There's no doubt that drones are increasing in popularity, are coming down in price, and are much easier to fly than ever before. Before you go out to purchase or fly that drown, educate yourself on responsible flying and ethical flying.
Today's photo and video drones are not toys. They are real aircraft and should be treated as such. Everyday we can read about someone doing something irresponsible or just downright stupid with their drone. Or they simply get themselves into a situation that they are not ready for, and maybe the worst that happens is they crash the drone, but it's just as likely that there can be serious injury as well.
For beginning flyers:
- Just like a real aircraft, have a copilot (someone more experienced than you) with you when you take your first few flights.
- Read fully all the instruction manuals, watch training videos before your first flight.
- Practice the start up sequence without the props on so you are fully familiar with the procedure. Connect your phone or tablet to the drone's wifi, and learn how the controls work - again with the props off.
- For your first flight, find a big open space on a clear day with no wind and with no people around. Attach the props and get going! Start with controlled moves at first. Your drone comes with a flying maneuvers guide, follow it.
- Practice, practice, practice all the basics, and taking off and landing with complete control. Learn all of this before you start working with the on-board camera. Once you're comfortable and have many successful flights and landings, start using the camera, and controlling it with the display.
For every flyer:
- Always fly within your limits.
This has to do with not only where you can fly legally, but where and when should you fly. Laws, rules and regulations are constantly changing so it's up to you to know, understand, and abide by them.
Many of you now know that the flying of drones has been banned in National Parks in the USA. Local rules and laws that apply to RC planes and toys also apply to quadcopters. If you live near the coast you have to be aware of no fly zones above and around animal sanctuaries. Some National Forests are taking the same stance as the National Parks and you are not allowed to take off and land in any wilderness area.
One of the organizations that is working with the FAA to try to get sensible laws passed is the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). They offer quite a bit of benefits with the membership fees. Here is a link to the AMA Safety Code.
Most modern quadcopters do not have any kind of redundancy to bring the craft back home in the case of a mechanical failure (some hexa-copter and octo-copters can fly when a motor or speed controller fails). Because of this you should never fly the quadcopter over yourself, individuals or crowds of people. These aircraft have very powerful motors and props that spin extremely fast, they can easily cut you and send you to the emergency room. Care should always be taken to keep it away from people.
As to flying around and near wildlife, be sure to respect them the same as you would respect flying around people. Don't fly too close, and don't disturb their normal, natural behavior.
The most up to date information about drone law, proposed laws, guidelines and rules go to Dronelaw.com.
United States FAA guidelines
• Highest elevation allowed is 400 feet above the ground
• Line of sight is required by the pilot (if you cannot see the quadcopter it is too far away)
• Flying by the phone screen or goggles is not allowed (FPV or first person view)
• Total Weight of model needs to be less than 50 Lbs
• No Fly zones are areas where you are not allowed to fly, these include airports, military bases and all US National Parks. Some cities and towns also have rules in place for RC aircraft (not allowed in parks or sports fields for example). Modern drones like the DJI Phantom won't allow you to fly near commercial airports, but there are always exceptions to such GPS automation and ultimately you are responsible.
Here is a map with SOME locations where you are not allowed to fly a Remote controlled aircraft. Not all locations are on this map and you should check local laws, It is generally not allowed to be flying near bird and marine sanctuaries or anywhere there is a “no fly zone” for full size aircraft. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to fly in any wilderness areas in the US.
The FAA released a video in late 2014 with some of the guidelines they recommend:
Muench Workshops and its' affiliates take no responsibility for the full and complete accuracy of this information, or for anything that happens when you fly your drone.
Fly responsibly and ethically.