The FAA controls the airspace above your lawn! However, the question of who owns the skies remains murky at local government levels. Rules & regulations for operating a drone differ greatly between a hobbyist and commercial operator. Drones, some smaller than a human hand, are used in many industries and show great promise for positive contributions to search & rescue and crisis response. WHAT IS A DRONE? Per the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a drone is an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers. While most of have seen large military drones, modern hobbyist and commercial drones can be as small as the human hand. RULES & REGULATIONS. The FAA ultimately controls airspace and delegates some degree of monitoring and enforcement of airspace to local governments. Per Preston, local governments might pass “over-reaching” laws to limit where drones can fly. These laws could by superseded by FAA regulations which allow a drone operator to fly over his property or neighborhood. Preston notes that common sense is key to limiting nuisances or compromising safety. WHERE CAN’T I FLY? Preston noted that Federal parks are off limits. Prisons, nuclear power plants and hospitals often are “no fly zones” and additionally protected by a geo-fence barrier. However, electronic barriers are not yet robust enough to impede penetration by all drones. A commercial drone pilot can fly in most “restricted” areas if he obtains permission from the FAA or other site authority to fly in that vicinity. DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HOBBY OR COMMERCIAL DRONE OPERATION. A commercial drone pilot has obtained extensive training and understanding restricted airspaces and flight traffic near airports. In addition, a commercial pilot can charge for drone services, such as aerial photography. WHAT IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG? Drones identify their position in space from 17-18 satellite signals. This information can be combined with GPS and various sensors, such as frontal collision. When a drone loses guidance signals or has depleted power, it will aim to return to a point of origin or else land. The drone is often in the sight of the operator. AMAZING USE OF DRONES! A decade ago, drones were associated with military use. Today, drones survey agriculture crops, inspect wind turbine towers, infrared scan fire scenes, examine bridges, obtain aerial photography for special events, participate in search and rescue and even deploy a flotation device to someone struggling to swim! Drones are immune to radiation or chemical pollutants that limit human rescues. A drone does not have emotion, bias or fatigue. It can operate at full efficiency until it requires a fresh set of batteries and then can be back flying in mere minutes. HOW ABOUT THE MILITARY & DRONES? Drones are an increasing component of the military’s surveillance and weaponry units. In recent tests, several small drones were released from a military aircraft and then the drones identified their locations in space and relative to each other and began to fly as one large network – something we sometimes see in the behavior of birds. By the way, eagles have been trained to pluck nefarious drones from the skies! FOLLOW. DR. PERRODIN: On Twitter @SafetyPhD and subscribe to “The Safety Doc” YouTube channel & SoundCloud RSS feed. DR. PERRODIN'S SAFETY BLOG: SAFETY DOC WEBSITE: David will respond to discussion thread comments & emails. The Safety Doc Podcast is hosted & produced by David Perrodin, PhD. ENDORSEMENTS. Opinions are those of the host & guests and do not reflect positions of The 405 Media or supporters of “The Safety Doc Podcast”. The show is curse free & adheres to nondiscrimination principles while seeking to bring forward productive discourse & debate on topics relevant to personal or institutional safety. Email David: Learn more about Preston Rice and his drone services at

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