With unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) expected to be a popular gift item this holiday season and beyond, the UAS program at Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus is offering five essential tips to help hobbyists fly safely.
According to the university, the first rule for hobbyists to remember is that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires them to register their aircraft. All drones that weigh between .55 lbs. to 55 lbs. – even those purchased for recreational use only – must be catalogued on registermyuas.faa.gov. It only costs $5 and takes about 10 minutes – which could save hundreds of dollars in fines, says Kansas State.
Next, the aircraft’s batteries should be fully charged before flying. This will not only give hobbyists the longest flights possible with their drone, but it will also prevent the battery’s charge from dropping below 20%. Unmanned aircraft carry lithium polymer batteries – a hazardous material – and flying below 20% could increase the volatility of the battery. If your aircraft has poor battery health, it could result in the termination of the flight mid-air.
Kansas State Polytechnic’s third tip is centered on avoiding an air-to-air collision: Hobbyists should never fly within five miles of an airport unless they obtain prior authorization from both the control tower and the airport manager. Control towers are unable to spot a drone on their radar, so it is imperative that drone operators notify them of the time, location and altitude of a flight, the university explains.
Hobbyists also should always maintain visual contact with the aircraft. The FAA requires hobby pilots to always have their drone in their sights when flying it. An object or manned aircraft could be in the flight path, and if you’re flying beyond your visual line of sight, it could put those in the air and on the ground in harm’s way.
The final safety tip is to remove the propellers when you power the aircraft on indoors. For example, if you are working on the aircraft or conducting software updates inside, you may be required to apply power to the aircraft. If you accidentally bump the throttle on the controller or transmitter, you may cause the propellers to begin spinning – in turn, putting yourself and anyone else in the room at risk of serious injury.
The school says its UAS program began almost 10 years ago.
Spencer Schrader, a student in the UAS program and a flight instructor, says, “Following fundamental safety precautions can help mitigate deficiencies that could be encountered with the aircraft itself or during flight operations. Safety is a top priority in the UAS courses offered at Kansas State Polytechnic, and we’re proud to be able to share this insight with hobbyists to make a positive impact on their flying experience.”
Kansas State Polytechnic’s “Top Five Tips for Drone Safety” can also be viewed in a video version here.