Drone Safety Guide: Everything You Need To Know Before You Fly
Table of Contents
- State of Drones
- What Are the Main Risks with Drones?
- Safety for Consumer Pilots
- Consumer Drone Regulations
- Commercial vs. Consumer Use
- Commercial Regulations
- Safety Resources
The State of Drones
We’ve all seen it. You’re hanging out at the beach, at the park, or down the street, and whizzzzz, a quadcopter zooms above your head. The pilot is hunched over his screen, staring intently at the world below him without even looking up.
No one thought ten, or even five years ago, we’d be living in a world where taxi drones are near and people are skydiving off drones capable of carrying 400 pounds.
Although we think drones are awesome, progressive, and altogether a step forward for humankind, the reality is 53.36% of the general public believe drones will be banned within the next 10 years, and over 7% believe that they’re already banned.
What Are the Main Risks with Drones?
Safety for Consumer Pilots
To examine drone safety we first have to define what drones have become, and the utilities in which they have come to serve. Why do people use drones?
In a nut shell, RC aircrafts (generally) are flown purely for fun, while drones can be flown both for recreational and commercial use. To expand on this, the addition of the camera is usually a drone-specific installment; it’s not common to hear of RC helicopters or planes flying around at high speeds capturing footage.
With these autonomous components and the multicopter design that can sustain large payloads (payload = how much weight a single device can carry) and stabilization systems for cameras, drones have taken on a completely new set of recreational and professional uses.
Consumer Drone Regulations
While some new rules are commonsense, i.e. ‘remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations,’ there are some that are tediously technical.We’ll expand on this.
“a non-human carrying aircraft capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere.”
Here are the most important MUST-KNOW rules:
You cannot fly more than 400 feet in the air and you must keep your drone in eyesight at all times. You cannot fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles and you have to keep a 25 foot minimum distance between the drone and individuals or property. If you ‘re going to fly within five miles of an airport or heliport you need to contact the respective control tower.
More on the commonsense side, but do not fly in harsh weather conditions that reduce visibility and pose a higher risk of crashing, and refrain from flying when high or drunk.
- Flying your drone indoors? No need to register
- Under 13? Have your parent or guardian register for you
- Drone over 55 pounds? You’ll need to register in a separate process and receive approval
- Flying for commercial purposes? You’ll need to register in a separate process, more to come on this soon (JUMP TO THIS SECTION NOW)
If you’re wondering what to do if you have an entire arsenal of drones, worry not – when you register, the FAA gives you a registration number and that single number covers the entirety of your drone collection so long as they’re all listed.
Safety for Businesses/Commercial Use
Public drones did indeed begin as a recreational product, but their commercial application has increased tenfold in recent years, with the predominant uses being in the field of aerial photography, data mapping, and inspections.
Commercial vs. Consumer Use
Essentially there’s one question, and one question only, that determines whether or not a drone is being used commercially: is the pilot profiting from it? If you’re using your drone in whatever capacity to generate profit, you’re using your drone commercially.
The FAA even considers uploading videos on the internet, particularly YouTube, to be ‘commercial use’ when the photographer/cinematographer profits from the adds played over the video (yes, even if the video was shot legally and on their own accord).
Here’s a quick infographic we made about consumer use versus commercial use:
“At Lyft Aerial we utilize drones to solve a number of people’s real world problems. In one instance, we were contacted by an advertising agency in hopes of looking for new unique ways to promote awareness to one of Royal Caribbean’s newest ships. We leveraged the culture of humble bragging and the latest technology to create a dronie booth at the rear of the ship.Participants strike a pose for the drone as it takes a 15 second video of participant. The drone will start low and close up on guest and will pull back and increase altitude to show off the ship and its surroundings. On top of the dronie booth, we edited videos into a branded templates with epic music in which we sent out to guests via email within an hour. This dronie booth became the talk of the ship and had a social media reach of 1+ million.”Kevin Whatley
“One of our recent projects came from a Fortune 500 company that had a dilemma. They had a very large construction site that had accumulated a very large “stock pile” of dirt that would have to be moved off of the job site. This dirt pile covered over 19 acres and they had to figure out how much dirt was going to have to be removed, how many trucks, fuel, etc. would be needed to remove it. The traditional way of solving this issue would be to bring in a group of surveyors who would spend severaldays plotting the dirt pile, taking measurements with lasers, etc. This is very time consuming and expensive, and the construction company needed an answer fast.We were able to come in with our technology and fly the site with an autonomous drone, map the area and then using advanced software we are able to provide the construction company a volumetric measurement of the “stock pile” of dirt so they know exactly how much they will need to spend to remove it. The best part is, we were able to fly the site in less than 15 minutes and then process the data in a couple hours. We were also able to provide them with an accurate orthomosaic map of the area, as well as a 3D map which provides elevation details.”Adam Andrews
“A friend of mine lives in Bulgaria in a place with ancient history. Gold and silver utensils and coins have being unearthed in that area throughout the years. There is a colony of bats coming out every night, which disappears during the day. No one knows where the bats go to sleep. It is suspected that there is a cave in the mountain with a small entrance. Nobody has succeeded to find it so far. Besides the bats this cavity may contain other valuable artifacts. Is it possible to setup the drone’s “follow” option to go after a bat (approximately 3″x4″ in size)?”
As stated earlier in the article, Part 107, the guidelines released in August 2016 for sUAS pilots by the FAA, clearly defines the rules involved with small unmanned aircrafts.
- Unmanned Aircraft must weigh less than 55lbs
You must always have visual line-of-sight to your aircraft
You can’t fly the vehicle over 100mph or above 400ft in altitude
You can’t fly over people because that’s unwise
You can only operate during daylight or civil twilight
You must yield right to other aircraft (same as our road rules)
You may not operate a sUAS under the influence of alcohol or drugs
You may not operate a sUAS if you have mental health issues
There must be a remote pilot (with certificate) in the command position
- The certified remote pilot must:
- A. Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the rule.
- B. Report to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in at least serious injury, loss of consciousness, or property damage of at least $500.
- C. Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is in a condition for safe operation.
- D. Ensure that the small unmanned aircraft complies with the existing registration requirements specified in 91.203(a)(2)
Along with that, there are other rules and regulations stated in this Part 107 PDF document.
Most importantly, you need to pass the Part 107 Exam.
To improve the safety of sUAVs, companies have already begun to develop tools that assist drone pilots in not only identifying legal and illegal airspaces, but the regulations involved with flying as well. We’ll see a surge of these types of applications as the drone industry continues to grow, but for now there’s a select few.
In need of a recap? We covered a lot.
- Drones are aerial vehicles capable of causing serious damage before they’re toys
- NEVER fly within five miles of an airport
- Use precautions to avoid aerial or ground collisions
- Register your drone!
- It’s now free
- One registration number fits all of your drones
- If not, you could be fined heavily & sentenced to jail time
- Recreational Users
- Follow Part 107
- Respect no fly airspaces!
- Respect other people’s privacy
- Commercial Users
- Follow Part 107
- If your’re profiting from it, it’s commercial
- You must be sixteen years or older!
- You must have, or work with someone who has a remote pilot airman certificate
- Your drone must be under 55lbs
- You must pass Part 107 exam
- Part 107
- Covers a wide range of regulations
- Never fly above 400 feet
- Use commonsense, don’t be reckless
- Never fly 25 feet from a person or property
- Do not fly over people
- Only operate during daylight or civil twilight
- Must always have line-of-sight
- Commercial flyers must have pilot certificate
- Respect other’s privacy!
- Covers a wide range of regulations
- Applications can assist with regulations, flight planning, and airspace legality
- UAV Forecast
With a new era of unmanned aerial vehicle technology and the surge of drones in the common marketplace, comes a new wave of fears for the public and responsibility for pilots. Safety should be the first concern, and now there are resources you can use to help avoid accidents, follow regulations, and optimize your flight experience.
We encourage you to take these regulations and rules seriously, as without educated pilots the freedom of drones could be contested. That’s not something we want to happen. Have commonsense, register your drone(s), be safe, and spread the knowledge to your peers in the drone community!
Now get out there and get flyin’. Just do it safely.