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Muncey: Use common sense with drones

Realtors, like Russ Russell in Huntsville, are using drones for showing property. Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey has offered guidelines for using drones. CONTRIBUTED
Realtors, like Russ Russell in Huntsville, are using drones for showing property. Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey has offered guidelines for using drones. CONTRIBUTED

MADISON – Drones are now fact instead of science fiction. Many children and adventurous adults will receive a drone, quadcopter, multirotor or other unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as a Christmas gift.

Madison Police Department does not have jurisdiction over operation of the devices, but Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey reminds citizens of common sense rules and Federal regulations for UAV operation.

Do not fly a drone higher than 400 feet above ground level. General Aviation aircraft, except at take-off and landing, and special operations like crop dusting are supposed to fly no lower than 500 feet above ground level.

“Keeping your new multirotor at 400 feet and below provides a safe, 100-foot buffer between the two. For a small quadcopter, 400 feet is a long way up. You’ll need eagle-eyes to see it at that altitude,” Muncey said.

Do not fly over moving vehicles or people, especially in sports stadiums. Realize where it will crash and what damage or injury can result if a motor or propeller were to fail.

Always maintain visual line-of-sight with the drone. Flying with First-Person-Video screens or goggles is acceptable, but have an assistant within voice range.

“Don’t fly within five miles of an airport without contacting the airport’s control tower,” Muncey said. “Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations.”

Drone users should avoid firefighter zones, agricultural areas, law enforcement operations and emergency situations. In these scenarios, crewed aircraft may be flying at very low altitudes.

“Don’t fly in adverse weather conditions, such as high winds, rain or fog,” Muncey said.

Drone operators should not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“Don’t fly over sensitive areas, like jails, government facilities and power stations,” Muncey said. “Also avoid flying near powerful radio transmitters, such as cell phone towers (that) can overwhelm a quadcopter’s electronics.”

Do not photograph people in areas with “an expectation of privacy” without the person’s permission. “Don’t be careless or reckless with your vehicle. Let only responsible adults or careful children fly them,” Muncey said.

For more information, visit knowbeforeyoufly.org/for-recreational-users or faa.gov/uas/model_aircraft.

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