A Little Advice to New Drone Operators
Dear Drone Owner:
Welcome to the aviation industry. You’re not alone. The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation (IG) believes that when 2016 comes to an end in a few weeks, between 2 and 2.5 million new drones will have been sold in the United States. Adding in the million or so already flying, the result could well make for some pretty crowded airspace.
One area where we really don’t need any drones though, thank you very much, is in the airspace around airports like Chicago Executive, home to dozens of large business airplanes, as well as a variety of smaller personal aircraft. But that also means you need to avoid O’Hare and DuPage and Waukegan and even Schaumburg Airports. A collision between even a small drone and an airplane could lead to a disaster. We’re honestly not trying to scare folks, but we need to be realistic if we’re all going to start mixing up in the same airspace.
The DOT worries about the same thing, because as the number of active drones increases, so too have the number of incidents involving these new aircraft appearing where they either aren’t expected or aren’t allowed. The DOT said earlier this month for instance, that in the past year, slightly more than two thirds of the of the reports of drones posing a potential risk to indicated they were flying above the 400-foot ceiling allowed by Part 107. Fully 29 percent were in-fact observed flying at altitudes above 3,000 feet AGL.
That’s not good for anyone, airports, aircraft pilots and passengers or drone operators. While we’re all having fun enjoying this new category of flying machine and will continue to do so in ways that probably haven’t even been thought of just yet, we thought it might be just the right time of the year to remind drone operators of a few safety issues to keep in mind once they take delivery of that new DJI Phantom or a UDI.
Building a Drone Community
First understand that everyone in the FAA, the aviation industry, as well as the drone manufacturing, training and operators groups want to see drones become a huge success now and in the future. There are simply too many important jobs ahead that are just right for drones because they can be operated more safely than an airplane or a helicopter, like when they’re inspecting pipelines or windmills. Drones can be programmed to depart base for an inspection routine in weather no pilot would fly in. The drone doesn’t think twice. Once the operator hits the engage button, the drone departs and returns only when the mission’s accomplished.
All we folks on the ground at airports and many of the surrounding communities care about is that the operator has given some thought to how the drone will make the trip back and forth from home. We hope you’ll remember than flying anywhere close to an airport – any airport – is a really bad idea. The closer a drone passes to an operating airport in fact, the greater the risk since aircraft are closer to the ground as they arrive and depart.
While the government is still wrestling with privacy issues, we hope you, the newest members of the drone community, something that also makes you a charter member of the aviation industry, will also think about the rules that ask you not to fly over groups of people, even if it looks cool. A half dozen people were arrested and lost their drones last month when they flew them over the millions of folks gathered in Chicago for the Cubs Worlds Series Party. Many of those operators never gave safety of flight much thought at all, probably only the incredible footage they’ve grab during the flight.
But drone operators must consider safety each and every time they fly … their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them, whether those other people are across the street or across town. Some reasons for considering the safety of others are obvious, but there’s another that few new drone owners will be thinking about.
All the industry needs is one significant accident somewhere along the way, just one, in which some thoughtless person decides to try something they shouldn’t, like flying to close to a group of people at a concert or too near an airplane heading in for a landing. One accident could ruin this budding industry, not just for some apathetic pilot, but for everyone else as well.
With that in mind, here are few items to consider should you find a drone under the tree this year, or if you’ve already brought one home. For information too, a drone is also known by a variety of names depending upon who the audience is, so get used to seeing the UAS, UAV and RPV acronyms. They all mean drone.
- Spend a few minutes and read “Getting Started,” on the FAA website.
- Check out this summary of Part 107, the FAA rule that explains drone operations.
- If your aircraft weights more than roughly eight ounces, you must register it with the FAA. That’s easy enough to do right here.
- You must be at least 16 years of age in order to register and fly a drone.
- Be aware that if you intend to use your drone commercially, you’ll need to earn the FAA’s new small-unmanned aircraft system certificate. Here’s what you’ll need to know.
- Never fly your drone near an airport, or over crowds of people you don’t know.
- Never fly your drone higher than 400 feet above the ground and remember you must always keep your drone in sight at all times.
- Finally, don’t forget to stop by our drone resource page from time to time for updates to drone operations. You can always subscribe too and we’ll send you info as it becomes current.
As we say in the flying business, fly safe always … and don’t forget to have fun.