GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – Drones went mainstream this year.
The Federal Aviation Administration predicts 2.5 million drones will be sold in 2016, more than doubling sales from 2015. About two-thirds of them will be sold for personal use.
Manufacturers have been busy adding features, to the point where some features seem standard. Casual users can fly the Millennium Falcon — in small or extra large — or buy a camera drone that, even with a motorized gimbal, fits in the palm of your hand. Hobbyists are buying them for high-speed racing (the Drone Racing League boasts speeds of 120 mph) and aerial videography with 4K video cameras.
Over the summer, the FAA made it easier to be a drone owner.
Realizing this was a new breed of model aircraft, the FAA’s first rules for drones addressed commercial purposes, like inspecting crops or carrying packages, and required drone operators to get a pilot certificate. In late August, the agency FAA amended the rules for hobbyists and others using drones for fun.
STEP 1: REGISTRATION
Drones weighing between 8.9 ounces and 55 pounds need to be registered with the FAA as a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS). The popular DJI Phantom 2, for example, weighs only 2.2 pounds, but it needs to be registered as an sUAS.
Drones weighing less than 8.8 ounces (just over half a pound, or 250 grams metric) don’t need to be registered, though owners can choose to register them if they wish — which may be a good idea if you’ll be adding a payload that puts it over the 0.55-pound limit, such as a camera.
(Drones weighing more than 55 pounds fall under a different set of rules for unmanned aircraft and require traditional aircraft registration, and are outside the scope of this article.)
Manufacturers will tell you the weight of the drone on the product packaging, and you may find it labeled on the drone itself.
Registration costs $5 and is good for three years.
To register your drone you need to be 13 years or older (children under 13 can own drones, but the person registering must be older) and a US citizen or legal permanent resident. You’ll need to provide an email address, a credit or debit card, and a home or mailing address.
You’ll receive a registration number. Label your drone with the registration number before you fly.
STEP 2: KNOW THE DO’S AND THE DON’TS
- Never fly your drone above 400 feet
- Never fly faster than 100 mph (87 knots, if your controller displays knots)
- Never fly over groups of people, nor over people not directly participating in the drone’s operation
- Never fly over stadiums or sporting events
- Never fly near fires or emergency response efforts
- Never operate a drone from a moving vehicle or aircraft
- Never fly near other aircraft
- Never fly under the influence
- Never fly if a mental or physical condition would prohibit safe operation of the aircraft
- Always have the UAS in your sight or in the visual observer’s sight
- Always fly during daylight hours (if the drone has anti-collision lights, you can fly it during civil twilight — 30 minutes before sunrise, 30 minutes after sunset)
- Always yield to manned aircraft
- Always be aware of airspace requirements
If your camera drone provides a first-person view (FPV) this doesn’t satisfy the FAA’s “see-and-avoid” requirement, which states pilots must actively look for potentially conflicting traffic — in this case, avoiding collisions with people and property.
Communities can set their own safety guidelines, and as a drone owner it’s your responsibility to be aware of them and follow them. Green Bay, for example, bans drones at special events such as parades and festivals.
STEP 3: FIND A PLACE TO FLY
Don’t plan on using your drone to photograph a game at Lambeau Field. Federal law prohibits flying within three-and-a-half miles of a stadium with a capacity of 30,000 or more people — whether it’s NFL, MLB, NCAA Division 1 football, or major motor speedway racing — for one hour before the event’s scheduled start time and for one hour after the event’s conclusion.
You also can’t fly within five miles of an airport, heliport or sea-based airport without contacting the airport and air traffic control tower first. An airport operator can’t prohibit you from flying your drone nearby — but you should consider any objection a reason to find somewhere else to fly; the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association says police could be called, and the FAA requires air traffic controllers to keep a record of drone activity and report any operational issues. You must still obey trespass laws and stay off airport property, yield to manned aircraft, and obey the 400-foot ceiling and other safety guidelines.
Other restricted airspace includes prisons, nuclear power plants and military bases.
- The FAA created a mobile app that tells you where it’s safe or OK to fly, called B4UFLY. It’s available for iOS or Android devices.
If your drone has a camera, remember that privacy laws still apply. Don’t point that camera where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including behind fences.
STEP 4: FLYING WITH FRIENDS
The FAA rules for UAS’s apply to three parties:
- The flight controller, who manipulates the hand-held controls
- The remote pilot in command, who’s in charge, tells the controller what to do, and is responsible for ensuring all rules are followed
- The visual observer, whose job is to keep an eye on the drone to help ensure rules are followed
Often these are the same person, i.e., the owner who operates their drone and keeps it in their sight. Sometimes these may be two people, such as the owner who hands over control of their $400 drone to their enthusiastic child or neighbor — and keeps it in their sight. Occasionally they may be three people — the driver, boss and pit crew — like in a drone race through neon-lit obstacles in a warehouse.
The FAA requires the pilot in command and visual observer can only be responsible for one SUA at a time.
The FAA created a safety video for all the new drone owners this holiday season:
Even if you didn’t get a drone for Christmas, the FAA predicts personal and commercial sales will continue doubling and tripling, to 7 million total units in 2020. In that time we’re guaranteed to see manufacturers introduce more features, like collision avoidance, 360-degree VR recording, and improved batteries for longer flight times, even while prices come down.
More Holiday Stories
Upstate religious leaders ban together to support DACA
Buffalo Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson spread Christmas cheer across the Upstate.
With Heritage breed pork and poultry, prime and choice steaks and high quality seafood, a new butcher shop in Spartanburg is aiming to be a …
A Christmas classic is coming to the Greenville Little Theatre stage this week: Frosty The Musical! Based on the tale of a snowman magically…
Watch the video for information on the best places to park and watch!
Spartanburg, SC (WSPA) – Christmas came early for a group of children in the Upstate. Spartanburg Medical Center held their 20th Annual “Ped…
GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – The Christmas spirit is in full swing, and people will be celebrating with parades throughout the Carolinas this w…
Known for years as the “Greenville Griswolds,” a Greenville family has moved their popular Christmas light display to a new location and giv…
Waynesville, NC (WSPA) The Frasier Fir is known as the Cadillac of trees, they smell great, the branches are firm, they hold ornaments rea…
Oreo is getting into the holiday spirit with a brand new snack. The cookie giant is now marketing Oreo-flavored candy canes this holiday sea…
One 14-year-old’s Christmas wish was fulfilled in Saluda Sunday. L.J. Tolen wanted one thing this year: A blood drive in honor of his best f…
L.L. Bean is in the midst of another record-breaking year of sales for its iconic “duck boot,” and the Maine-based retailer says there will …
A New Jersey man is putting the magic back in the holiday season this year.
An estimated 164 million Americans are considering shopping during Thanksgiving weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.
Hopewell police are searching for the man who tried to burn down the city’s holiday tree on Thanksgiving morning.
At first, it was an orange traffic cone with a weed growing out of it. Now, the roadside attraction dubbed “Cone Weed” is something of a Chr…
Holiday Lights Safari opens Friday, Nov. 17. But it’s not the only event this weekend to get you in the holiday spirit.
Psychologists say playing Christmas songs on a loop can be bad for retailer workers’ mental health.
Doctors say a 9-year-old boy from Maine only has a month to live, so his family wants to help him have one last Christmas.
The ugly Christmas sweater has been a staple of American holiday fashion for years, and a Florida-based company decided to take a new approa…
ASHEVILLE, NC (WSPA) – Christmas came early at the Biltmore estate Wednesday morning. Hundreds gathered outside America’s largest private ho…
Austin police say a suspect dressed up as “Santa Claus” is in custody after he allegedly shot four people at a Halloween party Sunday mornin…
It says it wants to be more in tune with customers’ mindset, so it plans to ease in holiday promotions this year while better recognizing Th…
The Salvation Army of Greenville is getting ready to help those in need with Christmas toy assistance for children who are 12 years old or y…
It’s time for families to register for the Salvation Army Angel Tree program, according to a press release.
UPS is raising its holiday prices to help pay for additional workers along with renting extra planes and trucks.
A Fayetteville man is in custody and accused of committing a sex crime against a child last Christmas, Fayetteville police said.
Santa Claus’ Facebook account has been reinstated after the social media company suspended his access and demanded proof of identity on Chri…
Poinsettias are one of the most popular plants sold in the U.S. because of their colors and symbolism with Christmas. Did you know some of t…
Authorities say a man fatally stabbed at a Northern California Target store on Christmas Eve had his young son with him.
The toy at the top of many Christmas lists isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Instead of waking up to Santa Claus a 9-year-old boy woke up to seeing smoke coming from the first floor of his home. It happened overnight …
He spent nearly 60 days in Akron Children’s NICU at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Boardman.
Gift cards are a popular present at the holidays — the National Retail Federation says more than half of consumers plan to give one this yea…
A 16-year-old was killed after a car went down an embankment in Southeast Portland in the early hours of Christmas, police said.
Two suspects were being tracked down Sunday after North Carolina investigators say they shot seven people during a private Christmas party a…
A Greenville County deputy is giving Santa Claus a run for his money.
A five-year-old cancer survivor is doing all she can to make sure her sick friend has the best Christmas ever.
For so many, the holidays offer a chance to give back and help others. That’s exactly what happened Wednesday at a Tampa Bay area grocery st…
Everyone has a favorite holiday. Christmas just so happens to be mine.