Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones are becoming increasingly popular for commercial and private use. If flown without proper care, the dangers they pose to other aircraft – and in some instances, people, are considerable.
Consider the instance of a drone that crashed into the stands during a 2017 San Diego Padres game narrowly missing fans in the upper decks.
Or think about the ones that have been flown into fire areas resulting in firefighting aircraft being pulled from the skies. Those are only a couple of the hazards, but more serious is the possibility of an airplane accident resulting from a drone collision.
Although many drones are small – sometimes as light as four pounds and some as heavy as 55 pounds – they have metal parts that could damage an airplane window or engine, much as birds do. And because there is no way to communicate with the pilot or even know where he or she might be located, the danger increases. To date, there have been incidents with drones entering flight patterns and, in 2018, a helicopter crashed after a drone appeared in front of it, according to police and news reports.
As a result of the potential dangers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued rules for UAS so drone enthusiasts can enjoy their pastime safely. Some are as basic as registering the UAS as a model airplane or a “non-modeler,” which applies to most drones. One must be at least 16 years old to get a remote pilot certification, pass an aeronautical test at an FAA-approved testing center and undergo TSA screening.
Drones may be flown in daylight only at or below 400 feet above ground level and at or under 100 miles per hour ground speed. The operator cannot fly a drone over people and must keep it within his or her line of sight.
Some rules go beyond, but are meant to complement, the FAA’s. Local municipalities like the City and County of San Diego (and groups like Major League Baseball) have issued policies limiting where they can fly, such as proximity to airports or fire or other restricted scenes. While some rules differ depending on whether the drone is used for fun or for work, safety is the prime consideration.
If you are involved in an accident involving a drone – on the ground or in the air – CaseyGerry has experienced aviation accident attorneys who can assist you.