KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Today, the latest and greatest toy on the market is a drone, or the more appropriate term, unmanned aerial system.
They come in all sorts of flavors from fixed-wing aircraft to octocopters, with quadcopters being the most popular.
Why are these pesky little toys such a big deal? Because they’re fun! Over the last five years, more than 4 million commercial off-the-shelf drones have been sold. That number is expected to keep rising year after year. Not only are they being used for personal entertainment, but they are also starting to take off — pun intended — commercially for everything from agriculture to real estate.
Unmanned aerial systems are a great deal of fun to be sure, but they can also be dangerous.
The Federal Aviation Administration considers them to be aircraft, no matter the size. So in essence, we’ve added 4 million aircraft to the airspace in five years.
That is a big deal. Here are some ways to help keep yourself and everyone else safe when operating a small UAS:
• Be wary of small children and animals. The propellers are sharp and can cause a wide range of damage to fingers, eyes and other body parts.
Children see a UAS light up and make noise, and their natural tendency is to run up and touch it. The same applies to your pets.
As the operator, or pilot in command, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of the flight.
• Be aware of your surroundings. If you are within 5 miles of any airport or helipad, you must get approval to fly from whomever controls operations at that airport. If you are not near an airport, be cognizant of trees, buildings and other objects that may impede your radio control or line of sight to the vehicle, and never, ever fly over people, vessels or vehicles.
• Know the capabilities of yourself and the aircraft. Some of the drones on the market can travel over 3 miles away from the controller. It can be very difficult to maintain safe visibility at that distance. In the case of a lost link, your vehicle should return to your home point or launch point, which is automatically set before you take off. Keep in mind the vehicle may take a different route back than what it took going out.
• And finally, to operate your UAS commercially, you must have a remote pilot license from the FAA. More information can be found out about getting your Part 107 at faa.gov.
Have fun, but remember to always approach flying a UAS with careful risk management. For a more comprehensive list of safety rules, visit modelaircraft.org.