As drones soar in popularity, so do safety concerns

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As drones become more common, safety and regulation increase in importance.

They fly like choppers, hum like bees, and make adults feel like kids again.

Drones - more formally known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) - are gaining prominence for both recreational and commercial use. Beginners can use drones to race, take overhead pictures or just have fun. Experts can fly them for surveying agriculture, public safety and construction, among other industries.

"You may think it's a toy," Steve Abbott with NCDOT told ABC11. "It's a toy that can do bad things sometimes."

The drone might own the room, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) owns the skies. With drones soaring in popularity, the NCDOT on Wednesday reiterated its concerns about drone safety, and reminded pilots of all ages to respect the laws regulating them.

"We need people to be careful," Abbott explained. "We don't need drones buzz-bombing roadways or running into buildings or causing problems for other things in the air."

There are laws on the books for those who fly drones for hobbies and who fly drones for work, and a number of the same rules apply:

  • Always fly below an altitude of 400 feet, and fly within your direct line of sight.

  • Be aware of FAA airspace requirements.

  • Do not fly near stadiums, public events, or directly over people.

  • Do not fly near aircraft, especially near airports.

  • Do not fly near emergency response efforts such as fires or hurricane recovery efforts.

  • Do not fly for compensation.

  • Do not fly at night.

  • Do not fly a UAS/drone that weighs more than 55 pounds.


For commercial users, there are even more regulations.

The person operating a small UAS must either hold a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating or be under the direct supervision of a person who does hold a remote pilot certificate (remote pilot in command).

RELATED: North Carolina commercial terms of use

Commercial operators must take and pass NCDOT's UAS Knowledge Test and then apply for a state permit.

To obtain a permit, operators must provide the state proof of their remote pilot certificate or other authorization to conduct commercial UAS operations from the FAA.

Additionally, nearly all drone users must register their drones with the FAA.

For more information about drones use in North Carolina, click here.

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