I was recently live on WIVK radio talking with Bob Jones about common public misconceptions about drones. It was a lot of fun, but it once again highlighted how society struggles to keep up with what is happening today. I was pleased to be his “expert,” as he was delighted to call me. But I’m just a drone pilot who does it for a living; you’ll want to check yourself as I’m not associated with the FAA, nor am I a lawyer.

Can drones fly over my house?

Just because you own a property doesn’t necessarily give you the mineral rights of whatever is under it. The federal government owns the airspace above your property, which is controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration. I’ve heard that where this airspace starts is up for legal debate but varies from just off the ground to how high we can reach. So, people who think they can shoot a drone “on” their property might be looking at a federal offense for firing on an aerial vehicle. If the drone is in unrestricted airspace or is authorized, it can fly over your property.

Can drones take photos of my kids?

Let’s start with the drone’s cameras. These drones almost always use wide-angle lenses to photograph big things, like skylines, buildings, and mountainscapes. So, people are typically not identifiable unless the drone is flying close enough for you to worry that it might hit you. Planes have had authorization to photograph for a long time. It revolves around an “expectation of privacy.” It is illegal for them to take pictures of anyone through your windows. But surprisingly, I’ve heard that behind fences is fair game.

Can I just buy a drone and take off?

The laws on this keep changing. At the moment, if your drone weighs over 0.55 lbs., you have to register and tag it, take a test, always keep a line of sight with the drone, fly under 400 ft above ground level, not interfere with other aerial vehicles, and not fly in restricted airspace, as well as a few other things. You can read all about it at the FAA’s website here. To gain compensation for flying, you have to get certified, which takes a much harder test and involves additional restrictions, which can be found here. I am unaware of any requirements for drones weighing under 0.55 lbs. at this time.

Are they easy to crash?

It depends on how much you spend and what style you get. The tiny ones are made to bounce off your TV sets. Then you get into a fragile group that doesn’t have a lot of tech to help you fly. Once you get up to the $600 – $800 range, they start getting very easy to fly. They can take off themselves, land themselves, have collision avoidance cameras, and other crazy stuff. FPV or First Person View drones can be a whole different game that is much more squirrelly.

If you are interested in getting a drone, there are a lot of resources out there. If you want to really jump into it, great education can be found at the Pilot Institute. They do not pay me to say this, but they are very active in educating and supporting the drone community.

Bob and I talked for quite a while, which surprised me. I’m not sure if I was doing such a great job or if their next segment fell through! We also discussed increased drone use in search and rescue, military, and even light shows! Tech is moving so quickly, I hope you get a drone, stay safe, and have a blast with it!