Felons being released from prison may want to find a recreational activity like hunting, fishing, or flying a drone. Also, some may have an interest in flying a drone commercially. Felons often believe no one will hire them, but there are resources available as many employers have found that felons make good employees.
This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can get a drone license.
- What is a Drone?
- Drone Registration
- Drone License
- Criminal Background Check
- Recommended Action
What is a Drone?
A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is navigated manually with a remote control or operated with software that works with a GPS System. It is made of light materials to reduce weight and increase maneuverability. It’s also equipped with technology such as cameras, GPS, and lasers.
An unmanned aerial vehicle system has two parts: the drone itself and the control system.
The nose of the unmanned aerial vehicle is where the sensors and navigation system resign. Materials used in the construction of the drone are complex composites that can absorb vibration to decrease any noise produced.
Drones come in a variety of sizes. The largest is used for military purposes such as the Predator drone. Next are those with fixed wings, requiring a short runway. These are typically used to work in areas such as geographical surveying and to safeguard wildlife from illegal hunting.
Then there are vertical takeoff and landing drones (VTOL), many of which are quadcopters that can take off, fly, hover, and land vertically.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established guidelines regarding registration requirements for flying drones recreationally. Anyone flying a drone indoors does not need a remote pilot’s license and may not even need to register their drone with the FAA.
If someone flies a drone outdoors for recreational purposes, he or she will need to register the device. There are two options for flying a drone recreationally.
In the first case for a drone that:
- Is flown as a hobby and for recreational reasons
- Follows local community guidelines
- Is kept within a visual line-of-sight
- Yields to any and all manned aircraft
- Remains at least five miles away from airports and air traffic control towers
- Does not weigh more than 55 pounds
A person can also fly a drone for recreational purposes if the person has a valid remote pilot’s license. The restrictions for recreational flights are that a person must:
- Register a drone as a non-model, unmanned aerial vehicle
- Follow the FAA’s small UAS rules, Part 107
- Have a valid remote pilot’s license
Basically, if someone plans to fly a drone in the field, park, or other open area where there are not manned aircraft passing through and there is no immediate threat power lines or people, he or she does not need a remote pilot’s license. That person will still need to register the drone and ensure that is only being used as a hobby, however.
New rules were established by the Federal Aviation Administration for the legal piloting of a drone in situations that require having a drone license. In order to get a drone license someone must:
- Be at least 16 years old
- Have a valid government-issued picture ID with name, address, and signature
- Pass an exam administered by the FAA
- Apply for a remote pilot certificate
- Complete a TSA background check
The FAA exam is a 60 question multiple-choice test and covers several areas:
- FAA regulations
- Airspace and requirements
- Loading and performance
A passing score is 70% on the exam.
Criminal Background Check
Commercial drone pilots must undergo a criminal background check before legally operating aircraft in U.S. airspace. A pilot must receive a security threat assessment background test from the TSA before being allowed to operate.
This is the same background check used to screen pilots and airport security personnel. Having a criminal record is not an immediate cause for denial of a license.
A criminal background check is handled by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Those convicted of a felony fall into two different categories.
The first category is for anyone who is convicted of a felony involving any of the following crimes:
- A federal crime of terrorism
- A transportation issue involving a significant loss of life, environmental damage, or economic disruption
- A crime involving explosives (including threats of an explosive)
- Improper transportation of a hazardous material
For those falling into any of these areas, they are permanently prohibited from getting a drone license regardless of when the crime occurred.
Then, there is a second category of felonies. This class of felonies is termed interim disqualifying criminal offenses. These are ones for which felons were convicted within seven years of the date of the application, or if the applicant was released from prison after conviction within five years of the date of the application.
Crimes in this category include:
- Illegal possession, use, sale, purchase, or other dealing with a firearm
- Money laundering
- Distribution or possession of a controlled substance
- Rape or sexual abuse
- Aggravated assault
In order to be successful in their pursuit of getting a drone license, it’s essential for felons to be honest about their background. They are already working with the negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.
There are re-entry programs, such as drug treatment, and educational opportunities for felons who need them. For many felons, having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clean record and succeed in getting a drone license.
Having their record expunged will permit a felon to be able to honestly state on a drone license application that he or she has not been convicted of a felony and increase the chances of success.
It is a significant challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon that wants to get a drone license. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference in a felon succeeding in getting a drone license.
Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.
What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get a drone license with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.