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Drones for Christmas! Now What?



Christmas is the time of joy and, for many, new toys. Drones are among the highest purchased electronics during the Holiday Season, accounting for a large portion of the estimated 823,000 drones sold in 2023. For many this will be their first experience flying drones. Sadly, it will also be their first experience crashing a drone as well. Lone Star Drone sees a huge uptick in repairs in January and February. In many cases, the drones can be easily fixed.

Some of the most frequent questions clients and customers call in to Lone Star Drone revolve around what the first steps in drone ownership need to be. From the typical, “I heard I need to get a drone license to fly,” to “why won’t my drone take off,” the questions are easily answered. There is a huge amount of mystery that surrounds drones and the early steps would-be pilots need to take to get airborne in the safest and most legal way. It is for this reason that Lone Star Drone has compiled our years list of first steps.

 

Before we begin the list, it should be noted that we developed a course that takes pilots from no airtime at all to proficiency in a matter of days. We call it ‘Drones101’. It is hybrid course that takes 2 days and gives pilots the opportunity to not only learn their new drone, but also get to fly some of the most complex and expensive drones on the market. If someone wants to learn to fly BEFORE they buy a drone, never fear, we have plenty to learn on.

 

Now that we have the shameless plug over with, let’s get to the meat of this article.

 

Drones have the potential to do incredible things. Being that they are so complex and can go anywhere, there is a lot of laws concerning their operation and registration. So, that takes us to our fist step:


1.       Don’t fly over people!

 

This is rule number one because most of the other rules in drone operations are based on this rule. Not only is it just plain rude to fly over people, but it is hazardous. Drones crash all the time. In order to keep innocent bystanders safe, just stay away from people.

 

2.       Register your drone


Drones that weight more than 249g need to be registered with the FAA. This is important for a number of reasons, but the biggest is that if you crash and something happens to someone else’s property in the accident, your obligation with the FAA has been fulfilled. If the drone ways less than 249g, you won’t need to register the drone. This is because the drone is considered to lightweight to do any damage to physical property. Drones that weight less than 249g include the sub $200 amazon ‘junk drones’. It also includes the very capable Autel Nano series (https://www.lsdrone.com/autel-nano) and equally impressive DJI Mini series.


3.       DON’T get your Part 107



Here’s the thing, everyone thinks you need to have a license to fly a drone. The truth is, you only need a Part 107 drone license IF you fly the drone for commercial reasons, i.e. you make money from flying the drone. The first bit of advice I give people is to not try to make money off drones, especially when you are just learning how to fly. Enjoy drone’s as a hobby. I frequently get on my soapbox about everyone thinking they can make a living off flying a drone. Rarely is someone going to make a full living off just flying a drone, ESPECIALLY, not when they are inexperienced and flying a sub $5,000 drone. Just enjoy flying for what it is, not what it can pay you. Worry about that later.

 

4.       Trees, trees, trees!



FLY FORWARD! Until you develop an acute sense of what is around you, don’t fly low, don’t fly sideways, and don’t ever, EVER rely on the drone’s proximity sensor to stop you from hitting something. Trees are by far, the most frequent reason people bring their drones to us for repair. The story always involves trying go backwards or to the side and not “seeing” the tree. More often then not, they will complain that the drone didn’t stop itself from hitting the tree like the obstacle avoidance is “supposed to do”. Even the most complex drones on the market will rarely see branches (especially bare winter limbs) before it is too late. One reason is that drones take a few feet to stop. So, by the time the drone sees the branch, it doesn’t have enough distance to stop.


5.       Wind and weather

 

The question that should be asked: did you get a “dumb” drone or a “smart” drone? Your first few minutes of flying is going to depend on the type of drone you got. If it is a drone that is very small or lacks GPS position fix (dumb), you will NOT want to fly it outside. These drones are frequently lost to winds that you thought were very high. Even a light breeze can cause a flyaway. If the drone is an Autel, DJI, or similar, it will have some degree of position fix based on GPS (smart drone). There drones are much more capable of flying outside. If you take your hands off the controls, the drone will simply stay in place. Depending on how strong the wind is, these drones will most likely be able to fly in a breeze without issue. Here is the general rule of thumb: if a hat wouldn’t stay on your head due to wind, it is not safe to fly your drone.

 

As for rain and snow, just don’t. Period. Only the highest priced drones on the market will be able to fly in adverse weather. And by highest priced, I don’t mean your $3,000 Mavic Pro, I mean something in the neighborhood of $10,000+

 

6.     No-Fly Zones


  As you get more experience flying, you will discover that there are a lot of places drones cannot fly. If you are flying a DJI, it will tell you that you simply cannot fly if you are in restricted airspace. If you are flying something like an Autel, it will warn you that you are in a no fly area. Listen to the drone. There are severe penalties for flying a drone in areas that have been designated as restricted airspace. Put simply, it isn’t worth trying to fly a drone in these areas.

 

7.       Sporting events

 

I am astounded that people still don’t understand this rule. It is illegal to fly a drone around a professional or school sporting event. Here in Arlington, TX, we have people who try to fly over the Cowboys or Rangers ballparks during games. Not only will Law Enforcement track you down, but it isn’t uncommon for someone to be arrested. Flying your drone around your child’s soccer or baseball game is fine, but anything beyond that, just don’t.

So, that’s is a good starting point. Drones are incredibly fun. Top off your batteries and go fly. Pick a very open area like your local school’s football field and put the drone in the air. Advancements in consumer drones have allowed them to be very safe to fly. The guidelines above will keep you from doing something that will negatively affect your first experiences in the drone world. It will also allow you to truly enjoy your time in the air.

 

If you have any questions or something happens to your drone, give us a call. We would be more than happy to help you navigate the first steps in your new found hobby. From our Drones101 course, to fixing crashed drones, to just talking drones, we want to give you all the tools to keep you in the air.

 

 

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