FAA regulations for rc planes

Published on
Maggie Lai-
5 min read

FAA Regulations for RC Planes

Diving into the regulations surrounding Remote-Controlled (RC) planes can help you navigate the skies safely while enjoying fine-free flight. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets guidelines to ensure airspace safety and responsible flying. Let's explore these regulations to understand how they impact RC pilots, especially as it’s a better time than ever to register your RC plane with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)! As of January 23, 2023, aircraft registration certificates now last for seven years instead of three years.

Federal Aviation Agency logo

Understanding FAA Regulations for RC Planes

Remote-controlled aircraft (RC aircraft), including planes, helicopters, and drones, fall under the purview of the FAA as Unmanned Aircraft (UA). The regulations for RC planes primarily revolve around safety, responsible flying practices, and airspace rules. Here are some key points every RC pilot should know:

Registration Requirements

  1. FAA Registration:
    • Recreational pilots: If your RC plane weighs above 0.55 pounds (250 grams), you need to register it with the FAA. For aircraft below 55 pounds (25 kilograms), registration is done online through the Civilian Aviation Registry Electronic Services (CARES) site. The site provides a unique identification number, which must be displayed on your aircraft. See this guide from CARES for a step-by-step walkthrough of the registration process!
    • Civilian Aviation Registry Electronic Services user guide June 2023
    • If your RC plane weighs above 55 pounds, registration has to be done through mail with Traditional Aircraft Registration.
    • To register any aircraft, above or below 55 pounds, you should have the following materials:
      • an Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1
      • evidence of ownership (such as a bill of sale)
      • a $5.00 registration fee made payable to the Federal Aviation Administration
      • your Social Security Number (SSN) or some form of government-issued identification
    • Most electronic RC planes should be light enough to be registered online, but many gas-powered RC planes may need to be registered by mail. When you design your own plane design through WavRC's interactive tool, check to see an estimation of the finished plane's weight to determine how your plane needs to be registered.
    • | Weight of RC Aircraft | Registration Method | | ------------------------ | -------------------------------------------------------------------- | | < 0.55 pounds | No registration required | | 0.55 pounds to 55 pounds | Online registration through CARES site | | > 55 pounds | Mail-in registration through Traditional Aircraft Registration |
  2. Certification:
    • FAA registration certificate: You will be issued an FAA registration certificate for your RC plane once it has been successfully registered. Keep it on hand, either with a physical or digital copy, whenever flying. If you allow another person to pilot your plane, they must also have a copy of your certificate. Ensure that they are prepared to comply with any requests from federal, state, or local law enforcement officers before allowing them to pilot your FAA-registered RC aircraft.
  3. Legal Restrictions:
    • Under 13 years old: Children under 13 cannot register their own RC aircraft. Another individual of 13 years or older must register the RC plane for them. This person does not necessarily have to be a parent or guardian.
    • red-haired child holding a transmitter and flying a remote-controlled plane
    • Citizen or permanent resident: Only legal United States citizens and permanent residents may register RC planes as individual owners. The other eligible entities are US-based corporations and governmental units.

Operational Guidelines

  1. Fly in Designated Areas:
    • Flying zones: It's optimal to operate RC planes in AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) recognized flying sites or other designated areas. Use this helpful Flying Site Search to find one in your area! Ensure the area is clear of any flight restrictions.
    • Academy of Model Aeronautics logo
  2. Respect Airspace Restrictions:
    • Stay away from airports: Maintain a safe distance from airports and manned aircraft. Flying within 5 miles of an airport requires contacting the airport's control tower and obtaining permission. Restricted areas: Avoid flying in restricted airspace, such as near military installations or sensitive government areas.
  3. Flight Safety
    • Visual line of sight (VLOS): Always keep your RC plane within your line of sight during flight. Use spotters if flying long-range models.
    • Emergency landing zones: Identify and have a plan for emergency landings to avoid endangering people or property.

Additional Tips for Responsible Flying

  1. Weather Conditions:
    • Weather awareness: Check weather forecasts before flying. Avoid flying in adverse conditions like strong winds, rain, or fog, which can jeopardize control.
    • black woman flying a remote controlled plane in good flying conditions
  2. Respect Privacy:
    • No surveillance or invasion: Do not use RC planes for unauthorized surveillance or invade people's privacy. Respect others' property and privacy rights.
  3. Noise Considerations:
    • Mind noise levels: Fly your RC plane in a manner that doesn't disturb the peace of neighborhoods or wildlife habitats.

Ongoing Updates and Compliance

  1. Stay Informed
    • Keep up with changes: Stay updated with the FAA's evolving regulations. Regulations might change, and it's crucial to adapt to new requirements.
  2. Compliance is Key:
    • Following guidelines: Adhering to regulations ensures not only your safety but also the safety of others and helps maintain the integrity of the hobby.


FAA regulations for RC planes aim to promote safety, responsible flying practices, and respect for airspace rules. As enthusiasts, it's our responsibility to understand and comply with these guidelines to ensure a positive experience for everyone involved. Embracing these regulations not only safeguards the skies but also preserves the joy of flying for generations to come!

Remember, while these guidelines provide a foundation, always check for any updates or additional requirements from the FAA to ensure full compliance and safe enjoyment of your RC flying experiences!

the letters FAA with three remote-controlled planes flying above them