Skip to content

15 mistakes that drone pilots never want to make

2024 May 15
by RSS Feed

Flying a drone can be an exhilarating experience, whether you’re doing it recreationally under Section 44809 or for hire under Part 107, but in either case, there are some things that you just shouldn’t ever do if you’re going to be flying a done.

In this piece, we’ll discuss some of those things and why you should avoid doing them, especially if you enjoy the drone flying hobby and don’t want to risk losing those privileges.

As a general disclaimer, this list is not all-inclusive. There may be other things that you should avoid doing with your drone that aren’t on this list. Be sure to check with your local and federal laws to ensure you’re in compliance. This post does not constitute legal advice.

Things not to do when flying a drone

1) Fly without a license

While some people do fly their drone recreationally, there is a fine line between recreation and flying for hire. In fact, it’s easy to fly for hire without realizing you’re doing it. For example, even recording footage for your YouTube channel, if you should attempt to monetize it, could be considered a Part 107 commercial flight.

If you enjoy flying drones, then you should always make sure you have the proper paperwork before doing so, especially if you don’t want to risk lofty fines imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or your country’s airspace authority for breaking laws surrounding drone flights.

If you’re going to fly recreationally, you don’t need a Part 107 license, but you do need to pass the TRUST test and conform to Community Based Organization (CBO) rules. If you plan to fly for hire, or for any reason other than recreation (which means anything besides flying for fun) then you need a Part 107 certificate.

Should you choose to fly without getting the proper paperwork, you not only risk hefty fines, but you give other drone owners a bad name and risk the possibility of even tighter government regulations than we already have.

2) Fly without registration (if required)

It’s a bad idea to fly an unregistered drone if that drone is required to be registered by the FAA. In the United States, a drone must be registered with the FAA if it weighs 250 grams or more. Drones weighing less than 250 grams do not need to be registered with the FAA, but Part 107 and TRUST certificates still apply.

Flying without registration when it’s required is bad news, especially now that Remote ID effectively broadcasts your drone’s location, your remote’s location, and your device’s serial number for the world to see. Any FAA inspector could quickly ascertain from several miles away whether a drone in flight is registered or not.

Flying an unregistered drone when that drone is required to be registered puts you at risk of steep fines and makes it harder for someone to return a lost or flyaway drone to the original owner. Worse, it makes it harder for law enforcement to crack down on nefarious drone activities, which is why you’re required to register it in the first place.

It doesn’t matter if you’re flying for fun or for hire, if your drone needs to be registered, there’s no way around this if you plan to fly.

3) Fly too high

In the United States, drones are prohibited from flying more than 400 feet above the ground, except in rare circumstances, such as when there’s a structure and you intend to fly over that structure. For example, if a building is 30 feet tall, you can then fly 430 feet above the ground, as long as you’re hovering over (or immediately around the vicinity of) that building. The same rule applies to tall radio towers that you may be hired to inspect

These flight height rules are in place to prevent unwanted contact between manned and unmanned aircraft. Going too high in the sky increases the risk that your drone could collide with manned aircraft, which usually cruise at higher altitudes, including helicopters and airplanes.

Striking a manned aircraft with an unmanned aircraft is a serious federal offense, and that’s why you never want to get caught flying out of bounds. Keep your drone below 400 feet from the surface and should a manned aircraft (such as a helicopter) enter your 400-foot bubble, make sure to yield to it.

Also be aware that your Remote ID system will broadcast your drone’s current altitude, so law enforcement may be able to see when you’re breaking the law and may attempt to come and find you. Even more reason to follow the rules.

4) Invade others’ privacy

While the FAA technically owns the federal airspace and states and local governments can’t control where you can and can’t fly your drone, you may still break local laws if your activities pose unjust nuisances to privacy and personal property, and this is the primary reason why drone operators sometimes get a bad name.

If you get the feeling that you shouldn’t fly somewhere, then that’s probably the case. In many states, you need a private landowner’s permission to fly your drone anywhere near their personal property, and it may be illegal to record photos or videos of that property without express permission.

These laws exist because there were just too many people using drones for… nefarious activities; the modern-day peeping Tom, so to speak. So obviously, these kinds of laws are intended to protect landowners’ privacy from unwanted surveillance on private property, including in their own homes, their private pools, and even through their dwelling’s windows.

Not only is invading someone’s personal privacy a rude thing to do, but it makes landowners furious. There are countless cases of landowners attempting to disable or shoot down drones in mid-flight over their land, which is a very serious offense on the landowner’s part.

Knowing that people like to feel private and secure in their own dwellings, responsible drone owners should instead choose to fly in public spaces where their drones’ cameras won’t peer into people’s windows or capture landowners’ images without their permission. Doing so would demonstrate good manners, but also it proves that most drone owners aren’t creeps, despite the public perception.

5) Fly over sensitive areas

Another thing drone operators shouldn’t do is fly over places they’re almost certain to get into trouble for. This includes flying over water treatment plants, power plants, prisons, hospitals, schools, busy roadways, sports stadiums, and a slew of other places where your flight could be considered threatening.

Drones are capable of not only surveillance, but also carrying items and dropping them. For these reasons, drones aren’t allowed to fly over various sensitive places, as unauthorized surveillance poses security threats, while dropping foreign objects into secure areas can pose a danger to public health and safety.

Other prohibited flying areas include the property surrounding the White House, military facilities, national parks, and other government-restricted areas that you couldn’t normally just waltz into on your feet for obvious reasons.

Generally, you will also want to avoid flying over moving traffic or over large groups of people who aren’t directly involved in your flight operation. There are very few exceptions to this rule, such as having a waiver from the FAA. You may also be able to fly over people if you have a categorized drone.

Drone operators who want to stay out of trouble, whether they’re flying recreationally or for hire should stick to flying over authorized areas. In some instances, commercial remote pilots operating under Part 107 may be hired to fly with permission over secure areas, and that can be okay if the permission is genuine and granted by the person of authority over that secure area.

6) Fly recklessly

Just as driving a car recklessly poses unnecessary danger to pedestrians and other drivers, flying a drone recklessly puts people in danger too. While it may seem like comparing Apples to Oranges for some, especially since some drones are extremely lightweight, this matter should never be taken lightly.

Not only can high-speed drone propellers lacerate someone’s skin when they make contact, but heavier drones pose even deadlier dangers if they happen to fall out of the sky and onto someone’s head. For this reason, the FAA doesn’t allow drone operators to fly over people, except in certain situations such as flying a categorized drone or flying only over people involved in your flight operation.

Flying recklessly, to include doing aerial stunts over a large group of people who have no protection over their heads, or to intentionally fly directly into objects as to harm them with the force generated by the drone’s weight or velocity, among other things, puts people and property at risk of damage.

Another form of flying recklessly might be attempting to show off to people with the macho ‘look what I can do’ attitude. Flying a drone is a large responsibility in the FAA’s eyes, so you shouldn’t do anything needless that can put people and property at risk of damage.

The FAA can impose steep fines on people who fly drones recklessly, and they may even revoke your license if you’re found to be doing it. When flying, it’s best to take things slowly, ensuring that you make the best decisions to operate your small aircraft safely in a way that doesn’t pose danger to people or property.

7) Fly incognito mode in the dark

While there might be an urge to fly in stealth mode at night, this is against the FAA’s regulation.

You are expected to use a flashing beacon light on your drone that can be seen from three statute miles away whenever you fly during civil twilight (the 30-minute period before sunrise and the 30-minute period after sunset) or during the night so that your drone can be seen.

The point of this rule is to prevent collisions with other aircraft, and if they can’t see you, then there’s a possibility for a collision. Likewise, it will be very hard for you to see your drone and control it appropriately if you can’t see it in the dark skies, so lighting is a must.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea not to fly in hazardous dark conditions without the appropriate lighting, as the penalties for doing so aren’t pleasant.

8) Fly beyond visual line-of-sight

The FAA requires you to always maintain visual line-of-sight (VLOS) with your drone when it is flying. This means that you should always be able to glance up into the sky and see where your drone is.

It’s not uncommon for people to think that they can rely on their remote controller camera or the view from their first-person-view (FPV) goggles to navigate their drone, but the truth is you need to be able to physically see your drone from the ground to be compliant with the FAA’s guidelines.

Flying outside of line-of-sight is dangerous because if you can’t see where your drone is, then you can’t see the hazards that might be around your drone. These hazards could include buildings, trees, people, or even other aircraft, increasing your odds of a collision.

Even though some high-end modern drones have 360-degree sensing technology for collision avoidance, this isn’t adequate to get you out of the line-of-sight requirements.

The only way you can dodge line-of-sight requirements is to get a waiver from the FAA, and to do this, you’ll need to convince them that you can fly safely some other way.

9) Fly over emergency sites

We understand that peoples’ curiosity can get the best of them sometimes, but it’s important to resist this urge if you’re a drone operator.

Generally, you are not allowed to fly your drone over emergencies, such as emergency vehicles responding to a crime in progress, a car accident, a fire, or some other sensitive event.

Not only would the drone be a nuisance in this instance, but it would potentially also pose a risk of flying over people. Additionally, the radio signals could interfere with sensitive emergency communication equipment.

The FAA is not happy when people fly over emergency events, so steer clear.

10) Fly under the wrong rules

If you’re flying your drone for fun, then you can fly under the rules of Section 44809, a carveout for recreational flyers that allows drone flights just for fun. But flying under Section 44809 requires that you follow a specific set of rules.

Even if you are flying just for fun, if you break any of the rules set forth under Section 44809, then you’re considered to be flying under Part 107 by default. If you have a Part 107 license, then that’s great; but if you don’t, and you’re flying under what’s considered a Part 107 flight, then you could find yourself in big trouble and face steep fines.

If you’re flying for fun, and you’re flying under the Section 44809 rules, then be sure to familiarize yourself with those rules. This also includes following the guidance of a Community Based Organization (CBO), which are even more rules you must follow in addition to the FAA’s to be in full compliance.

It’s worth noting that those with Part 107 licenses can fly under Part 107 rules even if flying for fun, but only if they have that license. That is the distinguishing factor.

11) Disable Remote ID

We get it, there are lots of people who don’t trust the new Remote ID requirement because it broadcasts information about both you and your drone’s location to the general public and this opens Pandora’s box for anti-droners to approach you and start a conflict.

But… that’s no excuse not to follow the law. Compliance requires that certain drones be equipped with Remote ID, and it’s your job to ensure that you’re following those rules whenever you fly, or you could face an enforcement action by the FAA.

The point of Remote ID is to help law enforcement identify you and your drone, as well as the actions you’re taking with it. As long as you’re flying within the rules, you shouldn’t experience any issues, but if you fly out of bounds of the rules, that’s when Remote ID can get you caught.

Do yourself a favor and ensure that you’re complying with the Remote ID standards. It’s just not worth it to get caught without it.

12) Shirk on maintenance

Lots of people think that drones are just toys and that maintenance isn’t important, or that they can just fly their drone until something breaks and then deal with it later. But that’s a bad choice.

Your drone is quite literally considered an aircraft by the FAA, so if you’re flying if and you haven’t done your part to ensure that the airway is a safe place for everyone in it (and under it), then you might be considered to be flying recklessly in the FAA’s eyes.

Maintaining your drone is a simple process. Just check the aircraft for any signs of damage or neglect and keep up with it. Regularly keep software up to date and replace worn out parts. That’s really it.

It’s never a good idea to skip this crucial step, as you don’t want your drone to be the one that dies in mid-air and falls on someone (or something) and damages that person or object.

13) Fly in adverse weather conditions

A big mistake that lots of people make is flying their drone in poor weather. We understand that you might want to see what’s going on, or that perhaps you want to push your drone to its limit to see what it’s capable of, but trust us, it’s not worth it.

Not only could you be considered to be flying recklessly by the FAA when you fly your drone in adverse weather, but you take unnecessary risks. Your drone could be carried away by high winds, damaged by rain, or forced to the ground uncontrollably.

All of the above circumstances can damage your drone but may also pose a risk to people or property on the ground.

As a responsible drone pilot, you are expected to check the weather conditions before each flight and ensure that you meet the regulatory criteria and your drone’s specific requirements before taking off. If it seems like the flight could be too dangerous, then you must not take off and consider rescheduling.

14) Fly during a TFR

As a responsible drone pilot, you are expected to keep track of temporary flight restrictions (TFRs). There are tons of websites and apps that can help you with this, such as SkyVector.

The FAA can issue a temporary flight restriction for a multitude of reasons; some of the most common include when some other higher-priority air activities might take place (such as SpaceX rocket launches or aerial demonstrations by sporting airplanes), when the President of the United States visits a location, or when a natural disaster or hazardous material spill occurs. This is not a fully inclusive list.

A TFR is exactly what it sounds like – a temporary restriction on your privilege to fly your drone. It shouldn’t last forever (unless you’re Disney World), and when the TFR expires, you can go back to flying in that area. Another workaround is that if a TFR affects your area, go somewhere else that isn’t affected by the TFR to fly your drone.

You can and should check for TFRs in your area regularly, because flying during a TFR is considered a serious offense by the FAA, and Remote ID will almost certainly help in getting you caught.

15) Fly in controlled airspace without authorization

There’s a common misconception that drone operators can’t fly near airports, but that isn’t entirely true. Most drone operators just need to get authorization to fly in controlled airspace via a system called Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC).

Since the airspace around airports is usually controlled, you may need to get LAANC approval before flying there. You can check your sectional chart to be sure of where controlled airspace resides in your area.

If you attempt to fly your drone in controlled airspace without LAANC approval, then you would be in trouble if you got caught. On the other hand, if you have LAANC approval, you can make that flight and remain cautious as not to interfere with other manned aircraft.

You can request LAANC approval almost instantly using certain apps from the App Store, such as Aloft Air Control, so there’s no reason not to follow the rules, and you can stay out of trouble if you do.

Wrapping up

There are a lot of dumb things that you can do with a drone that could get you into trouble, or worse, get someone seriously hurt. We can’t possibly list everything in one post, but just a little bit of common sense goes a long way.

Better yet, if you take a class to become Part 107-certified, or you learn how to fly a drone from an instructor, you should learn a lot of the “common sense” before you ever get your license, and that will help you tremendously in making good drone-flying decisions.

Source link:

Leave a Reply

Note: You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS