Pace: the agreements with ourselves that promote drone safety

What if you buy your teenager a drone? What responsibilities does owning a drone entail? What are the rules for operating drones? Did you know drones are prohibited from operating during emergency rescue operations?

Julie Pace

Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert and the American Coalition of Public Safety committee recognize evolving technology offers opportunities for fun, but technology also can result in safety issues that individuals need to be aware of and avoid.

Because drone technology and its impact in communities is still relatively new, some issues have surfaced and ACOPS wants to educate parents and drone users to avoid tragedies.

ACOPS Committee member Larry Fink explained his approach to drones as he wrote a drone agreement for his son to review and sign before his son was provided the opportunity to own and operate a drone.

FAA Regulations and Dos and Dont’s of Operating Recreational Drones:

  1. Do not operate around emergency response operations (fires, rescues, etc)
  2. Yield right of way to manned aircraft (helicopters, planes).
  3. Never fly near other aircraft.
  4. Never fly over groups of people.
  5. Never fly over stadiums or sports events.
  6. Keep drones in sight.
  7. Fly at or below 400 feet.
  8. Notify airport and air traffic control tower before flying within 5 miles of an airport.
  9. Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol (including prescription drugs).
  10. Register with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) if over 55 lbs.
  11. Registration costs $5 and is valid for 3 years.
  12. To facilitate a safe return, label drone with FAA registration number.
  13. Registrants generally must be 13 years of age or older.
  14. Registrants must be a US citizen or legal permanent resident.
  15. Registrants must follow community-based safety guidelines.
  16. Registrants must read and understand safety guidelines.
  17. Recreational means flying for enjoyment, and not for work or pay.
  18. Must not operate in any National Parks to avoid harming visitors, interfering with rescue operations, causing excessive noise, impacting viewsheds, or disturbing wildlife.

Flying for work has its own set of very specific rules that must be followed, including flying under 400 feet, flying in daylight only, must not fly over people, must not fly from a moving vehicle, maintaining visual contact of drone, passing TSA vetting, securing a Remote Pilot Certificate, and more.

A full list of the commercial requirements can be found at Part 107 of the FAA regulations. Technical term for drones is Unmanned Aircraft System.

FAA fines range from $1,000 to $10,000 per incident.

Obviously, there are courtesy and etiquette rules for operating drones. For example, drones should not be operated in other people’s backyards or at night looking into other people’s residences. Avoid invasion of privacy claims by being respectful.

Recently, conflicts have emerged when individuals are operating drones around emergency rescue operations. One recent incident involved a construction worker who had fallen from the roof of a building in Case Grande. The evacuation helicopter was delayed and could not land because an adult sent a drone up to film the emergency rescue operations.

Delays in providing medical services and evacuation can cause harm and even death to others. Drone operators need to fly responsibly.

In July, the response to Burro Fire in the mountains near Tucson was adversely impacted by drone incursion. Many individuals came toward the fire to fly drones and capture it on film, but they prevented aircraft from dropping flame retardant or water. Logistically, drones are causing new issues and distractions for emergency rescue operations.

Drones are heavy and can cause harm as an overhead hazard, especially when they fall to the ground. Stories are told of those who have found other people’s drones on their property. OSHA requires hardhats when an overhead hazard exists on construction sites to protect workers from falling items that are smaller and weigh less than a drone.

A drone that is 8 to 12 pounds in weight can fall and kill someone. When operating drones, be cautious and aware of the dangers of a drone falling and harming others or damaging property.

Similar to drivers pulling over to the right side of the road when they observe and hear the sirens of emergency rescue vehicles in operation, all individual needs to have the same awareness when it comes to operating drones during emergency operations. Resist the urge to operate a drone during emergencies.

Down drones during disasters or rescues!

Editor’s note: Ms. Pace is a member of Paradise Valley Town Council

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