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Safety Tips for New Drone Owners


The numbers are in: Drones are one of the new, must-have tech gadgets.

Sales of the high-flying automated aircraft tripled between 2015 and 2016, reaching more than $200 million. Those figures are projected to grow exponentially as the technology matures and drone use expands its array of commercial and recreational applications. By 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration expects drone sales to reach $7 million annually, with hobbyists buying roughly 4.3 million and businesses purchasing the other 2.7 million.

Though drones are undeniably popular, they come with some safety concerns. Drone mishaps can lead to personal injuries, property damage and potential liability exposure.

If you own a drone or are interested in buying one, let's take a closer look at how to operate these machines safely.

Drone safety essentials

Whether you're a business owner seeking to make drone deliveries or a photographer who wants to take thrilling, bird's-eye snaps, it's important to remember that drone operators are in fact pilots, with all the safety implications that entails. Being a pilot requires that you do your due diligence in terms of understanding how to operate safely within shared airspace.

The FAA has issued a list of safety precautions drone operators should consider. These include the following:

  • Do not fly above 400 feet
  • Never allow your drone to fly outside visual sightlines
  • Do not fly over groups of people, stadiums or within five miles of an airport
  • Never fly near emergency response sites
  • Do not fly near other aircraft
  • Never fly under the influence

These rules form the core of smart safety protocol for drone pilots. It's also important to remember that the FAA also has airspace restrictions that vary locally. For example, much of Washington D.C.'s airspace is restricted due to the presence of military bases and federal buildings. The FAA has helpfully created a smartphone app (B4UFLY) that allows you to determine if there are any restrictions in place in the area where you'd like to fly. This greatly reduces the amount of effort needed to determine if you're able to fly safely.

Other safety tips

Along with following federal safety guidelines and airspace regulations, drone owners should also observe some fundamental flying rules designed to minimize the risk of crashes. These include flying in good weather, watching out for electronic signal interference, not flying over roads and not operating drones with other pilots who are poorly-trained.

Additionally, there are peripheral considerations that must be considered. One example: Taking drone photography in restricted areas or places where there is an expectation of privacy. Just like a property-damaging crash, violating privacy laws may open you up to legal or civil action.

Ultimately, safely flying a drone boils down to two elements: Employing common sense safety protocols and checking to ensure your flight plan doesn't violate restricted airspace. While malfunctions are possible with any high-end electronic equipment, following this strategy can help minimize the risk of a mishap. Consulting your insurance agent about drone coverage is another smart idea.

The bottom line

Drones have the potential to transform commerce and offer countless recreational thrills. Safety, however, must remain of paramount importance.

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ECC Monitor: OK