Although there are drones that can physically fly thousands of feet high, you can only legally fly your drone to a maximum altitude of 400 feet or 120 meters.
Hi, thanks for joining me in today’s guide. My name is Larry, and I’ve been flying consumer drones for nearly 10 years. While drones have the ability to fly amongst airplanes at 7 miles in the air, I always stay within the 400 feet altitude limit.
In today’s comprehensive post, I’ll explain how high a drone can fly, both technically and legally. I’ll also explain the risks you face if you fly your drone too high.
Let’s dive right in!
- How High Can a Drone Fly Legally?
- How High Can a Drone Physically Fly?
- What Is the Risk of Flying a Drone Too High?
- Closing Thoughts
How High Can a Drone Fly Legally?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented a set of laws to govern the safe operation of drones for consumer and recreational drone pilots. The most important rule you must follow is that you can’t fly your drone more than 400 feet above ground level.
Therefore, recreational drone pilots, like myself, can only fly the drone 400 feet above our heads. However, commercial drone pilots can apply for a waiver to exceed to 400 feet limit in certain defined circumstances.
The FAA limits a drone’s maximum altitude to 400 feet because most manned aircraft activity starts at 500 feet. Although airplanes and helicopters start off at ground level, it shouldn’t pose an issue since you’re not allowed to fly a drone near airports anyway.
Therefore, when an airplane or helicopter is far enough from the airport where drones can legally fly, the manned aircraft must be at least 500 feet in the air at all times. The 100-foot buffer distance was placed to avoid any close encounters between drones and manned aircrafts.
As a side note, the United Kingdom’s drone laws have a maximum altitude limit of 500 feet (152 meters). This is because the UK did not put the 100-foot buffer in place.
What Does 400 Feet Mean?
You must remember that 400 feet means 400 feet above the ground and not 400 feet from your location. For example, if you start off on a hill 100 feet above the ground, you can only fly your drone 300 feet higher.
Therefore, you have to limit yourself to 400 feet from the ground and not from the point where the drone takes off.
Luckily, most drones have a built-in limiter that restricts them from flying above 400 feet. Although drones can easily fly more than 400 feet in the air, the firmware doesn’t let you break the law. However, some drones may allow you to disable the limit while others won’t.
How High Can a Drone Physically Fly?
Without legal restrictions, drones can fly well above 400 feet in the sky. High-end consumer drone manufacturer DJI lets users fly their drones up to 500 meters or 1,640 feet. This is only if you accept an agreement that states you accept all responsibility for accidents that may take place.
Nonetheless, YouTuber Dutch MarkyMark flew his DJI Mini 2 Drone 5,347 feet or 1,630 meters in the sky. However, this was done under supervision and in a controlled airspace.
Another YouTuber IronMan FPV flew his DJI FPV drone 4,500 meters or 14,764 feet in the air.
However, once again, this was done under supervision and under permission from the authorities. Therefore, you can’t fly your drone above 400 feet without clearance and permission from the proper authorities.
What Is the Risk of Flying a Drone Too High?
Recreational drone pilots should never fly their drones above 400 feet. However, commercial drone pilots can fly their drones over 400 feet unless the drone is flown within a 400-foot radius of a structure and does not fly more than 400 feet above the structure’s immediate uppermost limit.
Therefore, commercial drone pilots can fly their drone 400 feet above the highest point of a skyscraper if they’re filming for commercial purposes.
If you get caught flying your drone above 400 feet, you may get fined or prosecuted. Not only are you subject to legal penalties, but you likely won’t be allowed to fly a drone again. Most countries take aviation laws very seriously, and I don’t recommend taking the risk of flying your drone over 400 feet.
Now that you understand how high a drone can fly, let’s look at a few common questions I receive about drones. You may have a similar question that can clarify any confusion you may still have.
Can drones fly as high as airplanes?
High-end consumer drones from the likes of DJI can easily fly above the clouds as high as an airplane. You can search for “drone max altitude” on YouTube and find dozens of videos of drones flying just as high as an airplane. However, they were filmed under supervision and under a controlled airspace.
What happens if you go above 400 feet with a drone?
Nothing technically happens unless the authorities catch you flying the drone above 400 feet. However, it’s difficult for authorities to gauge how high a drone is and where the pilot is. Therefore, you can likely get away with flying your drone above 400 feet. Nonetheless, I highly recommend staying within the 400 feet limit to prevent safety hazards with aircrafts.
How high can DJI drones fly?
DJI allows its drone pilots to fly up to 500 meters or 1,640 feet in the air after accepting an agreement that states the pilot agrees with any and all responsibility for accidents that may occur. However, the FFA rules in the USA declare recreational drone pilots should fly under 400 feet to avoid interfering with a larger aircraft.
Could a drone fly on the moon?
Since the moon is 384,000 kilometers away from earth, drones cannot fly to the moon. Unless NASA or SpaceX explicitly made the drone to fly to the moon, a moon mission is impossible. Furthermore, the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere, so the drone wouldn’t be able to move even if the propellors spin.
Although many high-end consumer drones have an altitude range of 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles, you can legally fly a drone 400 feet high. These aviation laws were implemented to avoid collisions with manned aircrafts like airplanes and helicopters.
But now I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a drone, and if so, which model do you have? How long have you been flying drones? Do you have any further questions about how high a drone can fly? Let me know by dropping a quick reply down below.