Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
Whether you’re a recreational drone pilot or a professional aerial drone photographer, flying your drone safely and legally is crucial to avoid lawsuits and harm to others.
You might be wondering, what does flying your drone safely and legally mean?
Drone flight safety and legality means that you take necessary measures before flying your drone to avoid airspace, conflict with manned aircraft, violating other’s privacy, and follow all the rules and regulations of the FAA.
If you want to learn to fly your drone safely and legally, then you’re in the right place.
In this article, I’m going to talk about drone safety as well as the 10 ways that you can use to ensure flying your drone safely and legally.
So, sit back, relax, and read this article till the end.
What Does it Mean to Fly Your Drone Safely?
Recreational and camera drones have become extremely common nowadays. You might have a friend who owns a drone themselves as well.
As drones become more common in the world, the chances of them conflicting their airspace with manned crafts as well as causing distress and nuisance in residential areas become greater.
In order to avoid these problems, a drone piloting enthusiast such as you and I can obey the drone flight rules and regulations and get training for it before we actually end up flying our drones.
These activities and measures which are to be taken to avoid such problematic situations involving professional and recreational drones are known as drone flight safety activities.
I think as law-abiding respectful citizens, we should make sure that we take all the necessary steps to ensure drone flight safety and also follow the legal flying and boundary rules of drone flight imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
10 Major Ways of Flying a Drone Safely and Legally:
If you’re thinking of buying a high-quality camera drone for your recreational or professional needs, you should definitely apply these steps of drone safety and legality in your drone flight to ensure law-abidance and environmental safety.
1. Registration of Your Drone
2. Understanding FAA Drone Flight Rules
3. Choosing Your Drone
4. Learning Your Drone
5. Preflight Checklist
6. Avoiding No-Fly Zones
7. Keeping Your Drone in Sight
8. Location of the Drone
9. License of Authorization
10. Fly in Conscious State
Let’s take a look at each particular way in-depth so you can make sure you’re flying your drone the right way.
1. Registration of Your Drone:
The most important step of flying a drone is registering it with the FAA. How does this work? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you.
Like any activity that requires a formal registration, drone flying is not different. A drone pilot must register their drone or themselves as a professional or recreation flyer before flying their drone.
There are two ways to register your drone for commercial or recreational purposes. Part 107 or Exception for Recreational Flyers rule.
Part 107 is a set of rules which is placed upon a drone pilot who aims to fly a drone commercially. The fee for this registration is $5 for each drone and you can fly your drones recreationally as well under this registration.
Exception for Recreation Flyers is a registration method used by only recreational and casual drone flyers. This registration costs $5, however, the same registration number is used to fly each and every drone you possess.
In my opinion, it is better for you to choose to give the Part 107 test and register your drones with this program because there is more freedom of flight with the Part 107 rules.
Requirements for Registration:
Now that you know what kind of registrations are available, let’s talk about the requirements and conditions for the registration of your drones with the FAA.
- You must be 13 years old or older.
- Provide a valid email address.
- Give a physical address and a mailing address if different.
- Make or model of the drone.
- Drone must be lighter than 55 pounds.
- Provide credit card details.
If you are thinking of changing your registration type, you will be charged an additional $5, so make sure you’re choosing the suitable registration for your drone flying needs.
In order to register, you can use the mail option or go to FAA DroneZone for online registration. Once you register, you receive an FAA registration certificate that you must keep on yourself while flying for safety reasons.
2. Understanding FAA Drone Flight Rules:
After registering and receiving your FAA registration certificate, it is time for you to get an understanding of the FAA drone flight rules.
The FAA or the Federal Aviation Administration is the largest modern transport agency and government department which deals with the civil aviation regulation in the US and surrounding waters.
They have a set of rules and regulations that need to be followed while flying a drone safely and legally.
These rules include drone visibility laws, privacy laws, commercial and recreation flight laws, and others.
The most important of these drone flight rules, however, is the flight classification rule of the FAA for drones. According to the FAA, all commercial and recreational drones must be flown under 400 feet above ground level known as Class G.
Let’s take a look at each of the airspace classifications that the FAA recognizes and mentions in their rules.
The airspace from 18,000 MSL (mean sea level) and upwards is known as the Class A airspace which is obviously restricted for drones because of their inability to fly so high even after a license of flying over 400 feet.
This class refers to the airspace from ground level to 10,000 MSL surrounding a city’s busiest airspace like airports with private and commercial flights and drones can only fly here after license obtainment.
Class C refers to the airspace from the ground to 4,000 feet in the air of an airport elevation and this airspace also requires license authorization from the FAA in order to fly legally.
In an airport elevation environment, this airspace lasts from the surface to 2,500 feet where there is an operational control tower there. License authorization is required.
Any controlled airspace which doesn’t fall into Classes A, B, C, and D is known as Class E airspace. This airspace exists for personal privacy and safety control and authorization is necessary for drone flight in this airspace.
The uncontrolled airspace, fit for commercial and recreational drone flight up to 400 feet above ground level, is known as the Class G airspace. You need to follow flight rules but do not require a mandatory flight license.
3. Choosing Your Drone:
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with flight rules and you’re ready to purchase a drone, it is time to choose. I’ve divided consumer drones into two main categories according to my experience.
These drones are more on the cheaper side, budget-wise. They’re more focused to appeal to people who’re looking to have a bunch of fun flying and maneuvering their drones in the open air.
Recreational drones are smaller and sometimes they are equipped with features like cameras as well. Drones from Force1, DeltaDrone, AirRobot and many others are prime examples of recreational drones.
Commercial drones are the type of drones that can be used professionally for aerial photography or cinematography and can serve a great purpose for the commercial industry.
These drones are usually larger and full of features, having far more expensive price tags than recreational drones. Companies like DJI, Yuneec, and Hubsan are more popular as commercial drone manufacturers.
If you’re looking for dynamic aerial shots, cinema-quality video, and photo capturing, a high-end 4K camera drone with a long-lasting battery is what you’re going to need.
Whether you choose a recreational drone or a commercial one, what’s important is that you are content with your choice in terms of price, features, build quality, and everything in between.
That is the main purpose of choosing your drone. Once you’ve found the drone of your liking, you can simply check out its review and once you’re satisfied, you can purchase it.
Here is a quick expanation:
4. Learning Your Drone:
Owning a drone isn’t all that you need to do in order to fly proficiently. Like any other activity, you’re going to need to learn everything there is about your drone to master the art of drone flight.
Once you’ve chosen your drone, it is time to assess different aspects of that drone. From battery timing to camera quality, here are some things you’re going to need to make yourself familiar with.
The first thing you need to familiarize yourself with is the speed of your drone. High-quality camera drones usually come with multi-speed settings and you can get an idea of these settings by switching between them.
If you’re using drones for personal entertainment, the speed to be set to low whereas for professional commercial usage, you should use medium or high-speed settings for fast-paced aerial cinematography.
The camera quality of your drone is also very important. Recreation or commercial, both kinds of drones come with built-in cameras.
You can alternate between 4K, 1080P, and lower recording quality in a high-end drone.
In order to learn about the battery usage of your drone depending upon your kind of use, you can fly the drone around or let it hover and record dummy shots so you can get an idea of how long the drone can fly for.
The range of the drone is incredibly important. If you’re thinking of recording far-away aerial shots then you’re going to have to move the drone around and check its range of signal accuracy.
You can’t fly your drone without learning the different features, buttons, and options available on the remote control. Familiarize yourself with all the elements on the drone remote.
These elements include toggle buttons, flight modes, autonomy, and other features as well. Make sure you learn about each of them before you actually end up flying the drone.
5. Preflight Checklist:
Familiarized yourself with your drone? Well, you’re one step closer to flying your drone safely and legally.
It is now time for you to tick the boxes on your pre-flight checklist.
Every professional drone piloting enthusiast understands the need for a pre-flight checklist so that no error or missing occurs during the drone flight.
Let’s take a look at the things you’re going to need to include in your pre-flight checklist.
- Check the propellers of your drone for damage and install them perfectly for avoiding flight problems.
- Charge your drone’s battery completely to max out on the flight timing of the drone.
- Ensure the working of the remote and the batteries inserted into the remote.
- Carry a neck hanger for your remote control so you don’t have to hold the controller all the time during the flight.
- Insert the batteries properly and check the preflight before you actually take the drone for the long ride.
6. Avoiding No-Fly Zones:
According to the rules of the FAA, recreational and professional drones are only allowed to be flown in places where the airspace is uncontrolled or special licenses are created.
Pilots are not allowed to fly their drones in airspace that are owned by the military, commercial airports, and near residential buildings and such because flying near these areas is prohibited.
You might be wondering why. Well, these areas are what’s known as the No-Fly Zones. Let’s take a look at why we need to avoid each of these No-Fly Zones while taking our drones for a spin.
To avoid airspace conflict and reduce the risk of harm to hundreds of people traveling in airplanes, commercial and recreation drones are not allowed to be flown within or near airports.
It is strictly prohibited to fly drones near Military bases because they might mistake your drone for enemy surveillance drones and shoot them down. It can also land you in a potential lawsuit as well.
Societies and apartment buildings where people reside have laws and rules of privacy. Drones with cameras might compromise this privacy which can create problems for you if you’re flying near residents.
It is extremely important that these No-Fly Zones are avoided by you if you’re looking for fly your drone safely and legally without any problems. Once you understand this, you can move on with your ways of drone flight safety.
7. Keeping Your Drone in Sight:
If you’re thinking of flying a drone, one thing that you should definitely keep in your mind is keeping the drone in your sight. Why? Well, obviously you don’t be able to control it otherwise.
There are flight restrictions due to the small range in some drones but others can go miles without experiencing any connectivity or signal issues, however, this range benefit shouldn’t be overused.
When you’re flying a drone, for recreational or videography purposes, you must always make sure that you can see where the drone is and where it is moving to. This way you’ll be able to control the movement more accurately.
The reason for keeping your drone in sight is that you’re going to be able to maneuver it optimally since you’ll be able to see the drone with your eyes and not through the camera mounted on it.
Another reason is that no matter how advanced quadcopter drones might be, they’re still ranged dependent and will get out of control due to signal weakening over far distances.
However, the most important reason to avoid letting a drone get out of your sight is that if you fly it across far distances, they might end up in No-Fly Zones violating the FAA rules and regulations.
These rule violations can cost a professional pilot thousands of dollars and could even risk the safety of the people around the drone. That’s why you should always keep the drone in your sight and not let it fly too far away.
8. Location of Drone:
The most important part of flying a drone in my opinion is the location of the drone flight. As a beginner or a seasoned drone pilot, you’re going to have to make sure you choose the right location for your flying.
Basically, there are two main divisions of drone flying locations. I’m going to talk about both of them in detail.
When you think about flying your drone outdoors, you need to picture a wide and huge field. A field with no house or controlled airspace in sight, where you can easily fly the drone under 400 feet.
A cheeky way around the 400 feet rule is to fly a drone from the base of a long building. That way you can fly the drone 400 feet above the roof of that building as long as it is not residential or in controlled airspace.
A large ground or a park or field with no mid-air obstructions and a lot of visibility is going to be perfect for you to fly your drone safely and legally without any problems.
If you’re thinking about flying your drone indoors, it’s not going to be a problem. You can comfortably fly indoors as long as you aren’t risking harm to the people or property around you and the owners of the facility allow it.
9. License of Authorization:
We talked before about the different airspace classifications including Class A, B, C, D, E, and G.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Class G is uncontrolled airspace and doesn’t require a license or authorization.
However, other air spaces which are either residential, privately owned, or controlled by the government or the military, require a license of authorization for drone flight.
This authorization is also required if you’re thinking of exceeding the 400 feet drone height restriction in uncontrolled air spaces.
This is suitable for commercial and professional aerial videographers who want dynamic shots from above. If you’re thinking of getting a license of authorization for flying your drone without restrictions imposed by Part 107 or Exception for Recreational Flyers Rules, here’s how you can get it.
· You can submit an application to the LAANC.
· The FAA DroneZone sub-organization is also a valid way of getting authorized as a commercial drone flying pilot.
· Written agreement from the Federal Aviation Administration for fixed flying sites.
After you get the license of authorization, you aren’t going to be allowed to break any of the rules. You will get leniency towards some boundary rules for beginners but you’ll have to be more responsible for the safety and surety of the people and machines around you.
10. Fly in Conscious State:
The most important aspect of drone flight is the complete and utter focus. You’ll only be able to control your drone if you’re in a conscious state. If not, then your drone can be a risk to the environment.
That’s why I think that you should never consume drugs, alcohol, or any other kind of intoxicant which might alter your critical thinking or stop your focusing abilities before flying your drone.
This is because in such an unconscious state, you can lose control of your drone, and you might accidentally end up breaking the rules of drone flight safety and harm people.
Instead, you should keep your mind clear and calm and fly your drone with the utmost focus so that you’re able to fly your drone safely and legally.
Don’t drink and drone this holiday season.
By adopting all of these ways into your drone flying, you’re not only going to be able to become proficient at flying drones but you’re also going to be able to keep the people and property around you, safe and sound.
Fly your drones safely and legally and make sure that you avoid any risk of privacy violation, harm, and airspace conflict while having a great time flying and recording with your drone. We hope you have a great drone flying experience.