5 Drone Etiquette Tips

Drones are growing in popularity for agricultural use and recreation. Aerial imaging can help farmers get insights into crop health and create early management plans. This can be extremely beneficial in Wisconsin where seasonal weather patterns aren’t always the same year-to-year. A wet spring and warm fall one year could be the opposite the next which could disrupt growing patterns. 

Regulations can be everchanging to keep up with advancing technology, including rules around flying drones. Following proper drone etiquette will help you get successful footage without causing a disturbance to others. Madison Area Drone Service co-founder Preston Rice has tips for being a polite pilot.  

1. Understand the rules  

Remember when you got your driver’s license? Just like you need to know the basic rules and regulations of the road, you need to know the rules and regulations of the air, too. Many states and municipalities have rules and policies that govern the use of drones. These guidelines teach you to be a knowledgeable and safe pilot. The literature will explain concepts including flight authority, air space classification, and how to prepare a launch site. The regulations also depend on your intended use such as recreational, business purposes (like farming), or as a government employee.  

The Federal Aviation Administration governs the air, and that means the “No Trespassing” sign at a neighboring farm doesn’t pertain to your flying drone. However, common courtesy does apply. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should, especially if it causes a disturbance or a hazard for others. When in doubt, follow the golden rule: treat others as you would want to be treated.  

2. Understand your drone operations 

Before flying outside, take your time to practice using the controls indoors to get familiar with your drone. This can help you be a more confident pilot and reduce accidents.  

Today’s drones have been improved with technology such as geofencing to help you stay out of trouble. Geofencing uses GPS to create virtual boundaries around physical locations. These boundaries can restrict or prevent drones from entering specific areas, such as restricted airspace or no-fly zones.  

3. Maintain visibility   

According to the FAA, drones must always maintain visual line of sight, meaning the pilot must be able to see the drone with their own eyes. Keeping the drone in sight makes sure your drone and surroundings are safe.  

4. Watch out below   

Be conscious of what you are flying over not to cause a disruption whether it’s livestock, your staff, or other farm activities.  

When flying a drone away from your farm, avoid flying over groups of people, stadiums and sporting events, or emergency response efforts, such as fires. Drones can be mistaken for other objects and cause uneasiness if it’s unexpected. It’s best to keep your distance and get approval before flying in public if necessary.  

5. Look at the weather forecast  

Operating any farm vehicle or machine in extreme weather can be dangerous, drones included. Avoid flying your drone during strong winds, heavy rain, snow, or thunderstorms. These conditions can make flying difficult and dangerous, leading to turbulence or a crash that could damage your expensive equipment. 

Accidents happen. Make sure you have proper insurance coverage for your drone. Talk to a local agent to get a drone insurance quote.