Inexperienced pilots and failure to follow safety guidelines can make drone operations hazardous. NCDOT employs drones for a variety of tasks, from assessing bridge conditions to conducting emergency response surveys, enhancing both operational efficiency and staff safety.
“Drones are innovative tools that can keep our teams safe when performing mission-critical tasks, from surveying disaster scenes to inspecting project sites and hard-to-reach infrastructure, if operators follow basic safety protocols when using them,” stated Becca Gallas, interim director of the NCDOT Division of Aviati, according to The Avery Journal.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reports that over 15,000 recreational drones and more than 9,500 commercial drones are registered in North Carolina, with both figures steadily increasing.
It is crucial that every drone operator keeps safety at the forefront, not only during National Drone Safety Day but each time their aircraft takes to the skies.
NCDOT recommendations to increase drone safety
The NCDOT encourages all drone owners to do the following:
- Register their drone at FAADroneZone-access.faa.gov
- Join an FAA community-based organization
- Know where you can and can't fly using resources, such as the FAA B4UFLY app and be familiar with the state and federal laws governing drones
- Have a safety plan, inspect your drone and evaluate weather conditions prior to flying
- Take the recreational unmanned aircraft systems test
Following the recent repeal of redundant commercial UAS operator permit and knowledge test requirements established in 2014, the NCDOT Division of Aviation also provides these supplementary guidelines to assist pilots in maintaining safe and lawful flight operations:
- Always fly no more than 400 feet above ground level.
- Always keep the drone within your visual line of sight.
- Respect people's privacy.
- Avoid flying over events or crowds; never fly directly over people.
- Never fly near or above prisons or airports.
- Don't fly at night without proper training and equipment.
To be honest, the recommendations from the NCDOT are somewhat confusing. For instance, registering your drone with the FAA is a requirement, not a recommendation. The only exception to this rule is when you fly a drone purely recreationally that weighs less than 250 grams. In any other case you need to register your drone with the FAA.
Flying your drone below 400 feet AGL is also a requirement, with one exception, as is keeping your drone within visual line of sight (BVLOS). Flying near or over prisons and airports is not allowed, potentially dangerous, and likely to get you in trouble.
While it is good that the NCDOT offers these guidelines, it is important to point out that the only body that governs the national airspace in the U.S. is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Please go to the FAA website directly for all relevant info and drone regulations.
Fly safe, responsibly, and have fun!
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