Drone Etiquette

This guide is intended to supplement local civil aviation laws and help a new drone pilot start their mastery of drone aviation. This guide represents a collection of common sense advice and lessons from experienced pilots around the world. If you are reading this as an experienced drone pilot, it should seem mostly obvious and rather pedestrian. If you are new to the practice, we hope this helps you fly with more confidence and ultimately achieve your goals as a drone pilot.

 

SAFETY AND MAINTENANCE

The order of safety for every drone pilot should be

  1. Safety of self

  2. Safety of surrounding humans and animals

  3. Safety of aircraft

At first glance this list may seem selfish but you will understand why it must be this way. You are the captain of the aircraft, so if anything were to happen to you, you can assume you will end up hurting number 2 and 3 on the list.

Make sure you feel healthy and alert when you are about to fly. Drone piloting requires all of your faculties and you should be 💯 focused on the task at hand. If you are feeling overly hungry, tired, foggy, or otherwise ill, consider delaying your flight plans until you are feeling better.

When you are flying it is best to stay in a calm, non distracted mind state. Don’t react, respond. Put your phone in airplane mode and maintain optimal breathing technique. You cannot always control what happens while flying but you can control your response. Move a little slower than you normally do as to make your movements precise and deliberate.

Number 2 is rather simple: don't crash. Luckily, modern drones are a dream to control. With some practice you will find that complex flight paths in a variety of challenging weather conditions are possible. The keyword here is practice. A modern flight simulator with accurate physics rendering is the best way to prepare to actually take the sticks in real life.

Although some modern drones work so well, it seems like it could be magic technology, it isn’t. It’s actually physics. As you learn more about what keeps these devices in the air, you will see, hear, and feel how physics actually works. The pilots and engineers that make drones try to make them as reliable as possible, but will always be ruled by the limitations of physics.

When planning your flight, consider the consequences if your drone were to fall out of the sky. It probably won’t, but simply consider if it did. Is that a level of risk you are prepared to deal with? If you don’t feel fully prepared to answer that question, perhaps reconsider your flight plan.

The more you protect the safety of your aircraft the less likely you are to experience a sudden, unexpected failure. Keep your aircraft in great shape, and it will keep you in great shape.

PLAYING WELL WITH OTHERS

Drone piloting is a unique practice of aviation which requires the pilot to be in the air and on the ground simultaneously. It will challenge your ability to multitask. Here are some tips to help you be a good neighbor, both in the sky and on the ground.

On the Ground

The fundamental building block of a solid drone ground game is situational awareness. Before you begin execution of your flight plan, take in the scene you are about to launch from.

If there are people close enough to hear the drone, read their body language. If they seem threatened or uncomfortable, it might not be a bad idea to introduce yourself. Usually it’s not the drone itself that they are uncomfortable with, it is the idea that a stranger is flying it near them or their family that puts them on edge.

Fear of the unknown is perfectly normal. A good way to break the ice is to inform bystanders of your flight plan. It’s not necessarily required by law, but by doing this you get a chance to let them know what your intentions are and demonstrate you are friendly as opposed to a potential threat.

In the Air

The key similarity of air game to ground game is still situational awareness, but the key distinction is that in the air your senses are mostly limited by the sensors on your aircraft and your knowledge of the local airspace.

Just like on the ground, you have neighbors in the sky. Although it typically seems sparse to the naked eye, the diversity of air life over modern cities is staggering to consider. At any moment, untold billions of kilograms of animals, people, and cargo are engaged in active flight paths through Earth airspace.

Animals were the first to occupy the skies and it is important to understand what type of wild life is above you as you create your flight plans. Bees and other flying insects may swarm around a drone which can cause a nuisance if the swarm follows the aircraft back to you. Predatory birds have been known to actively engage drones around their size. If you see a large predatory bird be prepared to execute evasive maneuvers.

In accordance with the drone pilots order of safety, manned aircraft always have right of way over unmanned drones. Therefore it is critical to understand the rules of your local airspace as you create your flight plan. Use an online service that will tell you where all of the local airports are and show you any active NOTAMs. NOTAM is short for Notice to Airmen and are used to define temporary no fly zones. These are often used during special events and when very important people are in the air. It is a good idea to take them very seriously.

It is your responsibility to understand and comply with flight rules defined by your local civil aviation authority. Some modern drones have automatic, software defined geofences that will help you comply with local rules but it is important to know that they will not necessarily stop you from doing something illegal.

The software and hardware systems that help drone pilots navigate the air space are getting better every day. The more you learn about state of the art piloting and navigation techniques, the more you can accomplish as a drone pilot. Aerial Vision is committed to sharing as much current knowledge as possible in order to keep the skies safe and free today. In order to keep them safe and free for many years to come, we need your help! Share this document if you found it to be helpful. 

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