Whether it’s for filmmaking, hobby use, industrial use, or public safety, drone usage continues to grow in many industries. However, publicity hasn’t been very kind to the tech. New pilots and people who are unfamiliar with the technology may be overly alarmed about safe flying procedures and restrictions. So how can an average consumer make sure they are flying legally and safely? Here are the top 4 ways to ensure your flying in the safest manner possible.
1) Use Geofencing. Consider getting a drone with built-in geofencing. Geofencing systems are designed to allow the pilot to make sure they are only flying in legal and safe areas. Airports, government facilities, prisons, stadiums, and more are restricted airspace. Invisible to the naked eye, these airspace restrictions can be found on government and drone websites and are often built in to the apps you use to control your drone. A wonderfully implemented example is DJI’s GEO Within the map in their DJI GO app, there are visual indicators of where the “no fly zones” (or NFZs) are. The aircraft itself will either give you warnings or actually stop you from flying in them. You can visit DJI.com for a map with colored NFZs for more info.
2) Join a local drone club. If you are new to drones and like a personal learning experience, a model aircraft club may be a good option for you. The Academy of Model Aeronautics, or AMA, has a tool on their site that gives you a list of clubs and allows you to find the most convenient one for you. These clubs will give you access to other more experienced members with a wide knowledgebase to help you ease into the industry. Most clubs meet at a local public space designated for model aircraft flight. One major benefit comes automatically with membership to the AMA – drone insurance.
3) Get your official drone certification. Last year the FAA developed a certification process (CFR 14 part 107, or just 107 for short) that rapidly sped up the ability for drone pilots to earn money with their aircraft. Even if you aren’t looking to make money, the whole process is a fantastic way of learning about airspace, weather patterns, drone maintenance and more. Visit gov for more info on how to get started. Speaking of the FAA, they also have a great website and app resource called Know Before You Fly.
4) Fly a drone with safety features built in and be sure to learn them. As drones get more and more powerful, with better cameras and longer lasting batteries, so too are the safety features being improved. For example, the DJI Mavic and Phantom 4 Pro both come with stereoscopic obstacle avoidance cameras (the Phantom with 5-way sensors), automatic return-to-home, ground detecting cameras so they don’t land on water accidentally, and more. You can physically make the drones safer with things like propeller guards which DJI just developed for the Mavic as well.
Once these few basics are out of the way, the only thing left to do is get flying practice. The great thing is, unlike years ago where drones needed a ton of manual input to remain stable, today’s drone like the aforementioned DJI Mavic and Phantom 4 Pro practically fly themselves. Anyone can fly safely if they follow recommended procedures and use drones with well known reputations of safety and reliability.