HomePutting A Drone Under The Tree? Know The Rules and Regs

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DANIEL ROTHBERG

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Dec. 03–It’s the season of drones, with experts estimating that shoppers will purchase as many as 400,000 small unmanned aerial vehicles during the 2015 holiday season.

In the past year, retail drones have become increasingly available to consumers. But if you’re thinking about buying one for a family member or friend — or maybe treating yourself to one — you should be aware of parameters and rules governing their use.

As Michael Huerta, director of the Federal Aviation Administration, recently wrote: “Pilots with little or no aviation experience will be at the controls of many of these aircraft. Many of these new aviators may not even be aware that their activities in our airspace could be dangerous to other aircraft — or that they are, in fact, pilots once they start flying their unmanned aircraft.”

Retail drones range from toys like the iQuad Remote Control Micro Quadcopter for $20, to tools for professional aerial photography, like the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced Quadcopter for $1,000. Shoppers can find them online at Amazon or Walmart, in mega-retail stores like Target, or at specialty stores like Las Vegas-based Drone Plus, the largest drone retailer in North America. The gadgets, considered model aircraft by the government, are legal to fly.

But they can’t be legally flown everywhere, so here’s what to know about flying one.

Neither recreational nor commercial drone pilots should fly in these areas:

–Within five miles of an airport, unless granted permission

–Near stadiums or racetrack events

–Outside of the pilot’s visual line of sight

–Over concentrated groups of people

–Near emergency response operations

Restrictions for recreational pilots include:

–They can’t fly a drone that weighs more than 55 pounds.

–There’s a 400-foot altitude limit for recreational drones.

–Recreational pilots can’t fly a drone for any commercial use, which the FAA defines as any time a drone is used in connection with a business for activities like surveying or photography.

What kind of drone is best for the person on your shopping list?

Tommi Harsch, an executive assistant to the owner of Drones Plus, which has 15 stores in North America and is adding another 12 stores in 2016, shared tips about buying drones: