The beginner’s guide to not crashing a drone


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With Christmas right around the corner, the number of drones buzzing through the skies is sure to increase. Between their long flight ranges, HD cameras and self-navigation capabilities, drones can make attractive gifts.

However, drones are more than just toys. They are professional tools that take time and training to get used to.

Here are a few guidelines for getting your drone off the ground safely.

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Do I need to register my drone?

Yes. You must register your drone with the FAA if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds.

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Which drones weigh more than 0.55 pounds?

Most drones capable of flying outdoors weigh over 0.55 pounds. These include devices like the 0.66-pound DJI Spark, which can also fly indoors.

Larger drones like the DJI Mavic and GoPro Karma weigh 1.6 pounds and 2.2 pounds, respectively.

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How do I register my drone with the FAA?

Head to this FAA website and create an account as directed by the site.

After finishing your account, you’ll be asked whether your drone is intended for recreational or commercial use. Drone owners who do not intend to make money off of their drone can click ‘Model Aircraft under Section 336.’

click the ‘Small Unmanned Aircraft under Part 107’ option If you intend to use the drone for commercial purposes.

If your drone weighs more than 55 pounds (25kg), you will need to submit a physical registration. You can find the registration form here.

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Do I need to register every drone I own?

No. You will receive a unique registration number after paying a $5 fee. This number must be displayed on all drones that you intend to fly for the next three years, after which you must re-register.

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What are the rules for flying drones outside?

The FAA lists the following tips for flying drones in the United States:

  • Register your drone before the first flight
  • Fly your drone at 400 feet or below
  • Keep the drone within sight
  • Respect privacy
  • Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
  • Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums while they are in use
  • Never fly near emergencies such as fires or hurricane recovery efforts
  • Never fly while under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Know Before You Fly offers additional advice:

  • Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles
  • Remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property
  • Do not fly within five miles of an airport
  • Do not fly in adverse weather conditions or during reduced visibility
  • Do not fly over sensitive infrastructure like power stations, water facilities and government buildings

Know Before You Fly also points out that drone pilots should watch out for manned aircraft that are flying at low altitudes.

“Pilots conducting agricultural, firefighting, law enforcement, emergency medical, wildlife survey operations and a variety of other services all legally and routinely work in low-level airspace,” according to Know Before You Fly. “Operators controlling UAS [Unmanned Aircraft Systems] in these areas should maintain situational awareness, give way to, and remain a safe distance from these low-level, manned airplanes and helicopters.”

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Can I join a flying club?

Yes. Joining a local flying club is the best way to learn more about drones and where to fly them safely. The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) was established in 1936 and is the world’s largest community-based organization for recreational model aircraft pilots.

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Should I get liability insurance?

Joining the AMA costs $75 a year and includes a $2.5-million personal liability insurance policy, as well as $25,000 of medical coverage and $1,000 of fire, theft and vandalism coverage for your drone.

Alternatively, a less comprehensive membership costs $38 and comes with $500,000 of liability insurance. This policy is intended for pilots who operate aircraft weighing no more than two pounds. Pilots who are 19 or younger can apply for a free membership.

This article originally appeared on GearBrain and was syndicated by

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