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I’m a Drone Hobbyist … Really!

Note: Im not a lawyer and anything I say should not be taken as legal advice.

Drones are a hot-topic right now, since the FAA released proposed regulations on commercial UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). Fellow Photofocus author Kevin Ames already went over all of the restrictions and licensing.

For most people, these rules won’t apply. Were hobbyists, using these drones for personal use.

The lines are a little grey between hobbyist flights and commercial flights. An easy way to think about it is this If youre getting paid for aerial work, then thats a commercial flight. If you’re flying to promote your business or skills as a photographer, then thats a commercial flight.

From these proposed regulations, flying a commercial flight requires a license. There isn’t any news on how you’ll get your license, but it could be a point-of-purchase license or there could be a testing center.

Hobbyists won’t need a license, and will be able to get away with more than commercial operators. But that doesn’t mean you can act stupid, so here are a few safe drone practices:

  1. Inspect your drone before you launch for propeller damage that might cause issues while in flight. Always carry at least one spare set of blades, just in case. Changing one blade might prevent the entire vehicle from crashing hard.
  2. When flying, maintain a line-of-sight so you can see the copter. Theres more of a chance for things to go wrong when you can’t see the drone. Make use of field-of-view monitors or live-view camera feeds to make sure youre out of the frame when shooting photos or video.
  3. Operating over people is dangerous. Winds can shift and before you know it somebodys injured. This is especially true of drones that might have upgraded propeller systems. It doesn’t hurt that bad to get hit with a plastic DJI Phantom blade, but the carbon fiber blades can take a fingernail off . . . so be careful.
  4. Operating near other aircraft is dangerous, and can put lives at risk. Larger aircraft have strong winds around them and are carrying people. Winds alone put your drone at risk. Any evasive maneuvers that the large aircraft pilot might need to take can put his flight at risk too.
  5. Both cameras and drones don’t work well at night . . . so don’t use them. Theres no way to tell what direction the drone is facing or avoid obstacles before its too late.

As always, use your best judgement. If a shot looks risky, then it probably is. Come back to the location another time and shoot it when there aren’t obstacles in the way or look around for another shot thats more achievable.

The FAA puts it says it well . . .

No careless or reckless operations.

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