So….I got this drone…..what now?

Just the word "Drone" strikes fear in to the hearts of conspiracy theorists, anti-government fanatics, paranoid privacy advocates and really anyone that follows mainstream media. Fortunately we have a cute and cuddly acronym to make them less scary. UAS or Unmanned Aerial System is the proper term for these marvels of modern technology. In the recent years there has been an explosion of hobbyists and professionals that have been purchasing and using UAS’s in practical and creative ways. From the farmer that wants to check on hard to reach areas of crop ground to the weekend videographer that wants to add a different perspective to film project to the neighbor kid that wants to see if he can do a sweet barrel roll over your parked Lexus.

It was projected that UASs in varying shapes and sizes would be one the most popular holiday gifts with over 1,000,000 sales projected by the FAA. This raises a question….what do we do with 1 million new “drones” in skies? The Federal Aviation Administration has been scrambling for the last few years to come up with a way to regulate, monitor and police UAV usage in the US. There are understandable security concerns with heightened threats of terror and interference with manned aircraft, but for the most part the UAS collective are law-abiding hobbyist that look upon government regulations of their hobby as intrusive and unnecessary. In December the FAA introduced a registration system to keep track of those piloting UAS’s in the hopes to reduce the risk of misuse. This process is pretty simple and costs a mere $5 to complete.

If you operate a UAS that weighs over 1/2 lb, you are required to register no matter what your intended purpose. The penalties for not registering include huge fines and possible jail time so it is prudent to comply. The registration can be done on the FAA's Website.. Once you complete your registration you will be issued a certificate number that you will need to affix to the drone to be in compliance. The FAA provides some common sense guidelines to adhere to when operating your UAS such as:

  • Fly below 400ft
  • Fly within visual line of sight
  • Be aware of FAA airspace requirements
  • Not to fly directly over people
  • Not to fly over stadiums or sporting events
  • Not to fly near emergency response efforts (such as fires)
  • Not to fly near aircraft, especially near airports
  • Not to fly under the influence

It seems like a lot of trouble just to fly your new drone around the pasture but hopefully with the cooperation of hobbyists and professionals in the UAS world, we can all enjoy skies for years to come.