It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope, it’s a drone!

By Matthew Olson UF/IFAS 4-H Youth Development Agent
Posted 8/7/19

A few weeks ago, I was on my back porch grilling my dinner when I heard a loud buzzing sound. Initially I thought it was the grill and I was frantically checking the propane connections, but when I …

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope, it’s a drone!

Posted

A few weeks ago, I was on my back porch grilling my dinner when I heard a loud buzzing sound. Initially I thought it was the grill and I was frantically checking the propane connections, but when I looked up, I noticed a drone hovering over my neighbor’s yard, and it was about ten feet from their second story bedroom window! Luckily there was nothing nefarious going on, my neighbors purchased a drone and were testing it out. This encounter did get me thinking though, do people know the rules and regulations surrounding recreational drone use?

The first thing to know about a drone is how you plan to use it. The Federal Aviation Administration has two categories of use for drones – recreational and commercial. Recreational drone pilots do not currently have to pass a general aeronautical knowledge exam. However, changes are on the way and recreational drone pilots will have to pass an online exam starting in the future. If you’re planning to use your drone for commercial purposes, you must pass a general knowledge exam and become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot. Commercial purposes for a drone would be using it as part of your photography business, or part of your daily job. Essentially, if you’re getting paid to fly the drone, it’s commercial.

After you’ve determined what the use of your drone will be, there are a few guidelines that apply to all drone pilots. Most importantly, you must register your drone with the FAA, mark the registration number on the outside of your drone, and carry proof of registration with you.

Once you’ve completed the registration process and applicable knowledge exams, the next important step is reading the operator or owner’s manual for your drone. We don’t want to take off and not know how to land! I had a friend tell me about how their dad and brother received a drone for Christmas, pulled it out of the box, started flying right away, and couldn’t get it to land! After reading the owner’s manual they discovered the done couldn’t land on snow and they had to clear a spot on the driveway for the drone to land on.

Now that you’ve read the owner’s manual, it’s time to practice flying! However, there are some VERY important regulations from the FAA to follow. First, always keep your drone within your line of sight. This will ensure you are able to see other aircraft and obstacles near your drone. Furthermore, if it crashes, you have an idea of where to look for it!

Secondly, you are limited to flying at or below 400 feet above ground level when in uncontrolled, or “Class G” airspace. Speaking of airspace, drones are prohibited in many areas around military bases, airports, national monuments, or emergency zones. Thankfully, the FAA has an interactive map that will show you the controlled airspaces. You can find it online by searching “FAA Visualize it.”

Next is to keep in mind what you’re flying over. You should never fly your drone over people, public events or stadiums full of fans. It may make an interesting video, but the injuries from a falling drone can be serious. Lastly, this should be an obvious one, never fly a drone under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Drones are becoming more popular and being used in almost everything from firefighting, to agriculture and recreational use. They can be fun to fly and be the spark that gets a child interested in aviation. Knowing the rules and regulations for recreational drone use will keep everyone safe. If you’re considering purchasing a drone, make sure to visit the FAA’s website for the full rules and regulations here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/.

For more information about STEM or 4-H you can contact Matthew Olson at (904) 284-6355 or m.olson@ufl.edu.

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