We all know that we should not operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol (or other substances). Unfortunately every year too many people are killed or injured as a result of someone driving while impaired. It should come as no surprise that it is also illegal to drink and drone, though it seems that this is not quite a requirement everywhere in the world.

Drinking And Droning Now Illegal In Japan

Japan recently made it illegal to drink alcohol and operate a drone, or drink and drone. The country has seen a huge increase in the use of remote operated aircraft and coming with that is an increase in drunken operators. In mid-June the country’s parliament passed a law making it illegal to operate a drone while drunk with penalties of up to ¥300,000 (about $2,700) and a year in prison if convicted. The parliament also took the opportunity to place restrictions on where drones can be flown and dangerous activities with a drone.

What About The US?

Of course drones are popular here in the US as well. At Nicely Done Sites we have a few of them to use for photography projects and just to play around with. Of course we abide by all regulations when operating them, whether they be local, state or federal. So, is it legal to drink alcohol here in the US and operate a drone?

No, it isn’t.

The FAA has nipped this one in the bud, at least for commercial drone operators. By operating a drone (ie manipulating the flight controls) the operator is considered to be a crew member. FAA regulations state that no crew member may operate an aircraft within 8 hours of the consumption of alcohol or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

But What About Recreational Drones?

But what about a recreational drone operator? Could they drink and drone? It is a bit hazier there since operating a drone under the influence of alcohol is not expressly prohibited but like with many parts of modern law there are gray areas. The main part prevents people from operating a model aircraft (i.e. a drone) in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system. What penalties a person would receive would be up to the FAA Inspector.

The aircraft also is required to also be operated within community-based safety guidelines and drinking and droning is expressly prohibited by nearly all (if not all) model clubs and communities. So, while not expressly prohibited it is prohibited. In some states it is expressly prohibited so it is best to not do it.

Just like with operating a car while drunk (or texting) an operator’s reflexes are slowed. Recreational drones can flow at up to 75 mph and some racing models can exceed 100 mph. That does not give a lot of reaction time should an issue arise or since alcohol can reduce inhibitions it may lead to pushing the limits of what an operator should do. This can bring unwelcome attention to the operator and can only make the situation worse, leading to other serious criminal charges.

So when in doubt, don’t drink and drone. And don’t let your friends do it either.

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