5 Tips for Safe Drone Operation
The holidays are over, and Santa’s sleigh is back at the North Pole. That doesn’t mean the skies are empty, however.
Hundreds of thousands, if not a million, drones were likely given as holiday gifts in 2015, according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates. That’s a lot of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (the official term) flying around. And, with very real concerns about privacy, liability and legality, there’s the potential for a lot of problems, too.
Whether you or a loved one got a drone over the holidays, or your neighbor got one and you’re curious about regulations, here are five things to keep in mind for responsible flying:
- Practice, practice, practice. Don’t start off with a complicated “mission” right out of the gate. Learn how to maneuver your drone in an open field or empty parking lot. And, never use it in crowded areas, such as near stadiums, no matter how skilled a flyer you become.
- Obey the FAA. The agency, which regulates aircraft, says drones must be under 55 pounds and remain under 400 feet of altitude. Furthermore, operators must be U.S. citizens of at least 13 years of age. You shouldn’t fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you have permission from the airport and control tower. You’ll also need to register your drone, whether it’s brand new or you’ve been flying it for a while.
- Keep it personal. You typically don’t need approval to operate your drone as long as you’re using it recreationally — and following the FAA’s general guidelines. But, if you’re flying your drone for a commercial purpose, such as creating a professional video or taking business photos, you need authorization from the FAA.
- Limit your risk. Damage caused by your drone could lead to liability costs and fines, so check your homeowners insurance policy or ask your independent insurance agent to see if you’re covered (not all policies cover hobby and model aircraft). And, if you use your drone commercially, remember that your homeowners policy won’t cover that at all.
- Be smart. All it takes to operate a drone safely and responsibly is a little skill and a lot of common sense. So, follow regulations and guidelines, and don’t endanger people or invade their privacy. The same goes for wildlife. Finally, if someone else’s drone is impacting you, try talking to them (or the authorities) before taking drastic measures.
So, have fun up there, but always keep in mind what – and who – is down here.