New to drones? Or interested in making drones a hobby? Maybe you’re pursuing a career that involves the use of drones. Whether you’re interested in equipping your drone with a camera for stunning aerial pictures and footage, trying to be the Usain Bolt of drone racing, or just want to casually zip around the summer sky, there are some things you should consider before taking your new drone out for a spin. This quick guide will give you tips and reminders to ensure that you’re using your drone in a fun but safe and legal manner.
Using your drone safely and responsibly
Safety is important when operating your drone. Potential accidents to yourself and others around you can often be avoided when safety guidelines are followed. You will want to carefully read the directions provided by the manufacturer before operating your drone. Once you’ve fully read the directions and completely understand them, it’s time for your maiden voyage. You will want to pick an open location, ideally a rural area where there are no pedestrians, homes, or vehicles. You will want to keep your drone in sight at all times and avoid areas with trees or other objects that may obstruct your view during flight. It is the drone operator’s responsibility to avoid collisions.
It is also important to check your drone between flights to make sure everything is where it should be. If you notice your drone is flying a bit differently, whether it be pulling to one side or the other, or seems more difficult to control, you should stop flying, land your drone, and examine it for any loose or damaged parts. It is a good idea to plan your drone flight ahead of time; have a general route you plan to take and stick to that route. Start off with simple routes until you feel comfortable and gradually increase the complexity of your routes. If you know a more experienced drone pilot, it would be a good idea to consult with them for tips.
Using Your Drone Legally and Ethically
Drones can be a great way to have fun, but it’s important to use them legally. Aside from following safety guidelines, there are also laws in place to ensure pilots are operating their drones safely. Laws may vary from region to region, but in the UK they are typically as follows:
- Keep your drone within your line of sight at all times.
- Maximum height for a drone cannot exceed 400ft(122m).
- Your drone must remain 500m from you horizontally.
- You must avoid aircraft, helicopters, airfields, and airports.
- If your drone has a camera attached, you must remain 50m from any persons or property not owned by the drone operator.
- Drones with cameras must remain 150m away from any large group of people, such as concerts or sporting events.
- You are liable for any damage cause by your drone.
- You cannot fly your drone at night.
Law violation committed by a drone pilot with his or her drone is a criminal offense. Violation of drone laws can result in a prison term. No-fly zones are important to be aware of. There may be restricted areas in your region that you cannot operate your drone in. The UK Air Navigation Order has deemed these ‘no-fly zones’ for various reasons. No-fly zones are often military bases, controlled airspace for airports, or privately owned property.
It is sometimes possible for a drone operator to contact a property owner and receive permission to fly their drone over their property. Other restricted areas may include prisons or nuclear facilities. It is important to know and follow the laws your region has set in place for drone use. Many drones are capable of exceeding the limits of the laws set in place.
With the increasing popularity of cameras on drones, it may be tempting to use the camera as the main means of sight for your drone. While flying your drone, using a first person point of view via camera can be fun; it is important to remember you must keep direct visual sight on your drone at all times. It is very easy to get distracted with the first-person view the camera offers and lose direct visual sight of your drone.
Drone racing is another hobby that may be very fun but can lead to law violations if precautions are not taken. It is possible to get a spotter, which is another person who maintains direct visual sight of your drone for you. This practice is mainly used by intermediate drone users who prefer to use the first person view their drone camera can offer.
Drones in the workplace
With the boom in drone technology, popularity, and ease of access, many individuals and companies are incorporating drones into the workplace. While drones can be extremely useful and convenient, there are some laws that must be followed to ensure drones are used safely and ethically. While recreational drone use requires no permit, commercial use of drones does. You must get permission to do any sort of paid work with your drone. The permit must be renewed annually and is acquired from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). To get a Permission for Aerial Work permit, you will need to show an understanding of aviation theory, and pass a flight test. You will also need to demonstrate which basic procedures you wish to conduct with your drone(s), and incorporate these procedures into a manual.
While the myriad uses of drones for commercial work are vast and ever-growing, the largest use has been photography. Drones have become an invaluable tool for filmmakers and photographers as they are much cheaper than helicopters and other manned aircrafts, while offering the same advantages. Other examples of drones in a professional setting include: wildlife study, sports photography, and even food delivery.
The world of drones is a diverse and exciting new frontier that is certain to have a huge impact on our future. It’s important to remember that with the convenience and excitement these machines bring, there are also potential dangers. Following safety guidelines and laws are crucial to the safety of ourselves and others.