Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2017
SALINA, KAN. – With unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, a popular gift item this past holiday season and beyond, the unmanned aircraft systems program on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus has five essential tips to help hobbyists fly safely.
Started almost 10 years ago, the Kansas State Polytechnic UAS program has made safe operations the cornerstone of its classroom curriculum, research and flight instruction. And with the Federal Aviation Administration estimating the number of small unmanned aircraft purchased by hobbyists in 2016 to reach 1.9 million, Kansas State Polytechnic wants to provide beginner drone operators with the important basics of proper use and safety.
Spencer Schrader, a student in the UAS program and a flight instructor, says safe operations are a necessary focus for every unmanned pilot, from hobbyist to student to professional, because the industry is still developing, which means untested technology and ever-evolving guidelines.
The first rule for hobbyists to remember is that the FAA requires them to register their aircraft. All drones that weigh between .55 pounds to 55 pounds — even those purchased for recreational use only — must be catalogued on registermyuas.faa.gov. It only costs $5 and takes about 10 minutes, which could save hundreds of dollars in fines.
Next, the aircraft’s batteries should be fully charged before flying. This will not only give hobbyists the longest flights possible with their drones, but it will also prevent the battery’s charge from dropping below 20 percent.
Kansas State Polytechnic’s third tip is centered on avoiding an air-to-air collision. Hobbyists should never fly within 5 miles of an airport unless prior authorization has been obtained from both the control tower and the airport manager. Hobbyists also should always maintain visual contact with their aircraft.
The final safety tip is to remove the propellers when powering the aircraft indoors. For example, if you are working on the aircraft or conducting software updates while inside, it may require you to apply power to the aircraft. If you accidentally bump the throttle on the controller or transmitter, it may cause the propellers to begin spinning, putting yourself and anyone else in the room at risk of serious injury.
Kansas State Polytechnic’s “Tips for Drone Safety” can also be viewed in a video version, https://youtube/cRr4bgPh-OM.
Kansas State Polytechnic, which is recognized as having the No. 2 UAS program in the nation by Drone Training HQ, offers a bachelor’s degree with two focus areas — UAS flight and operations and UAS design and integration — as well as a UAS minor. Companies can attend professional development courses focused on multirotor and fixed-wing operations through the UAS program and become a certified remote pilot in command in the Part 107 course offering.