9 Frequently Asked Drone Questions

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Phantom 4 Drone closeup

With 117,000,000 results for “drones” on google, we’re willing to bet our Mavic Pro that you’ve heard at least something about them. And, if you’ve read our drone industry trends blog post, then you know that drones aren’t just a fad.

But, if you still have questions about drones don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’ve created this blog post to answer the most frequently asked questions people have about drones.

1. What is a drone?

An unmanned aircraft system (UAS), commonly known as a drone, is defined by the Federal Aviation Administration as “an aircraft that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.”

Basically, a drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that flies by itself without an onboard pilot. Drones can be flown autonomously or with a remote control.

2. How long have drones been around for?

Although it seems that drones are a new technology, they have actually been around since the late 1800s. In 1898, at a Madison Square Garden exhibit, Nikola Tesla displayed a small unmanned boat that changed direction using radio frequencies.

The Kettering Aerial Torpedo, a biplane with a range of about 75 miles, took its first flight two decades later in 1918. The Kettering Torpedo was also known as the “Kettering Bug”.

In 1940, the United States military purchased 15,000 radio-controlled target drones to train men for World War II.

3. How big are drones?

Drones have a wide range of sizes. The smallest drone has about a 2-inch radius (unless you count this dragonfly drone) and the largest drone has a 130-foot wingspan.

4. What are drones used for?

There are many different uses for drones and people come up with new ideas every day. Drones are used by consumers, the military, and commercial industries. In 2016, some of the top uses for included aerial photography, construction, and public safety.

Aerial Photography
Television and movies
Real estate marketing

Infrared roofing inspections
Project site monitoring
Mapping and modeling

Public Safety
Search and rescue using thermal imaging
Crime scene investigations
Assess source of fires

5. How high can drones fly?

The altitude a drone is capable of flying depends on the type of drone you buy. For example, the DJI Inspire 1 can fly up to about 14,000 feet and the DJI Matrice 600 can fly up to about 8,000 feet.

However, although drones are capable of flying thousands of feet in the air, the FAA only allows pilots to fly up to 400 feet without a waiver.

6. How long can drones fly for?

Flight time for most commercial drones on the market ranges from about 15 to 35 minutes.

7. Is learning to fly a drone hard?

The difficulty level of learning to fly a drone varies depending on the person and what type of drone they are flying. For example, if a person has great sensorimotor skills and hand-eye coordination, then learning to fly a drone may not seem very difficult to them.

In addition, learning to fly a high-end drone may be easier then learning to fly on a cheaper drone. This is because more expensive drones usually have many built-in flight assistance features. For example, the DJI Matrice 200 series has 20 sensors to help with obstacle avoidance.

It’s always a good idea to participate in a drone training program to learn how to safely fly a drone.

8. What do I need to do to be able to fly my drone commercially?

You must meet specific pilot and aircraft requirements to legally fly a commercial drone in the United States.

Remote Pilot requirements:
Be at least 16 years old
Pass Transportation Security Administration (TSA) vetting
Have Remote Pilot Airman Certificate with a small UAS rating

UAS requirements:
Weigh less than 55 pounds
Registered if over 0.55 pounds
Undergo pre-flight check to make sure UAS is safe to fly

9. Are there any rules for flying a drone commercially?

Yes, the FAA has specific operating rules for commercial UAS flying. However, you can apply for a waiver to fly your drone outside the scope of these rules.

Operating rules:
UAS must be in visual line-of-sight
Must fly under 400 feet
Only fly during the day
Cannot fly faster than 100 mph
Must yield right of way to manned aircraft
Do not fly over people
Do not fly from a moving vehicle

That wraps up the 9 most frequently asked drone questions. If you still have more questions, tweet them to us using the hashtag #PlanetAnswers.