The Federal Aviation Administration is partnering with industry associations and hobbyist groups to promote the safe operation of unmanned aircraft systems, the small flying machines popularly known as drones.
The “Know Before You Fly” education campaign seeks to provide drone operators with information and guidance to fly the vehicles safely and responsibly. Joining the FAA are the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the Academy of Model Aeronautics and the Small UAV Coalition. Manufacturers and distributors also will be tied into the consumer-education effort.
In a joint statement, the industry groups noted that “just because you can buy a UAS, doesn’t mean you can fly it anywhere, or for any purpose.”
The campaign was launched during the December gift-giving season. It includes a website, an educational video, point-of-sale materials, and digital and social media campaigns.
UAS technology is relatively inexpensive to acquire and easy to use, which has led to a proliferation of unmanned flights. The FAA Reform Act of 2012 requires the agency to develop rules for the safe operation of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who oversees the FAA, has said the agency must balance commercial uses of the new technology with a responsible approach to the safety of traditional piloted airspace.
The FAA has begun granting waivers to operators seeking to use drones for a variety of commercial uses, including aerial surveying, construction site monitoring and oil rig flare stack inspections. Several film and video production companies also have received permission to operate drones.
The federal agency has given initial permission to the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District to begin using drones to identify mosquito breeding grounds in mangroves and other remote areas, according to the Keynoter newspaper.
In a reflection of the proliferation of interest in putting drones to work, more than 160 other commercial entities had requested exemptions or waivers from the FAA as of mid-December 2014.
Of course, some people just want to fly drones for fun, and a number of guidelines have been suggested for these recreational and hobby operators. These include flying the machines below 400 feet and at least 25 feet away from people and vulnerable property. A UAS should remain visible to its operator at all times, and never be operated during severe weather or by someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Drone users should contact the proper authorities if they intend to operate within 5 miles of an airport, according to the Know Before You Fly campaign.