Be aware when flying
More and more we hear of anti-drone sentiment coming from the mass media and even social media. Drone pilots are often regarded as mindless irresponsible kids who cause havoc with their toys and pay no mind to laws and the safety of others. And you know what? They are PARTIALLY right.
I’ve met number of pilots at local fields and events who tell me that they fly all the time wherever the darn well please and the reasoning is almost always the same. “I can fly, I’m not worried about crashing”. This means also that they fly above crowds, over public buildings, or just over areas where they can get awesome shots but potentially put others at risk. (Over parks, freeways, airports, etc) The footage is undeniably beautiful and desirable, but at what cost? We hear about drones interfering with rescue missions from the emergency responders and even the FAA has deemed it enough of a hazard that now they are regulating our great hobby.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for pilots having the freedom to fly parks and have fun with these fantastic pieces of technology. However, it’s very important to think beyond the immediate need and want to fly and look around to what’s going on around you. Simple guidelines that could keep us all in a better light could (and in my opinion should) include;
Never take your drone for granted.
Number one rule. Countless numbers of people work on their quad with the props on, think that nothing could EVER happen to them, and they are just wrong. It’s not a question of if, but when. Always assume that something bad can happen and take appropriate steps to avoid it. Take off your props when working on it, don’t fly over people, inspect your drone before every flight, etc..
Fly with a spotter.
This is the easiest and most effective way to avoid problems. It’s not always possible, I know, but it makes it so much easier to know what’s happening around you when you don’t have to hav your mind on the sticks and the next trick you’re about to do. A quick note from someone can help you move to another area and avoid a costly miss-hap.
Look around and know what’s going on in the area you intend to fly.
It’s imperative that we walk the field, look for signs of parties or of activity that could potentially pose an issue with people being around when we fly.
If people are around, know where they are and fly away from them.
It’s too easy for things to happen to our quads as we are flying and for them to spin out of control from a bad ESC, faulty FC or RX, or just random things like hitting a branch or whatever. You don’t want that little miss-hap to cause injury to someone just because we wanted to fly and they can keep an eye on your quad. Saying that it’s the passerby’s responsibility to prevent their own injury from your equipment isn’t right. If people are getting close, take a moment to land and address them. Just make them aware (politely) that this is a flying weedwhacker and they should either keep their distance or enter at their own risk. If they refuse to leave, then move locations. It’s not worth the potential problem.
Don’t fly over people.
There are way too many shots on Youtube of drones crashing in to people when equipment failure happens. I cringe every time I see this. It’s so avoidable and all it takes its, not flying over people. If you want the beach shots, fly over the water or green where people aren’t. Your Phantom or photography rig is far less valuable than the cost of an emergency room.
Great examples of things going wrong and where people could have been seriously injured.
Join a club.
Fly where others are flying and fly with other people. Learn their safe ways (hopefully) of doing things and incorporate those ideas when you fly else-where. It’s more fun when we fly with others anyway. Flying at a local club will make sure that not only are you safe for others, but that you are also safe for yourself. AMA sanctioned clubs are fantastic in this regard and the fact that pilots need AMA insurance to fly them makes it all the better should anything happen. (The cost of the insurance is a drop in the bucket for a year)
Don’t be that person that has something to prove.
If you get confronted with someone who doesn’t like drones or an officer who’s gotten a noise complaint about you and has to move you to another location. Just be compliant. Don’t cause a scene or be rude. Educate yourself on local law so you know you can defend your position but don’t be belligerent or dis-respectful.
This has to be the greatest hobby of all time, and it’s one that I know I’ll go on doing for the rest of my life. This isn’t a hobby that has a lot of rules and regulations, but it does take some common sense to avoid problems. Let’s just do that and keep growing this great hobby without all the negative stories about bad drone users.