By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Filmmakers and drone users, I implore you: If you’re going to fly a drone, then please … Learn Drone Etiquette. Because right now, the FAA is awash with hundreds, HUNDREDS, of reports of near misses from pilots who have had close encounters with drones that UAV pilots simply don’t see as an issue. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
“A swarm of small rogue drones have disrupted air traffic across the country on a scale previously unseen in U.S. skies.” – Washington Post
The media is awash with stories of drones being spotted by airline pilots moments before landing, an Air Force F15 fighter pilotnarrosly missing a drone by 50 feet on landing. A Cessna pilot flying above the published ceiling for drones near Washington, D.C., sees a drone flying nearby, and even a drone that hit a training aircraft as it flew with student pilot and instructor.
In the last week, according to the Washington Post, there have been twelve near misses, 70 since August 1st, and hundreds since FAA rules have been announced. All these near misses, thankfully, have yielded no damage or death, except to the drone that hit the training craft. But all these close calls are simply too close to call. And they shouldn’t happen.
There have also been reports that aviation enthusiasts are trying to get a birds-eye-view of restricted airspace as well, in and around military facilities, without technically violating or trespassing on the property.
Why are they? Frankly, I blame the FAA. Obsessing over crafting commercial rules to govern the use of drones for filmmaking, real estate, agriculture and other applications, the FAA has largely left consumer recreational UAV piloting alone, save for a few common sense guidelines. That’s just encouraging the misconception that the recreational use of drones is merely a toy hobby, and to a large extent, it can be.
But when you look at those who flew their drones around the airspace of a wildfire, prompting helicopters and tankers to not be able to drop water and flame retardant, to the tune of over a dozen cars being destroyed and people running for their lives, something simply has to be done.
The problem is that drones have a relatively small radar cross-section, so air traffic controllers see a tiny blip that their training says is a bird, if they see it at all. It’s not until there’s a physical sighting and report that things become clear, and serious.
With over 700,000 drones expected to be purchased this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, it’s going to get worse. Maybe not this worse:
But it’s going to get worse. We do our part by recommending that that users follow the rules and adhere to some basic drone etiquette, but as a private pilot myself, I think that there’s some more to be done without taking away anyone’s right to enjoy drones, be it as a hobby or a profession.
A private pilot has to undergo training, including passing a written test and also flight training. He or she has to have a license, and has to stay current by making at least three take offs and landings every 90 days. Pilots also have to have what’s called a Bi-Annual flight review every other year to make sure that his pilot skills are still sharp. All so he or she can take passengers.
So here’s my suggestion – take a weekend course that includes passing a written drone safety exam and learning from a professional how to fly your drone which will also give drone pilots a basic recreational certification, or a commercial cert if the pilot wants to make a living with their drone. Have a bi-annual flight review. Keep a log book. And obey the basic rules, which once again are:
- Fly a drone you can handle.
- Get some training. We have tips here, here, here and here. And PRACTICE.
- Consider joining a drone enthusiast club. You can find one near you at MeetUp.com.
- Know where you can safely fly in your area
- Stay away from restricted airspace (especially airports)
- Stay under 400 feet in altitude
- Stay away from large crowds
- Fly in good weather
- Keep your drone within visual range.
- Don’t be a dick and violate these to get a shot before anyone else.
If you do these things, and if the FAA requires a recreational certification like they do private pilots, then that would go a long way towards things calming down out there, and keep the skies safer so that we can all enjoy them together.
Hat Tip – Planet 5D