FAA launches campaign targeting rookie drone pilots

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The FAA has launched a campaign to promote safety around unmanned drone flights (Photo: Nick Lavars/Gizmag)

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If you were gifted a drone for Christmas, then the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has you in its sights. It may not be in the form of long-awaited laws for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are due later this year, but is a campaign directed at rookie pilots whose expertise may be outstripped by their unbridled enthusiasm.

With the increasing availability of cheap and feature-packed drones, these aircraft have become the ideal stocking-fillers this festive season. The danger is the potential for swarms of drones taking to skies across the US, controlled by people who mightn't have such a great handle on how to use them.

The FAA is continuing to work away on new regulations to keep all these flying vehicles in check, but in the meantime it has teamed up with UAV organizations and hobby groups to launch Know Before You Fly, a public awareness campaign promoting its already existing rules. Primarily, this means keeping the drone within sight, not flying it over 400 ft (122 m), conducting routine inspections of the craft, keeping clear of manned aircraft and notifying airports or control towers if flying within 5 miles (8 km).

The FAA has attracted criticism for its slow progress in revamping rules for what is a new era in unmanned flight. It remains illegal to fly UAVs for commercial purposes unless granted permission from the agency, a roadblock that has seen some private firms promise to take their operations overseas.

But Know Before You Fly is at least an acknowledgement of the sharp uptake in the number of drones taking to the skies and expresses a desire to inform and cooperate with budding pilots. The campaign will incorporate a website, educational materials offered at the point-of-sale, along with digital and social media campaigns.

"We are proud to be partnering with AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International), AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) and the Small UAV Coalition in spreading the word about ways to fly safely and responsibly,” says FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We often say that safety is a shared responsibility. The ‘Know Before You Fly’ campaign allows us to harness the resources and expertise of industry as we strive to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.”

While a strong dash of common sense should stop you running into too much trouble with your freshly unwrapped drone, the agency has also produced a short educational video that can be viewed below.

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