How to use drones safely and legally

(WWBT) - The Federal Aviation Administration expects one million Americans will receive drones as gifts this holiday season. If you get one, there are safety and legal guidelines you need to know.

Daryl Watkins of Creative Dog Media has been creating videos with drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, for years and has some advice for new users. First, he says, new users will have to register with the FAA. "With a drone registry system, there would be a way to find out who flew the device and where it came from."

He also recommends following the FAA guidelines for safety, such as not flying a UAV weighing more than fifty-five pounds and keeping them within your sight in the air.

The FAA guidelines also say you shouldn't fly your UAV higher than 400 feet in the air and stay clear of other aircraft. "They need stay outside of a five mile radius of an airport," Watkins explains. "If they're going to be within a five mile radius of an airport, they need to let the air traffic control folks know they're going to fly there."

Don't fly over people or stadiums during sporting events. If you hurt someone or damage property, drone law attorney Tim Adelman with LeClairRyan says you can face FAA fines or be sued. "If you're flying one over a crowd in a park and it hurts somebody, you will be responsible for those injuries," Adelman says.

The FAA says stay out of restricted air spaces, such as the White House lawn and military bases. Mapbox offers an interactive map of airspaces closed to drones.

Also, flying into someone's backyard or filming through a window can get you into legal trouble. "There are some existing state laws about trespass or Peeping Tom laws that would give the private citizen opportunity to restrict or take action against someone using one inappropriately," Adelman says.

However, drone users say citizens shouldn't be overly concerned about privacy because most drone cameras can't zoom into windows from a distance.

"People think UAV's have these massive zoom lenses on them, and they think they're as quiet as a church mouse. That couldn't be further from the truth. They're pretty loud," Watkins says.

Follow the FAA guidelines, and drone users say the adventures of the wide blue yonder await you.

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