Regulation and legal questions.

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Feb 6, 2017
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Hello, I am new to this community but I have been into small scale rocket testing and have been building RC custom drones for a few years. I know with my RC drones I am not allowed to fly higher that 400 feet legally, which truely limits my testing. At the speeds these planes fly a small change in my elevators can cause me to go above this legal limit or in worse cases, it can cause the drone to fully crash. I have never launched an actual rocket and do not know the legal steps i have to go through to legally go about it. I have a few different designs i want to actually test in a launching system and want to go about doing this fully legal and obviously safely. Also if anyone has any information regarding how i could go about getting permission legally to actually test my RC drones at a higher altitude so i can actually push the limits on my designs without having to stay below this 400 feet limit that is set. Any information would be greatly appreciated in who i have to contact about getting the permissions i need to go about further and better testing of my designs.
400ft is not a legal thing, it's a recommendation. And a decent one to try for. Get away from manned traffic and you can safely get higher without causing issues.

There are a few rules with rockets, but if you follow them, you are mostly exempt from FAA and such. Pretty much anything from Estes and other small model rockets are fine, just make sure the air is clear and go.

If you mean larger high power rockets, start with the little stuff. It's far cheaper, easier and safer. When you get them back most of the time, get with a local club and attend a launch. They can help you with certification flights to fly larger rockets. NAR and Tripoli have lists of clubs on their websites. You're in the LDRS forum here, are you planning to attend? That would be an amazing first high power launch.
NFPA 1122 governs model rockets, and NFPA 1127 governs High Power rockets, the national organizations that oversee rocketry are the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and Tripoli Rocketry Association (TRA). The best thing is to find a local club, join it, attend launches and ask lots of questions, rocket folk are usually very helpful to newcomers.
Where do you live? Some states have more restrictions than others; California being one of the most restrictive. The biggest issues most of us have for flying rockets is finding a suitable launching area. Many people use local parks, but I have been told to leave the one I used to use by park rangers. Fortunately, my club launches at a local private park (with permission from the land owner) as well as at a local farm after the crops have been harvested (with permission from the land owner).
As others have said, the best thing to do is join a local club. But sometimes there isn't one, so....

If there is a Hobby Lobby, Michael's, WallMart, or any hobby shop near you, buy a low power rocket, assemble it, put the smallest recommended motor in it, and find a place to launch it. If there is a sports field or a school near you, find a time when no one is there (like sun up on a Sunday).

Before you launch, call the fire department and ask them what the restrictions are. My fire marshal told me that in my area, as long as it is a commercially bought model rocket, unmodified, and flown with the recommended commercial motors, I was okay.

Everything that you learn building a small rocket is applicable to larger rockets; only the materials and adhesives change. Stability, motor mounts, recovery, retention ... all the same, just on a different scale.

In order to launch a high power rocket, you must obtain a waiver from the FAA allowing you to use national air space for recreational purposes. But since you are years away from that, don't worry about it for now. Go have fun.
Come back when you can fly a rod and approx. weight dowel stable. Plus I don't think it would take long before the flyer is toast from the exhaust. For the ignition phase I'd try to hang the rocket in a tower below prop line and launch through the center. You're still going to have to deal with protecting the flyer but it removes most of the long duration contact with the flyer.

I think of it as an expensive 1st stage ;)