Drone Safety and Responsibility

The community of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems users is experiencing an uphill battle in ensuring all those new to the technology use it safely and responsibly, with clear awareness of the risks and effects of their actions. Improving safety and encouraging respectful behavior must begin with education.

This is the information that should be included in EVERY “drone” sold in the United States today:

 

 

Information for Safe and Successful Flying

 

Welcome to the exciting world of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). You are about to begin participating in an activity that is fun, fulfilling, and challenging. This hobby requires an individual to be ready and willing to learn, and to accept personal responsibility.

 

Your aircraft should contain a set of instructions

Read the instructions that came with your aircraft.  If your purchase selection does not contain a set of comprehensive instructions, contact the vendor or supplier or choose a different product. You WILL need them and using them will greatly assist you in understanding your UAS, resolving problems, and preventing the loss or destruction of your aircraft. A lack of instructions may mean the manufacturer is unable to accurately describe how to use their product or is not concerned with their customers. If the manufacturer cannot explain how to use their product, how can they expect you to be able to safely operate it? Before connecting the batteries or turning on the power switch for the first time, you will need to learn what each flight mode or switch function does on your aircraft and transmitter. Before your first flight, you will need to learn how to program and calibrate the settings and safety features of both your transmitter and the aircraft’s flight controller (internal computer). You will also need to learn how your batteries should be safely charged, the minimum level to which they can be safely discharged, and how to monitor or calculate when the batteries become low and it is time to end a flight.

caution orange

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS AIRCRAFT AND ITS ACTIONS

UAS including multirotor helicopters have been defined as “Aircraft” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and as such subject the operators to the same laws and regulations applied to full scale aircraft, even when flown as a hobby activity. “Careless or reckless operation” is punishable by law and can result in an operator being fined or prosecuted. It is YOUR responsibility to become informed of local or federal regulations that are in place to protect the general public, other aviators, and property.

caution orange

YOUR AIRCRAFT CAN BE DANGEROUS TO PEOPLE, OTHER AIRCRAFT, OR PROPERTY

Anything that has mass develops kinetic energy when it moves. More speed and/or more mass equal more kinetic energy. Your aircraft, even if very small and light, can cause significant or severe bodily injury should it strike a person while in flight or fall from the sky. Propellers can and do cause severe laceration injuries. Use extreme care to ensure neither you nor anyone else ever has the opportunity to come into contact with a spinning propeller. Other components of your aircraft may pose special risks as well. The batteries of your aircraft likely contain chemicals that are toxic or combustible. Some types of batteries can catch fire or explode when damaged.

caution orange

YOUR AIRCRAFT HAS LIMITATIONS AND CAN EXPERIENCE LOSS OF CONTROL, FALL, OR FLY AWAY 

The components of your UAS have operational and physical limits which can result in component failure if exceeded. Electronic components and motors can overheat or fail in extreme temperatures or if exposed to water. Propellers and airframes can break if subjected to extreme forces or contact with other objects. Adding weight or changing the balance of your UAS may reduce your ability to maintain positive control. Most UAS use a radio transmitter of some sort for command and control of the aircraft in flight. Whether a cell phone or tablet, a high-end radio control (RC) transmitter, or a “toy” grade device, you must know your equipment’s limitations before you fly. Flying near the range limit of your flight system can be dangerous. If you exceed the range limit of your transmitter, you can lose control of the aircraft, and/or completely lose the aircraft in a “fly away”. Depending on your aircraft’s software, you may be able to program automatic fail-safes such as “return-to-home” to help prevent this.

 

The radio frequencies used by this aircraft are not secure or 100% reliable. Interference can cause a sudden loss of control

Most UAS and associated equipment operate on public radio frequencies such as 2.4gHz and 5.8gHz. These frequencies can be blocked by obstructions such as heavy vegetation or structures. Be aware that garage door openers, cell phones, home internet routers and other consumer devices also use the same frequency ranges. Although normally these items pose no conflict, there are some devices broadcasting on these frequencies which are more powerful than your transmitter and can overwhelm your system, causing loss of flight control. The broadcasting source closest to your aircraft will generally have signal priority so keep your aircraft close enough to assure you maintain control of it at all times. Flying near power lines, sources of large magnetic fields such as locomotive engines, or large metal structures such as antennae or fencing can disrupt or block radio and GPS signals and cause loss of flight control.

 

Flying at high altitudes or in the same airspace as manned aircraft could result in a collision and could KILL someone

Your aircraft is capable of flying at altitudes where manned aircraft may be operating. If a manned aircraft were to collide with even a small UAS, the result could be catastrophic and people could die. It is your responsibility to keep your aircraft away from other aircraft at all times. The current flight advisory from the FAA suggests a maximum altitude of 400’ above the ground for hobby UAS. Although an advisory, should your aircraft place another person or property in jeopardy that advisory would be used by the NTSB or other civil court as a foundation for your prosecution, and later fine or jail time. Flight advisories are frequently used to demonstrate the willingness of a pilot or flight operator to fly in a careless or reckless manner. You ARE subject to the same laws and regulations as a full-scale pilot. If you cannot see your aircraft it can be considered out of control.

 

Plan your flights and give yourself safe options in case of a problem

Always check flight critical aircraft components before every flight. Assure motors and associated wiring is connected and secure. Verify propellers are securely attached and are spinning in the correct directions. Be certain the flight battery is well secured and will not separate from the aircraft while in flight. Know the voltage level of your battery prior to take off, and understand that some types of flying such as quick acceleration, climbing and descending, or extreme maneuvering will cause a reduction in flight time. Be prepared to land at any time in the event an emergency occurs. An automated “Return-to-Home” flight mode may not always work. If reliant on GPS, your aircraft may not function properly in the case of a GPS signal loss, and if the battery power is too low the aircraft could crash before making it back to the take off point. KNOW YOUR AIRCRAFT AND ITS SYSTEMS and plan every flight accordingly.

 

Flying in some public areas, cities, or near airports is prohibited by law

It is your responsibility to be familiar with and know the restrictions that apply to the area over which you are flying and the airspace above and around you. This includes obtaining information that defines the controlled airspace around the airports near you, which might be a distance of 3 or 5 miles from the center of the airport. To fly inside that airspace you must first contact and receive the permission of the airport control authority. In the United States some airspace, even if not near an airport, is controlled from ground level to 60,000’ and hobby UAS activity is prohibited at all times. Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR) are also sometimes put in place to restrict flight in specific areas under certain circumstances such as large sporting events, presidential visits, or emergencies such as wildfires. These restrictions include the use of UAS, sometimes within several miles of the event. Use the resources provided to pilots by the FAA and other organizations to inform yourself on all current restrictions or warnings. All airspace violations are a federal offense and can fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the FAA. Some cities, states, and parks also have additional regulations in place regarding the use of UAS. If in doubt about where you can fly, contact your city or local airport for advice.

 

Protect the privilege of you and others to fly UAS and model aircraft by acting and flying responsibly

When you are flying you and your aircraft are not invisible. How you conduct yourself and operate your aircraft will be seen by others, who will in turn share their impressions of your behavior with more people. You can be an ambassador for our hobby or its worst enemy. Negative comments spread quickly both locally and through traditional and social media, and there are many in the public who would like to see our aircraft banned for a multitude of reasons. Some states and communities are enacting new laws to restrict our flight activities and aircraft. Some of this action is a result of the poor decisions and unsafe flying activities of a few members of our community. Your responsible actions can help this hobby, but your mistakes or irresponsibility can also destroy it for everyone. Consider joining a local flying club that accepts your type of aircraft. Group activities can be fun and rewarding, can help you learn to do more with your aircraft, and can supply you with the knowledge and experience of others who share your interests and enthusiasm. Consider joining the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) or multirotor representation groups, which exist to assist UAS owners and operators with various resources such as educational material, designated flying locations, insurance, and event coordination. Sharing your interest in UAS and connecting with others can help you get the most out of your aircraft and be an investment in your future.

Enjoy using your aircraft safely and responsibly.

 


Proposed by the Association of Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Systems

a non-profit membership organization for the users of sUAS

www.acuas.org

6 Comments

  1. Well, thank you for adding to the hysteria of small UAV’s. While I agree that most manufacturers are remiss for not providing this information in a clear manner and I would encourage the ACUAS to make it available to all manufacturers and dealers. But, do you have to emphasize “KILL” when in fact there is absolutely no factual evidence to support the fear and ignorance around small personal drones. There have been hundreds of thousands of hours of flight time using these small aircraft, yet there is not one verifiable report of a drone crash that resulted in a serious injury to someone not connected to the flight. Not one. It is a safety record that all other segments of aviation would be jealous to have. Where’s the blood and mayhem to justify the perception that small personal drones are a threat to public safety?

    And a couple of comments on the text.

    You said: “To fly inside that airspace you must first contact and receive the permission of the airport control authority.” This is not entirely correct – the FAA only states that you must notify the controlling ATC facility. No permission is required. A tower or airport manager knows what to do with notification – they issue a NOTAM to alert aircraft into and out of the affected airport of the model aircraft activity. They do not have the authority or protocol to grant “permission”. In fact asking permission just confuses them.

    In SEC. 336. SPECIAL RULE FOR MODEL AIRCRAFT.
    (a)(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport
    operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the
    airport) with prior notice of the operation…

    This is technically correct, but awkwardly worded: ” In the United States some airspace, even if not near an airport, is controlled from ground level to 60,000’ and hobby UAS activity is prohibited at all times.”
    It should read: “In the United States some airspace is designated as prohibited from ground level to 60,000’ and unauthorized aviation activity is prohibited at all times.”

    Also check your typography. The headings should all be the same style. I hope this critique helps because since I am an ambassador of small UAV flight, I want the facts to be correct as well.

    Reply
    • Thank you Steve, those are some really good points you are making. If we’re able to get manufacturers to adopt this I agree we could potentially improve it even further.

    • Joe – Steve was referencing “kill” in the context of a hypothetical mid-air collision with a manned aircraft.

  2. ACUAS
    Flying at high altitudes…
    Your statement that the NTSB can use AC 91-57 during enforcement is erroneous. A more accurate statement would be to cite 18 U.S.C. Chapter 32 and 34, Damage/destruction to airway facilities or aircraft and penalties for such and PL 112-95 sec 336 (b) “Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the authority of the Administrator to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft who endanger the safety of the national airspace system.”

    Missing from your recommendations is to advise Model Aircraft/Drone/UAS operator their responsibility to know the airspace they intent to fly. To obtain aviation sectional area charts of their intended area of operation and familiarize themselves with the airspace and controlled zones.

    Reply
  3. I do not believe our safety advisory was ever intended to become the end all and be all of a “Friend of the Court” type of legal brief. It was and is intended to provide some simple to understand and easy to follow suggestions for users to reference in hopes they would refrain from doing so many of the careless and unthinking things that have been done to date, There have been non participating people injured due to the careless and reckless operation of multirotors at both the amateur and professional levels. There is currently another You Tube video circulating where a woman is injured by DJI 550 propellers while removing another “fly away” from her back yard. Near where hers and other children were playing. As to how serious the injuries are I would suggest asking the woman for her description. I’m not an attorney or a doctor and cannot tell from a simple video how badly a series of propeller cuts are viewed by the recipient.

    We cannot possibly list all the available reference documents people can obtain to become informed of their airspace and local conditions. This is why the document mentions that the people intending to fly are individually responsible to perform their due diligence and find out for themselves. Aeronautical sectional charts provide federal airspace information and very little, if any local regulations.

    Mr. Mann,

    I’ll concede that the prohibited airspace reference could have been easily copied and pasted from the FAR’s, however, I do not think we are concerned with the full scale side of things. Our intent is to inform the multirotor enthusiast there are places they cannot fly regardless of how low they fly. A perfect example is the federal employee that put his Phantom on the White House lawn while allegedly semi inebriated.

    From a personal perspective I do not believe anyone added to the current hysteria. Just the opposite might be more appropriate because our intent is to provide some level of common sense safety advice to people that either have not received any, or have failed to recognize they bear personal responsibility to conduct their activities in a manner that does not put others at risk without first obtaining their approval to do so.

    I do agree we could improve on the safety advisory and expand it considerably and thank everyone for their thoughts and comments.

    Pat

    Reply

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