Three leading organizations have developed a website called Know Before You Fly, knowbeforeyoufly.org, to educate hobby users of Unmanned Aerial Systems, commonly known as drones, about operating rules.
A campaign to promote safe and responsible ownership has been undertaken by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the Academy of Model Aeronautics and the Small UAV Coalition in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration.
People flying drones need to follow these rules:
• Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible.
• Keep the drone in eyesight at all times and use an observer to assist if needed.
• Remain well clear of, and do not interfere with, manned aircraft operations.
• Don’t intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from people and vulnerable property.
• Contact the airport or control tower before flying within five miles of an airport.
• Do not fly near crowds or stadiums unless you have authorization to do so.
• Do not fly in adverse weather conditions, such as high winds or reduced visibility.
• Do not fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
• Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property, such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily travelled roadways, government buildings, etc.
• Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.
• Do not conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without permission.
Using a drone to take pictures for personal use is different than taking photos or videos for compensation. The FAA regulates commercial use of drones on a case-by-case basis.
The statutory parameters of a recreational aircraft operation are outlined in Section 336 of Public Law 112-95 (the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012).
The recreational market for drones is booming and Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, is concerned that privacy abuse and security infractions will lead to more regulations and penalties.
He said many people don’t know that there are rules in place to govern the flying of drones, which have the official name of Unmanned Aerial Systems.
“One of our greatest challenges right now is the hobby industry,” he said. “Thousands of people are buying drones from places like Amazon that they take home and misuse and that creates the potential for more laws to be created that will severely restrict use.
“I don’t want to see this happen and I believe that most people just need to be aware of laws and rules if they are going to operate a drone for any reason.”
When the shift from military use of drones to civilian applications began several years ago, Huffman formed a special work group of legislators, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys, civil rights advocates, aviation officials and industry representatives.
They began meeting to discuss issues related to drones and storage of data obtained through electronic means.
“Our goals are to promote the myriad industry applications for drone use while, at the same time, making sure that Oregonians’ individual rights to privacy are considered and kept intact,” said Huffman. “It’s very challenging to meet all of these goals and needs.”
His hope is that more educational outreach will be undertaken by legislators, law enforcement agencies and industry experts so people can learn what is allowed and what is not.
For example, he said there were reports that a drone had flown over the Columbia River and captured spectacular footage of the July 4 fireworks display in The Dalles. However, Huffman said that would have been a
violation of law, because the river is a federally navigable waterway, unless the drone operator had first gotten permission for the flight from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
He said there are also strict security rules for flying within a certain distance from airports and near some federally controlled facilities.
It is a crime to shoot down or vandalize a drone that is flying overhead, even on private property. However, people who are reckless with drones can be fined for endangering people and property.
Huffman said an article published Aug. 20 in The San Diego Union-Tribune highlights some of the problems that can occur when people operate drones in a way that invades the privacy of others.
A confrontation over a drone flying above a party of 10 beachgoers in Encinitas, Calif., ended with one man being arrested and equipment damaged.
One of the men on the beach reportedly threw his T-shirt over the drone when it began to fly low over the group and would not leave when people motioned for it to get out of their space.
Minutes later, deputies showed up to arrest the man who had thrown the shirt because it brought the drone down and caused more than $700 in damage.
Huffman said another problem occurred in Seattle when a real estate manager used a drone to take some outside shots of an apartment high-rise. Police got calls from tenants who thought someone was using the craft to spy on them.
“There have been a lot of complaints this year about people being in their backyards and having a drone hover over them,” said Huffman.
“My hope is that we can educate hobbyists and small commercial fliers to find out what the rules are before operating their UAS so the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) doesn’t adopt rules that will hurt the industry.”