Ever heard the acronym SUAS, it stands for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems and is the class of aircraft to which drones belong to. The reason why drones fall under this group and its regulations are due to safety.
The simple answer to the question of how high a drone can fly is 400 feet. This is because 400 feet is the maximum altitude which is stipulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A) for sUAs to fly at. It's a height that provides a reasonable distance from airplanes, jets, and helicopters.
Maintaining this distance or limit helps to prevent obstruction as well as collisions when bigger aircraft might be flying nearby. Keep reading to understand everything you need to know about flying a drone, as well as tips to ensure safety while flying.
Can A Drone Fly Above 400 Feet?
Having answered how high a drone can fly in the paragraph above, naturally, one may wonder if a drone can soar above 400 feet. Drones can fly above 400 feet, but it is illegal in most places. However, if your drone remains within 400 feet of a structure while passing, you can take it higher with no trouble. There have been some drone cases soaring to ridiculous heights, way above the maximum altitude set by the Federal Aviation Administration. In 2016, a hobbyist flew his drone as high as 11,000. This made the news, as a record-breaking height. It also made the news in 2018 that a drone flew up to 33,000 feet.
Dangers of Flying A Drone Above 400 Feet
Despite the regulation, a lot of individuals still fly their drones above 400 feet. These people have various reasons for this. In the photography sector, flying a drone high gives captivating and unique views in pictures and videos. Filmmakers also rely on high-flying drones to capture great scenes while they are on set. In the world of construction, drones significantly reduce the need for humans to climb high structures, thereby making the job easier. While some of the reasons stated are understandable, it is essential to note that flying drones at high altitudes poses a significant threat, despite these sectors' needs. Below are some of the dangers of flying a drone above 400 feet.
- Airspace Threats: Drones constitute airspace threats when they fly too high, making it unsafe to fly close to others. Due to their relatively small size, they can be sucked into the engine of bigger aircraft if they got too close, thereby creating avoidable problems. It is, therefore, best to fly at a maximum altitude of 400 feet unless having permission to fly higher.
- Collisions: When we talk about drone collisions, they can occur in two ways. Drones could either collide with other aircraft in the air or hit humans on the ground level. Being an unmanned aircraft system, it is quite difficult for the controller of a drone to sense another aircraft's presence from below. This can therefore lead to a collision with bigger aircraft, and in fatal cases, cause crashes. It is, therefore, crucial to fly at or below 400 feet, particularly when you are close to an airport.
- Malfunction: Flying your drone at an illegal height is very risky, as you could lose control of it. This could come in front of a loss of signal or even battery life. In both cases, controlling the drone will be impossible, leading the drone to cause damage. It must be mentioned that a drone falling to the earth crashes like a meteorite and is detrimental to the environment.
Rules For Flying A Drone
While these are not official rules, the following are guidelines to keep you in check when flying your drone. These rules will also ensure that your flying is an enjoyable experience. Below are directions for flying a drone:
- The first rule is the most important one. You should not fly your drone over 400 feet. Doing this is illegal and gets you in trouble. It is also unsafe, as you can obstruct other aircraft, as well as endanger lives and the environment.
- Always be sure to be at least five miles away from an airport every time that you are flying your drone. This will help you avoid unforeseen clashes or collisions with others. If you plan to fly your drone within the vicinity of an airport, you must inform them to get permission beforehand.
- Another essential rule to follow when flying a drone is, keeping your drone in your line of sight at all times. This way, you can control the drone effectively and avoid mishaps. To monitor your drone better, you can have a spotter help out while you fly. The spotter is an individual whose duty is to tabs on the drone, more or less acting as the flyer's eyes.
- You are not supposed to fly over unprotected public areas that a lot of people such as stadiums, racetracks as well as national parks. Drones have been utilized for espionage in the past, thereby making their usage over groups of people prohibited.
- You must always maintain a distance of at least 25 feet away from people when flying your drone. This distance is a necessary safety precaution that must be adhered to at all times. Also, remember to avoid flying over a crowd in unprotected space.
- Look out for No-Fly Zones. As ignorance is not an excuse, flying over No-Fly Zones can get you in legal trouble, leave you at the risk of sanctions as well as fines.
- There are certain areas and infrastructure which you should not fly your drone near. These places could be sensitive or official buildings. Some of them are the government. This could include government houses, power stations, armed forces barracks, correctional facilities, water treatment facilities, and roads that are heavily traveled. Also, you must avoid flying over fires.
- It is also expected that you do not fly your drone in a place where people go to enjoy privacy. Before you do this, it is important to seek permission from the people around you.
- Get a license from the F.A.A before you fly a drone commercially. It is illegal to use your drone in a commercial capacity without having the F.A.A Part 107 license.
Tips For Flying A Drone
Learning to fly a drone is not a herculean task; however, with useful tips, you will get the hang of it in no time.
- Registration: Registering your drone with the F.A.A is the first thing to do after purchase. As long as your drone weighs more than .55 grams and less than 55 pounds, you have required it under the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Registration System.
- Read The Manual: Even if you have prior experience with flying drones, you must read the user manual and safety guidelines that come with the drone. This is because every drone is peculiar might have specific requirements to fly it safely. Take your time to go through the manual and understand it before washing.
- Controls: The controls are an essential part of every drone and are crucial to the overall flying experience.
- Practice: After learning all the controls, practice it to be familiar with what every button does. When practising, use every button alone, as well as in combination, to prepare you for flying. You can also use these buttons in a simulation mode, so you have first-hand experience of what it is like to fly a drone. Practice in a safe area, and always be sure to be in simulation mode.
- Checking The Environment: Before you go out to fly the drone, you must scan the environment to ensure that you are flying in an area free from danger and legally allowed. Some of the things to check out before passing are obstacles, people, and animals. It would help if you kept out of the way of objects like telephone lines and ropes, particularly as a rookie flyer. These objects can get in the form of your drone and cause unwanted trouble. The ultrasound of drones usually triggers animals making them uneasy. This is something that you want to avoid when flying; stay out of areas that have animals. You should also pass in a secure zone without crowds of people; some of the reasons for this are discussed above. Keeping all of this in mind, do a pre-flight check before setting out.
- Weather: Like every aircraft, the weather is significant to the successful flying of a drone. Check the weather conditions to be sure it is favorable for flight. Do not fly if there is strong wind, rain, fog, lightning, or snow. Your vision will be impaired with these conditions, and there is a risk of crashing your drone.
- Full Charge: Before every flight, make sure that your drone is fully charged. Drones run on power, and your aircraft running out of juice mid-flight is disastrous, as it will result in a crash. It would help if you also kept an eye on the battery status during the flight to ensure enough power left for descending.
- Line Of Sight: Always keep your drone in sight at all times. It would be best if you did not fly the drone to a great height; always fly it close to you until you get better at flying. You can also use the help of a spotter when practicing.
- Distraction: One of the biggest mistakes that new flyers make when learning is allowing themselves to get distracted. Keep your focus on your drone at all times, never taking your eyes off it.
- Hovering: Take your time to balance around for about thirty seconds before taking off. This timeframe allows you to determine aerial stability. After this, you can start flying the drone.
- Avoid Aggression: Do not fly your drone aggressively. Pushing your buttons sharply reduces the room you have to make adjustments during flights. Also, try the controls gently, so you can make changes if needed.
- Reverse: Never fly your drone in reverse. Flying your drone in reverse increases the probability of collision and can cause a severe crash. Move your drone in a forward direction at all times.
Taking Care Of Your Drone
Taking proper care of your drone ensures its durability and long-term functionality. This is why you must accept its maintenance very seriously. Following these tips, you can ensure that your aircraft is in good condition at all times.
- Pre-Light Check: The pre-flight check, as listed above, is not only necessary for great flying but also to ensure the longevity of the drone as well. This is because a pre-flight check reduces the chances of anything going wrong with your drone. Some of the things to check out before flying are obstacles, people, and animals. It would help if you kept out of the way of objects like telephone lines and ropes, particularly as a rookie flyer. These objects can get in the form of your drone and cause unwanted trouble. The ultrasound of drones usually triggers animals making them uneasy. This is something that you want to avoid when flying; stay out of areas that have animals. You should also pass in a secure zone without crowds of people; some of the reasons for this are discussed above. It would help if you even remembered to hover your drone for at least 30 seconds before taking off, as this enables you to access the environment entirely.
- Keep Your Batteries Safe: The batteries are the lifeline of your drone, and any trouble with them can send your drone crashing down through the sky. Do not use your batteries for other gadgets except your drones. As soon as you spot any problems with your batteries, stop their usage. Only fly your drone with full batteries. Ensure to remove the batteries from your drone when it is not in use. This helps you prevent battery problems when you finally decide to fly. Also, it is essential always to keep an eye on your battery status when flying. Individual batteries have been known to last a shorter period in cold weather. All in all, I always have spare batteries to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.
- Have A Bag: Many people overlook the importance of having a backpack or case for flying. This is a wrong mentality, as a bag helps you keep your drone and other gears safe. It also allows you to move smarter when flying. Spare batteries and other tools can be easily contained in your bag.
- Weather: Flying your drone consistently in bad weather has a long-lasting effect on it, significantly cutting down its durability. Try as much as you can to avoid flying if there is strong wind, rain, fog, lightning, or snow. Your vision will be impaired with these conditions, and there is a risk of crashing your drone.
- Update Your Software Regularly: The software is the gateway between you and your drone. As such, it is essential to keep your software updated at all times to avoid any malfunctioning from your drone. Manufacturers frequently update the software to take out bugs and add new features, so be sure to keep your software up to date.
- Clean Your Drone: Clean your drone regularly, taking care of the motors and the body. With a soft brush, you can take out the dirt on the engine, while a soft, damp cloth will take care of the aircraft's body.
- Look After Your Propellers: Your propellers are essential for your drone, and it is necessary to look after them. Always examine them to check for chips or dents. In the case of any defects, contact a professional to fix them.
- Contact A Professional In Case of Any Defects: Your drone is an aircraft that requires proper care. This is why you should leave all repairs to a professional. If you notice anything wrong with your drone's core parts, contact a professional instead of trying to fix it. Doing that will help you prevent causing more severe and potentially long-lasting damages to your aircraft.
Flying your drone is an enjoyable experience when you follow the rules and pass within the regulated height.
If you follow all the needed precautions you will have an enjoyable law-abiding experience every time. Always making sure you are not using your drone to invade someone's privacy, in the same way, you would not like to have that done to you, it's all about respecting others, in the same way we would want to be respected.
Also, avoid no-fly or no-drone zones that are clearly marked, maintain your drone in your line of sight and you are not able to see your drone make sure you have features that allow the drone to return to its launch location.
Remember to never fly your drone above 400 feet and before using it for commercial purposes get registered with the F.A.A., respecting these guidelines among other ordinances of the same sort are key drone usage etiquette.
Practice all the tips discussed above, and you can be sure to be a pro in no time. Taking care of your drone is as essential as flying it properly, so take note of the maintenance tips above and practice them regularly.
Shawn Manaher loves to play with new toys and dive into new hobbies. As a serial entrepreneur, work definitely comes first but there is always room for hobbies.