This past week the Reading Regional Airport held a Drone Safety presentation to educate the public on the proper way to operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Both hobbyist and commercial drone operators attended, some traveling from as far away as the Lehigh Valley and Chester County. Held in the terminal building, the two hour presentation was hosted by Zack Tempesco, Director of Operations for the airport, and John Fries of 610drone.com.
For those who didn’t attend the presentation, here is the run down. All users, recreational or commercial, must register their drones with the FAA, the cost is $5 (Toy drones under .55 lbs are exempt). Drones should be flown at or below 400 feet and must be within your line of sight. Operators must be aware of FAA airspace restrictions in the area they fly.
A few no-no’s include never flying near aircraft, (You must notify the tower if you fly within 5 miles of airport), never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people. Don’t fly near emergencies such as fires or storm recovery efforts, and (this should be obvious) never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
All of this seems restrictive right, you just bough it at Walmart… No matter where you purchased your drone, or how much you spent, Tempesco suggests the best place to start is joining a local model aircraft club. Clubs are for more than fixed wing model airplanes. Tempesco says many local clubs in Berks have drone flyers and are more than willing to help you learn the ropes.
For commercial or business operators like Fries, there is a similar, but different set of rules, known in the industry as Part 107. Commercial operators need to pass a knowledge test at an FAA Testing Center. You can learn more here: faa.gov/part107. Fries also mentioned during the presentation that flying commercially doesn’t always mean a transfer of cash. Anything not for recreational use, aka for fun, is considered commercial. The example given was: If your a Real Estate Agent who bought a drone for your own use to photograph your listings, its still considered commercial use.
As they say there’s an app for that. With the B4UFLY app you can check everything before you get started. Features include a planner for future flights in different locations, interactive maps with filtering options, and other FAA drone regulatory information. B4UFLY is available for free in the App Store and Google Play store.
Besides the app, another resource to check out is knowbeforeyoufly.org. Setup as an educational resource website founded by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics. The goal is to educate drone users about safety and current regulations.