*This post initially appeared on blog.flyte.ie *
With the numbers of commercial drone pilots sky-rocketing, and the airspace between zero and 400ft becoming increasingly crowded, it is becoming more important than ever to ensure you are carrying out your drone flights safely, within aviation authority rules and regulations.
There are expected to be an estimated 7 million drones regularly in the U.S. airspace by 2020; 2.7 million of these are expected to be commercial. To ensure everyone’s safety, on the ground and in the air, here are five fundamental questions to ask yourself before take-off:
1. Do I have the landowner’s permission to take-off and land here?
While no one technically owns airspace, the ground from where you take off could be privately owned. Therefore it is important to get the landowner’s permission to take-off and land on their property. If not it could be considered trespassing.
2. Is it legal to fly drones here?
Are there any airports nearby? If you are within 2 mile radius of an airport – you really shouldn’t be flying your drone here. These are usually Aerodrome Traffic Zones (ATZ) and there will likely be a high number of manned aircraft in these areas taking off and landing. Also it is a criminal offence in the UK to endanger a manned aircraft and you could face a prison sentence.
In the U.S it’s a little bit different. If you plan to fly within 5 miles of an airport you must contact both air traffic control and the airport operator, and give them notice of your planned flights.
If you plan to fly within 5 miles of an airport and your drone is above 7kg you must to contact Air Traffic Control and let them know of your planned activities. Even if your drone weighs less than 7kg it is still strongly advised to contact ATC and let them know in advance – flyaways could travel as far as 10 miles.
If you are going to fly within these specific radiuses, in either the U.K or the U.S, using Flyte’s flight planning system allows you to easily contact the correct Air Traffic Control tower to notify them of your intention to fly in that area.
3. Is it safe to fly here?
When flying in areas with overhead cables and large trees you really need to be aware of your surroundings. One wrong move could send your drone straight into an electrical cable and not only damage your drone but cause a lot of problems.
Flying over congested areas and large groups of people not directly under your control is also a no-go. While most drones weigh under 7kg, if something goes wrong and the drone malfunctions it could still cause serious damage to buildings and to people.
Another issue would be if there were main roads or train tracks in the area. Flying near these could be potentially dangerous as drivers may pay more attention to the drone flying up ahead than the traffic on the road with them.
4. Do I have a flight plan?
Having a flight plan, created on platforms such as Flyte, allow you to select the area where you will be flying, view issues that may arise when you arrive on site notifying you of any airspace or ground hazards to be avoided or could even be potential show-stoppers unless mitigated against. ) As a Flyte user, you can access to up to minute NOTAMs and all airspace information relevant to your flight area.
5. Do I have the appropriate permissions from the CAA/FAA?
In order to carry out commercial work you must have permission from the relevant aviation agency for your country. If not you could face pretty hefty fines! In the UK you must have a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) and in the U.S you must have a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate.
It’s important to note that these questions are just our opinion on what the important things to ask yourself before you take-off and our not a hard and fast set of rules.