We discussed in our locations article what to look for in a flying site. That article was more concerned with the logistics of flying rather than anything else – basically what to look for in a location for the best possible flying experience. While we touched briefly on the safety aspects, we didn’t dive into the safety considerations to make when selecting a location.
While you want to find a location that allows you a lot of creativity to fly in, you want to consider some key safety factors while searching for that perfect spot. This article aims to give you some ideas on what to be aware of for your safety and the safety of others. This is by no means a complete list – we will work to keep this updated as new regulations or events come up. Similarly, if you have ideas that can help your fellow hobbyists remain safe in the field, feel free to add them to the comments section below. With that said, let’s get started!
Basics to watch out for in choosing a safe location
At the very least, you want to be aware of your surroundings. This sounds extremely obvious, but we constantly see articles, videos, and Reddit posts of people flying over incoming flight paths at airports, doing gravity rolls around power lines, etc. etc. While the world becomes your playground while using your quadcopter, one simple mistake can cause huge problems for yourself or others. We have compiled a basic list of things you should look out for:
Power lines: We feel this should be obvious, but it should be stated that flying around live power lines is a very bad idea. Walk the perimeter of your flying site to check for power lines or overhead wires before flying. Single power lines are hard to see using your eyes and near impossible to see in our video feeds. Doing a full perimeter check can help locate these obstacles before you hit them while airborne.
Private property: Having to go knock on someone’s door because you flew your quadcopter into their backyard will not make you any new friends. Similarly, trying to copy the latest skitzo or Mr. Steele video and doing dives next to office buildings and accidentally breaking a window could land you with a hefty repair bill or a ride in a police car. Be sure to have permission when flying around or on private property – especially commercial property.
People: Losing control of your quad and hitting someone could cost you dearly. Try to fly in a location where you can remain clear from crowds. Flying in a popular spot? Try and go during a time when less people are there and avoid high traffic times – immediately before and after working hours are usually the busiest in most locations. If you are looking to fly during those times, search out hidden spots where you can fly without a lot of foot traffic below.
Airports: 5 mile radius. No questions, no excuses. Similarly, following the FAA rules – stay within line of sight (or as close as possible), don’t fly above 400 ft., etc. While these rules are more or less common sense to ensure safe operation, you should remember you can get into trouble if you are reported.
For more detail on the FAA rules when flying your quadcopter, check out the FAA site here.
Water: Electronics and water don’t mix. If you are flying anywhere near an area with open water areas, be careful. Losing your quad in a lake could make it near impossible to recover. I suppose at that point it would be considered littering right?
Battery / Fire Safety
Our quadcopters use powerful batteries. While for the most part crashes and random parts breaking are part of the hobby, having a battery swell and possibly ignite could be devastating depending on where you are flying. If you fly in dry areas that are basically big tinder boxes (hello Southern California!) you should take precautions when choosing your area depending on the type of flying you are going to undertake. If you are performing big flips with the potential of slamming your quad battery side down, you probably don’t want to do so in a field ready to go up if just a spark hits it. Obviously Lipo batteries exploding are not a common occurrence, but it is something to always be aware of. One recommendation if flying in fire prone locations is to have a fire extinguisher on hand in case of an emergency. It is also worth noting that you don’t want to use your fire extinguisher on a LiPo battery if it explodes (unless you have a chemical fire extinguisher). You will just end up wasting the extinguisher. Let the battery burn out, and then use the extinguisher.
This was something that surprised me when starting out, but in hindsight should have been obvious. Dogs love chasing quadcopters. If you fly anywhere near dogs, especially herding dogs, they will go nuts trying to follow your quadcopter. This is especially a problem if you are flying in a park where the owner is playing with their dog off leash. Your quad will be way more interesting that the tennis ball that their owner is throwing, and they will chase the former rather than the latter. Be on the lookout for dogs when flying, and if you attract one, try and either quickly fly to a different location or land near your position and grab your quad before the dog reaches it. You don’t want to have your quad become a dog’s new chew toy and you probably don’t want Fido to become closely introduced to a bunch of spinning propellers. For more info on interacting with dog owners (in my experience it has happened quite frequently), check out our interacting with the public article.
While this somewhat falls into the area of legality versus safety, be sure to check local laws and regulations before getting airborne. There might be safety issues in your area that are not immediately apparent that prevent flying and may put you into legal trouble by failing to follow them. First step would be to check your city’s website to access local ordinances. Similarly, you can contact your local police department for more information. If all else fails, try Google or local forums to see if anything pops up.
Now that you have gone through all the work finding a flying site, don’t you want to keep it nice? Broken props are a staple of the hobby. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone complete a day of aggressive flying without breaking at least one prop. While this might be a bit of a stretch in terms of a safety issue, leaving broken props at parks and fields is just bad form. Do what you can to police the leftover shards and bits of plastic at the end of the day.
In conclusion – fly safe!
Hopefully this helps give you some ideas on things to look for while flying. As we have said many times throughout this website, you are a steward of the community while flying and should aim to keep yourself and others safe! Your actions speak for the rest of the community, and failing to abide safety regulations make us all look bad.
Did we miss anything here that we should add to the list? Definitely let us know in the comments below!