Did Santa leave a drone under your tree?
If so, great! Is he also leaving a list of the FAA regulations you’ll have to follow?
Probably not. So you may not realize that even if you’re simply flying around for fun (a “recreational flyer” to the FAA), you’re operating an aircraft within the national airspace system. That means you have to follow the rules regardless of the size or weight of the drone.
Now you may be thinking, “Bah Humbug, you’re just trying to take all the fun out of it!” But the point isn’t to snow on your parade. It’s safety. A small drone flying too high or beyond the pilot’s line of sight could hit a low-flying aircraft — at best, distracting the pilot and, at worst, causing it to crash. Even a lightweight drone falling from 100 feet or more can injure someone, and it’s pretty clear that a drone falling onto a busy roadway isn’t likely to help traffic flow.
So here’s the list. Feel free to check it twice, because if you’re naughty, the FAA may not be nice!
1. Always keep the drone in sight — this generally means staying within a quarter-mile and not flying through or above the clouds. Ever.
2. Don’t fly over people, moving vehicles, public events or emergencies.
3. Never fly near manned aircraft.
4. Fly only during the day unless you have an FAA night waiver.
5. Stay out of “controlled airspace” unless you have an FAA authorization. Controlled airspace typically is within a 5-mile radius of airports such as Tweed-New Haven or larger. It’s easy to find out if you’re within controlled airspace by using the free B4UFly app.
6. Follow FAA airspace restrictions (also available on B4UFly).
7. Don’t fly higher than 400 feet above the ground.
8. Register any drone weighing more than 0.55 pound and mark the registration number on the outside. Register for $5 at FAA Drone Zone, https://faadronezone.faa.gov.
9. Fly only for recreation — using drone photos for a business even if you aren’t paid takes you out of the recreational flyer category and subjects you to regulations that you’re probably violating.
10. Follow the safety guidelines of a community-based organization such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (see www.modelaircraft.org/sites/default/files/105.pdf).
If you’re still not convinced, don’t shout, don’t cry, don’t pout, and I’ll tell you why. Following the rules may help keep that holiday dough in your pockets. The FAA recently fined a recreational flyer $20,000 for not following the rules. Granted, he flew a drone over the Las Vegas strip (yep, that would be “over people”) and lost control of it, after which it came to rest beside an active runway at the nearby international airport (definitely “controlled airspace”). Surely nothing like that would ever happen to you … but just in case, be safe and follow the rules. And one last point. The FAA “knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!”
Happy holidays and happy flying!