Ask people who have never flown a drone (UAVs), but know about the hobby or see someone flying it and you may find that most have a negative view of it.
They think it’s dangerous, that people are doing nothing but flying around, risking lives, crashing everywhere, into everyone, invading other people’s privacy and causing immense distress all around.
But take those same people, have them fly and understand how the hobby works, and you will find that most of them may come around to thinking differently about this industry. That was certainly the case for me.
Despite knowing very little about drones, way before I purchased it, I equated them to the predator ones you hear about being used in war and so that was my original, negative assumption, and then as they became more popular, my understanding shifted to the general stereotype I stated above about them, but as I began seeing videos of people filming with these things and the possibilities of what type of beautiful footage could be captured, mixed in with my passion to hike and see beautiful places, I went from being a complete NO to a complete YES in buying my first workable drone (The Mavic Pro, there was a different model prior which didn’t work).
After having flown for quite awhile, not just with the Mavic but with others, plus having seen from others how to fly and how not to fly, I’ve determined that drones themselves are generally not dangerous, however…
There are 2 particular situations in which UAVs CAN be dangerous, but if the proper safety protocols are exercised and most of the time, it’s nothing more than common sense, the danger is mostly nullified. And yes, I will explain each danger and safety protocol to avoid it…
Situation 1: Danger mainly arises when people incorrectly fly drones…
With every video of people flying these things, getting into trouble, crashes, ect… as well as my own “close call” experiences, 99% of the time it is the pilot who is at fault (see common reasons crashes occur), not the drone and it is very easy to make a mistake (if you remove common sense) and crash these things.
Now common sense when it comes to UAVs should be something that most people should know about, things like not flying over or near people, not flying over houses or private property, airports, disturbing people/animals, ect… and I’ll tell you what, before I got my first drone, I already knew these things, but just to be sure…
I took a look at the official FAA site which clarified these things I already assumed were rules and added to it. This is what every single new pilot should do:
1) Look at the official FAA website and see the rules of flying these things.
2) Look at YouTube videos on how to fly UAVs safely. Believe me, at this point, there’s more than enough knowledge out there and mistakes tons of people have made that will help future fliers avoid them.
Now besides the general rules, here’s where things like common sense come into flying drones:
1) Suppose you are flying one above a tree line and can’t see it. Does your drone have a camera and if so, does it transmit what it sees to you? If not, then DO NOT fly it beyond your sight.
2) What if you’re flying, can see everything perfectly, but someone is jogging right underneath the drone? Move it away so if ANYTHING happens, you will NOT harm the person.
3) Are you flying in a neighborhood where there’s private property? Well make sure you don’t fly into someone’s property.
4) Are you flying near a hill and the closer you get to it, the higher it gets? What should you do? Raise the drone higher as the cliff raises higher, so you don’t crash into the land.
5) Do note that every single one of the models out there has a limited battery life and flight time, and you SHOULD read up on how long your’s can fly BEFORE you actually fly to ensure that if you don’t fly too far and then have a hard time finding it, or for that matter ensure, that when it has to land, it can land safely on ground, not water, no an elevated area where it can fall, ect…
See things like these should be COMMON sense to fliers and I’ll tell you what, a LARGE majority of fliers that I know follow these rules. I don’t know the exact statistics, but it is a VERY small minority of people, possibly 1% or less who make foolish mistakes with their UAVs.
Unfortunately, the people who do make the mistakes are the ones who give the safe fliers a hard time because it is because of them that the UAV industry and it’s regulations have become so complicated and restrictive. If we are to restore a more open, safer flying space to enjoy this hobby, then moving forward, there have to be even less instances of people making foolish mistakes. Here’s more safety tips.
I know there’s going to be fools out there that ignore all the UAV flying rules and will fly as freely as they wish, perhaps even maliciously (jail those people…). No matter how many rules you set in anything, there will be fools and crazy people who will find a way to break it…
In those cases, give people the right to report them and have them get fined/jailed accordingly if necessary, to filter out the VERY small minority of bad fliers and give the good fliers room to fly…
Fortunately there are already good rules in place, but often very restrictive and complex. And they are restrictive and complex because of the bad flyers…
Situation 2: You may be a good flier, but your drone may not be capable of flying well…
This industry is still growing and while it has come far, a lot of new, beginner fliers tend to get into this hobby through buying lesser and lower quality models.
While you may exercise every common sense thing you can imagine when flying, the truth is that it is never 100% certain that your flight will be 100% safe because even if you follow all the rules, weather circumstances and other miscellaneous situations may arise while flying that endanger your flight, and most likely it will happen if your model isn’t capable of handling the likely/tough situations that may come about.
It is like driving, you could be a very safe driver, but there’s also others on the road. The others in this case represent potential circumstances you didn’t see occurring during your flights.
One way to ensure this issue is minimized is to get higher quality UAVs that have safety features such as sensors, auto pilot modes to protect the model itself and most obstacles it may encounter as well as other things to keep it flying and landing safely.
I wrote about beginner drones people should get and recommended some higher tier ones to make sure that in addition to being a safe flier, that you’ll also have the insurance of knowing your model will fly safely should something happen. I also updated that beginner drone article with more choices.
Because my experience with UAVs has mainly been good so far (because I combine common sense with higher, safer models), these is the same advice I am passing off to new fliers. But I do have near accidents with my drones from time to time (here’s the most recent). Thankfully using common sense, I was able to land the drone safely!
Know that this IS a very safe hobby, but it takes personal responsibility to make sure of this:
I am very strict with myself on how I fly my UAVs and while I take risky shots every now and then, the main goal I always have is that EVEN if something bad happens to my drone, it will NOT harm anyone or anything (other than my wallet :(). IN other words, when I fly, I make sure no one is near me at any point to ensure that if something (unlikely) happens, that no one will ever get hurt.
In my opinion this should be the main priority for any flier out there.
Of course I also want to make sure my model doesn’t break or get lost at the same time, but this is something you will learn to access and exercise as you become a better flier and that will take practice. In the meantime, here are 10 great tips you should keep in mind when flying. These tips will only add to helping you maintain a safe flight.
At the end of the day, the fact is an overwhelming amount of UAV users out there are safe, competent fliers and you if you are still doubtful that this can be a fun, safe hobby, remember that the statistics will always be in favor of the safer flyers. Do not let the dangerous, reckless flyers make you think this hobby is dangerous. It can be, but it isn’t because most people are responsible!