Don’t Drink & Drone

Here's what you need to know about one of the lesser known regulations regarding drones.

Photo Caption: A model UAV displayed outside the White House during anti-drone rallies in June 2012.

You might remember the story about the DJI drone found on the White House lawn on the morning of January 26, 2015.  The drone operator admitted he was drunk while flying the drone.

He told investigators he was drinking at an apartment near the White House before his quadcopter disappeared. The man reportedly decided to go to sleep, even though he thought the drone might have flown over the White House.

Since the holidays are quickly approaching, I’d like to remind everyone about one of the lesser known regulations regarding flying drones and drinking. This mainly pertains to individuals operating commercially under a 333, however, recreational flyers should also follow these same rules.

The Section 333 exemptions my clients are receiving say, “Unless otherwise specified in this grant of exemption, the UAS, the UAS PIC, and the UAS operations must comply with all applicable parts of 14 CFR including, but not limited to, parts 45, 47, 61, and 91.”
14 CFR Sec. 91.17 says,

(a) No person may act or attempt to act as a crew member of a civil aircraft -

(1) Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage;

(2) While under the influence of alcohol;

(3) While using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety; or

(4) While having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen. Alcohol concentration means grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath.

. . .

(c) A crewmember shall do the following:

(1) On request of a law enforcement officer, submit to a test to indicate the alcohol concentration in the blood or breath, when—

(i) The law enforcement officer is authorized under State or local law to conduct the test or to have the test conducted; and

(ii) The law enforcement officer is requesting submission to the test to investigate a suspected violation of State or local law governing the same or substantially similar conduct prohibited by paragraph (a)(1), (a)(2), or (a)(4) of this section.

(2) Whenever the FAA has a reasonable basis to believe that a person may have violated paragraph (a)(1), (a)(2), or (a)(4) of this section, on request of the FAA, that person must furnish to the FAA the results, or authorize any clinic, hospital, or doctor, or other person to release to the FAA, the results of each test taken within 4 hours after acting or attempting to act as a crewmember that indicates an alcohol concentration in the blood or breath specimen.

(d) Whenever the Administrator has a reasonable basis to believe that a person may have violated paragraph (a)(3) of this section, that person shall, upon request by the Administrator, furnish the Administrator, or authorize any clinic, hospital, doctor, or other person to release to the Administrator, the results of each test taken within 4 hours after acting or attempting to act as a crewmember that indicates the presence of any drugs in the body.

(e) Any test information obtained by the Administrator under paragraph (c) or (d) of this section may be evaluated in determining a person’s qualifications for any airman certificate or possible violations of this chapter and may be used as evidence in any legal proceeding under section 602, 609, or 901 of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958.

Here are some real-world scenarios on how you can violate this regulation:

1. Within 8 hours after the consumption of any alcoholic beverage. You go to a party, have one beer, and then go fly your drone 30 minutes later. You stayed up partying hard past midnight (2am was your last drink time). You get up early around 7am to shoot some footage.

2. While under the influence of alcohol - You got hammered last night and passed out. You get up early and still feel buzzed.

3. While using any drug that affects the person’s faculties in any way contrary to safety; or you are on some powerful medication to treat some type of disease or pain. This medication is affecting your faculties in ANY way.

4. While having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater in a blood or breath specimen. Alcohol concentration means grams of alcohol per deciliter of blood or grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath. You played a drinking game with your buddies using whiskey, but that was over 8 hours ago. You are a seasoned drinking vet and have developed a high tolerance for alcohol. (You can hold your liquor). You might still be above .04 because your alcohol tolerance is so high.

I hope this helps folks. Don’t drink and drone.




About the Author

Jonathan Rupprecht · Jonathan B. Rupprecht is a drone lawyer and a commercial pilot with single-engine, multi-engine, and instrument ratings. He is also an airplane flight instructor and instrument flight instructor. Jonathan obtained a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Magna Cum Laude, and a Juris Doctor from Florida International University School of Law.
Contact Jonathan Rupprecht: jon@rupprechtlaw.com  ·  View More by Jonathan Rupprecht.
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Robot Fun · Drones · News · Advice & Opinion · Drones · All Topics


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