Best Practices For Flying a Personal Drone, UAV, or Quadcopter

I love drones, and have been flying them in one form or another for decades at this point. Yet I've never so much as been arrested, detained, or had any serious complaints levied against me. Unfortunately, a lot of drone pilots can't say the same despite having much fewer flight hours. Why is that?

Well, I think a lot of drone pilots simply get excited at the potential. I mean, you've got this machine, maybe something like a Phantom 2 Vision+ that you saved up for months to be able to afford, and you can't wait to use it. You get it in the mail, set it up, take it out, start flying, and all of a sudden, you start attracting a lot of attention that you didn't mean to. Maybe you get curious and start flying it toward your neighbor's house, just curious for a peek inside. Maybe you're in a national park and start buzzing the endangered eagles. Or maybe you let a child take the controls and s/he flies the drone straight into a little old lady being helped across the street by another even smaller old lady!

My point is that I don't think most people who get into trouble with their drones because they set out to do bad things. Maybe that's the case every now and then, but I think the majority of the time, people just don't remember best practices for drone flight. So here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

1. Don't spy on people

This should be obvious, but for some reason it's not. Using a drone to take creepy pictures of your neighbors is just as illegal as doing so with a camera on the ground. People have a right to privacy, regardless of where they are or what they're doing, and it's essential to respect that. If you find yourself using your drone to do things that you'd be ashamed to share with your parents, then you should probably bring it in for a landing and think about what you've done, whippersnapper!

2. Don't fly near hot spots

Hot spots are places where small flying machines have no business being. Airports, military bases, construction sites, car collisions, and other such locations don't need your drone buzzing around being a nuisance, breaking the law, and distracting people who are doing real work. I spend more time piloting drones than anyone I know, but I also know where my drones can and cannot fly. You wouldn't take a personal plane up over the White House and expect to get away with it, would you? So why try it in a drone? If you don't want to end up on the news or behind bars, take private property seriously, especially where money, power, or the government are involved.

3. Use common sense

This is essentially a summary of the first two rules and a number of other rules I could add, but won't in the interest of time. Simply use common sense and think about what you're doing. If you aren't sure if you're flying in a good place or in a good way, you should probably land, think it over, and make sure it's really all right to do before doing it again. Don't buzz people or animals; don't put anyone at risk, including yourself. Remember, it's just a hobby, and no one should get hurt in the pursuit of a hobby. There'll always be another day to fly, and there'll always be another time to take to the sky. And my wife always reminds me to remember what's important in life, and there are many things more important than drones, such as one's family.

Keeping these three rules in mind has helped me log more than 14,000 problem-free hours of drone flight in the last few decades, and I look forward to thousands more. Safely and smartly; that's how you stay out of trouble, with or without a drone.


Hi! My name is Mike, and I'm the author of this personal drone blog. If you find the information on my flying drone review blog useful, you can shop through Amazon here.

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