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Old 19-04-15, 17:57   #1
 
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Popcorn What You Need to Know Before Flying a Drone

What You Need to Know Before Flying a Drone (To Stay Out of Trouble)





Drones are awesome fun. They can bring out the inner kid in even the most jaded individual, but they can also land people in a lot of trouble. Here are some things every new drone owner should know before taking to the skies.


Traditional R/C model airplanes are a time-tested hobby that require patience and dedication. True R/C hobbyists often devote thousands of dollars and hours to their passion. Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), on the other hand, are relatively and generally pretty easy to operate and well within the budgets of many people.
Thatís not to say, drones donít require significant skill, practice, and patience to master. On the contrary, their simplicity is deceptive and to that end, many newbs go into them with unreasonable expectations.

But, hereís something that many people donít know or realize, if youíre not fully abreast of UAV doís and doníts, you can end up in a lot of trouble. You can run afoul of the law and face felony charges if youíre flying in the wrong place at the wrong time. You can face hefty fines if you hit or endanger pedestrians. Or, someone could take your drone flying personally and pick a fight.

The point is, bad stuff can happen if you donít know what youíre doing and if youíre not aware of the laws and practical points of safe UAV flying. In fact, itís fair to say that most rookie UAV pilots get into trouble when they fly where theyíre not supposed to.


How High and Far Can I Fly a Drone?


If you plan on flying a UAV (recreationally) in United States airspace, then youíll be governed by the Federal Aviation Administrationís (FAA) rules regarding model aircraft use, which doesnít amount to very much guidance to be honest.






The FAA Advisory Circular 91-57 is one page, dates all the way back to 1981, and states simply that model aircraft operators Ė in this case people flying drones Ė cannot fly their crafts more than 400 feet above the ground, must keep them within sight, and should not operate within five miles of an airport without first informing the airportís operating authorities or aircraft control tower.

How far you can fly is going to be limited to the space youíre flying in and line of sight. Flying beyond your line of sight increases your risk of losing control and crashing. You might think simply that you can fly via the radio controllerís screen, or your phone or tablet (ala first person view or FPV), but we should strongly caution you against doing that.
For one, youíve only got a limited field of view, i.e. whatever the droneís camera sees, so you wonít be able to see everything around the aircraft. Also, there may be lag, which compromises reaction time.

How far you can control your drone will depend on your controller and the UAVís antenna. One man built a weather balloon-deployed UAV glider that could be controlled from the edge of space (30km), but thatís an extreme scenario.

You can certainly fly beyond your line of sight but then you risk possibly hurting someone, damaging property, and running afoul of the law. Therefore, you should stay within the 400-foot ceiling and maintain visual contact with the aircraft at all times, unless youíve obtained an exemption from the FAA.

(Note, FPV drone racing is actually a thing, and itís quite fun and exciting but isnít likely to be the first thing an inexperienced UAV pilot is going to want to try.)


Where Canít I Fly?

With a drone comes great responsibility, so besides the basic 400-foot operation ceiling, and always keeping the craft within your line of sight, other rules should apply.





For one, everyone else isnít going to enjoy your enthusiasm for your new hobby. As such, you should avoid flying your drone in residential or highly populated areas. Drones tend to raise privacy concerns, so if youíre a courteous pilot, youíll try to allay those concerns by flying in sparsely populated or rural areas.

Donít fly near airports (obviously), schools, churches, and stadiums. This also goes so for flying around power stations, water treatment facilities, prisons and detention facilities, and busy roadways. Find a wide open treeless field without buildings, cars, towers, trees, and other potential hazards.

Finally, again weíd like to stress that your shouldnít operate around people unless youíre flying as a group or club. The simple fact of the matter is drones attract attention, and they also crash. While your chances of actually striking a casual passerby is fairly remote (unless youíre actually flying around a crowd), when drones crash, thereís also the potential for shrapnel.

Just think to yourself, where is the best place is to operate a drone that isnít going to crash into anyone or anything, and/or attract the attention of law enforcement. Figure that out, and you should be okay.


Sometime itís Just Not a Good Day to Fly

When you get your new drone, the urge to unpack it, put it together, and send it aloft will be extremely compelling but if the weather isnít ideal, then you stand a good chance of losing your new UAV.
As such, you should only fly when conditions are clear and winds are calm. Drones are designed to be very light and are subject to the slightest breeze. Youíre not going to be fighting for control in calm conditions but you will have to make course corrections and as such, the calmer it is the more fun and less worry you will have.





Also, you shouldnít fly in low light or darkened conditions. When itís dark, you may be able to see the drone, due to its lights, but thatís about it. Youíre not going to be able to see where youíre flying and what youíre flying around, so when all is said and done, fly when it is light out.

Of course, it goes without saying but weíll say it anyway, while drinking and droning may seem like it would be a lot of fun, you should take their operation soberly. If the recent event in Washington DC is any indication, this is an excellent rule to observe. Wait until after youíve successfully flown your drone and safely packed it away before celebrating.


Wanna Get Paid? Youíll Need a Permit


Finally, if youíre planning on using a drone for profit, such as to film a movie or a commercial or any project where youíll be paid, then you will need to apply to the FAA for a commercial exemption. Even if youíre simply planning on doing a site survey or mapping out an area, youíll still need to seek out approval.

When it comes to further research, there are many resources that you can seek out online but the one you should definitely start with is Know Before You Fly, which is actually endorsed by the FAA.

Flying drones is something many people can do relatively inexpensively (compared to a full-on R/C model airplane or helicopter hobby). Moderately priced drones can be found for well under $1000, which isnít beyond the reach of many people. That said, even a drone costing several hundred dollars isnít cheap.

Itís important then that you go into UAVs fully informed and even seek instruction from other UAV enthusiasts. If there is an R/C-aircraft group in you area, theyíll most likely have an online presence. Donít be afraid to reach out to them for advice and support when pursuing your new hobby.
Also, feel free to use us as a resource and method to connect to other UAV enthusiasts as well.
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