump through to have an official "UL" logo on your product). I'm wondering where modern US (likely FAA) drone law stands on completely autonomous, unmanned, non-remote-controlled quadcopter operations for commercial use—not for delivering the mail like what Amazon is doing; this is just something that flies around on its own in your backyard or in a field, does simple object identification and knows how to stear clear of most obstacles.

  • 2
    If you are seriously thinking about going into business selling this then you should talk to a lawyer. We can't provide legal advice, only tell you what the law says about specific things. While people here might identify some legal issues, there is no reason to think they will catch everything. Dec 2, 2020 at 19:31
  • I've edited this slightly to remove the request for legal advice; I think the question as asked in the title is on-topic here. Also, did you perhaps mean non-commercial use? Flying around on its own not doing anything useful doesn't sound commercial to me.
    – Ryan M
    Dec 3, 2020 at 8:16

1 Answer 1


In the United States, you are free to sell a fully autonomous drone, and buyers are free to operate it. Private individuals are subject to the following rules:

  1. Register your drone, mark (PDF) it on the outside with the registration number and carry proof of registration with you.
  2. Fly only for recreational purposes.
  3. Fly your drone at or below 400 feet above the ground when in uncontrolled (Class G) airspace.
  4. Obtain authorization before flying in controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E).
  5. Keep your drone within your visual line of sight, or within the visual line-of-sight of a visual observer who is co-located (physically next to) and in direct communication with you.
  6. Do not fly at night unless your drone has lighting that allows you to know its location and orientation at all times.
  7. Give way to and do not interfere with manned aircraft.
  8. Never fly over any person or moving vehicle.
  9. Never interfere with emergency response activities such as disaster relief, any type of accident response, law enforcement activities, firefighting, or hurricane recovery efforts.
  10. Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Many over-the-counter medications have side effects that could impact your ability to safely operate your drone.
  11. Do not operate your drone in a careless or reckless manner.

and commercial operators are subject to Part 107 rules, key among them:

  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS. Alternatively, the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the visual observer.
  • Must yield right of way to other aircraft.

There's nothing in them about the operator being in direct control of the drone. However, the operator is responsible for spotting potential collisions and avoiding them ("See and avoid"), so you'll need to provide some way for the operator to take manual control on an instant's notice.

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