By Sam Agger
The potential applications for drone technology are only just now starting to be explored. The technology behind drones and other robotic applications have far surpassed the current usage; in fact, there are devices just waiting for someone to take the time to build and program.
While exploring the world of technology through drones is highly encouraged, doing so in a safe, legal manner will help to ensure favorable laws and public opinion in the years to come. Drones over 250g (.55lbs) are considered Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) and are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Drones are a great piece of technology that we are just starting to explore here on campus,” said engineering department chair Rick Bsharah, a robotics enthusiast. “With the right funding, [Cape Cod Community College] could have a very competitive drone program.”
Of course, there is a general set of guidelines that one must follow in order to safely and legally operate a drone.
First, one must obtain a Hobbyist Remote Pilot license and register each drone through the FAA website to fly under a hobby license. A part 107 Commercial Drone Operator license is needed to fly a drone for commercial purposes; the process of obtaining one is a bit more involved and costly. Drone licensing operators get to choose which license they use for every flight, but they must remain under 400 feet AGL (above ground level).
A spotter is also recommended for hobby and required for commercial, meaning operators must have a second person with them. They should also avoid flying over crowds of people or moving vehicles, a 25-foot clearance is recommended.
“We encourage people to bring their drones to school if they like,” said 4Cs Chief of Police Maria Padilla. “We have tech programs here on campus, all we ask is that they come to the campus police office to get permission before flying.”
Operators must register all indoor and outdoor flights within five miles of any airports with the FAA through the B4Ufly app or by phone and must also notify the air traffic control tower of each airport. There are two airports within five miles of 4Cs, making on-campus flights more of a hassle.
Other common-sense restrictions include not flying in a dangerous manner or under the influence of drugs and alcohol and respecting the privacy and quiet enjoyment of others.
Cape Cod National Seashore owns the majority of the oceanside beach property on Cape Cod, including most ponds. They have a blanket ‘no fly zone’ in all national parks. A commercial pilot may obtain a waiver for this and most of the other restrictions mentioned through the FAA.
Drones were banned from national parks after an incident in which a drone operator flew too close to rock climbers, causing one to fall to his death. It is important to follow all guidelines when operating a drone, not only for the safety of others, but because negative incidents can have very lasting effects on all operators wishing to fly legally.