The popularity of drones has surged over the last couple of years. They were once only used by professionals who needed to reach distant places that were hard to reach. Now, you can pick up a basic model for $50 and use it like a remote control helicopter.
Even though drones are becoming cheaper and more common, there are several things you should know before you buy one.

You Have to Register Your Drone

Once you get your drone, you will have to register it with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This is according to a law that went into effect on December 21, 2015.

Image via Flickr by jacilluch

The registration process is easy and it only costs $5.
There are a few details you should know before you register your drone:

  • You only have to register drones that weigh more than .55 pounds
  • If your drone weighs more than 55 pounds, you must use this registry
  • You must be at least 13 years old to register a drone
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to register

Even if registering a small drone seems silly to you, take this seriously. If you don’t register, you could face fines up to $27,500 from the FAA.

Don’t Fly Over Someone’s Private Property

The laws aren’t very clear about whether you can fly your drone over another person’s private property. While it’s not specifically illegal to fly over someone’s property — as long as you are not committing a crime in the process — there is a possibility that the owner may get away with damaging or destroying your drone.

In October 2015, a Bullitt County District Court Judge in Kentucky dismissed a case against a man who shot down a drone that was hovering over his property. According to the judge, the man was protecting his family and property.

Not every judge will reach this conclusion, but it’s not worth taking the chance.
Flying over public property, such as a park, is a better idea. If you do want to fly in your neighborhood, make sure you talk to your neighbors about it. A little courtesy could go a long way.

Practice Before You Fly It

Drones are not easy to operate. You may need to practice flying yours for a few hours before you take it up in the air. Take it to your backyard or an open, public field where you can’t damage anything. It’s also a good idea to put a foam hull on your drone so it doesn’t break even if it bashes into an obstacle.

If you plan to practice indoors, then you will absolutely need the foam hull. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that you will damage your drone as well as some valuables.
Keep in mind that some drones come with remote controls while others are controlled by mobile apps. Just because you have experience with one type doesn’t mean you know how to fly different models. There is a lot of variety within the drone market.

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Drones may seem like toys, but they are sophisticated machines that you should respect. Follow these rules to make sure you use your drone legally and safely.