Tag Archive for: consumer drone laws

What you should know before flying a drone in Southie!

With the first night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve falling on the same night, it’s very likely that we will all be awoken on the morning of December 26th by the sounds of many, many drones buzzing through the skies of Southie and all around Boston.

Google Trends lists drones in the top four items when people type in “I want to buy,” and according to The Motley Fool, consumer drone purchases during the course of the 2015 holiday season alone totaled 1 million drones. So it’s not much of a leap for us smart folks at Lighthouse to predict that this holiday season, drone purchases are really going to take off.

You too may be hoping to unwrap a drone this holiday season or maybe considering it as a gift for someone. However, bringing a new toy drone into your Southie home, apartment or condo, is kind of like getting a new puppy at the holidays. Initially, it’s just all squeals of joy, snapchats of the cute things your new pup can do, and laughing off the new holes in your socks. But quickly the honeymoon phase is over, and the realization sinks in that this new pet comes with a great deal of responsibility.  

Believe it or not your new toy drone is no different and there are some important things that Lighthouse Insurance would like to share with you about what it means to be a drone owner.

But first, why are we so invested in educating you about drones? It’s because this “toy” may actually have a critical affect on all our insured’s privacy and safety. Thus, we have made it our business to find out everything we can about being a safe drone owner and operator in Southie. Now, we are pleased to deliver this information to you, our neighbors.

The Facts About Owning And Operating A Drone In South Boston And Beyond

Why is this cool dream toy of yours starting to sound so serious? Let’s start with some information about drones that many new, and some longtime drone owners, may not fully understand:

  • The FAA does not differentiate between the drone you just bought as a gift and a commercial drone or one that is used for official purposes
  • Under the law your drone is actually an aircraft that you must register with the FAA to receive an operator’s license
  • When you fly your drone anywhere in our nation’s airspace, you automatically become part of the U.S. aviation system and you accept the same responsibility of operating your drone safely

These are, in themselves, some very sobering rules and regulations from the FAA. But you’re probably still feeling pretty confident you’re prepared for your new role as a drone pilot. Well, hold on a minute. Lighthouse wants to share another FAA regulation that is critical for all drone owners to understand but also very relevant to those of us living in Southie or around Boston.

No drone may fly within 5 miles of Logan Airport without notifying the airport operator and air traffic control tower. 

Yes, that’s a whole lot to think about before sending your toy drone out for a friendly fly around Castle Island. But it is critical for you to understand that you must stay away from restricted airspace, like flight paths at airports.

How do you stay on top of flight restrictions? The free FAA smartphone app, B4UFLY, can help you determine if you are operating near a restricted zone. It features a clear “status” indicator of your location, airspace restrictions, a planner mode for other areas, maps and much more.

There are just a few more general rules and regulations from the FAA that must be followed including that drone operators:

  • must be 17-years old
  • cannot fly over individuals who are not involved in flying the drone
  • must fly below 400 feet
  • must always maintain line of site with your drone

We apologize if you’re feeling suddenly dizzy from all of these laws and restrictions, and thinking what a scrooge Lighthouse is concerning drones. This is not to deter you from going out and getting the drone you’ve had on your wish list all year; rather, we are just trying to make sure that you don’t get in trouble over a toy.

More On Consumer Drone Laws 

Let’s go back to the new puppy example for a moment because we know that makes you smile. If you are a responsible, law-abiding pet owner, which we know you are, you will register your dog with the city of Boston, you will always keep your dog on a leash, you will make sure your dog is not a menace by making sure it doesn’t chase cars, the mailman or your neighbor, and, perhaps most important to the rest of us in Southie, you will clean up after your dog!

What happens if you don’t abide by these good owner principles? Well, in some cases, like not having a registration or walking off-leash, you may just be sited for unlawful behavior. But in other cases, like if said dog actually runs after someone, you are exposing yourself to much more significant risks and possible financial consequences.

Once again, your new status as toy drone pilot is strangely similar to that of being a new pet owner, because the number one action you should take is to register it with the FAA. If your drone weighs between 0.55 and 55 pounds and you have any plans to fly this device outdoors for hobby or recreation, this is an FAA requirement.

Many gift recipients will not realize this (just like many new pet owners have no idea what they are getting themselves into), so if you are giving a loved one the gift of a drone this year, Lighthouse Insurance recommends that you also provide the recipient clear direction on their responsibility to register and how to do this.

Here are a few tips on owning a drone that you may want to include with your gift:

  • Registration can be completed online here
  • Registration costs only $5 and is valid for three years
  • After you register, you will receive a certificate and an FAA registration number that must be marked on your drone
  • Always have your certificate with you when you fly your drone; print a hard copy or make it easy to pull up on your smartphone if needed

And while failing to register your dog or pick up their poop comes with somewhat inconsequential consequences, drone owners who fail to register their device can get slammed with one or more of the following:

  • a civil penalty of up to $27,500
  • a criminal fine of up to $250,000
  • imprisonment for up to three years.

Lighthouse Insurance strongly recommends you provide all of this important information along with your gift of a drone to ensure that the recipient can avoid crossing paths with the FAA.

How To Fly Your Drone Safely in Southie

You’re probably thinking, “Hey, if my neighbor John can fly his drone from the deck of his apartment, why can’t I? What could possibly go wrong?”

Well, because we are experienced insurance professionals, we are unfortunately aware of quite a few things.

For example, here are three headlines related to consumer drone flights gone awry:

  • Drone Crash! Breaks through window and hits guy in the head.  YouTube
  • Drone Crashes, Hits 2 People During Marblehead Parade.  CBSBoston.com
  • Kentucky man shoots down drone spying on 16-year-old daughter.  The Daily Dot

A drone can invade people’s privacy and cause serious bodily injury or property damage.

Whether your drone is 5lbs or 55lbs, imagine it losing battery charge at 400 feet and dropping straight down on your neighbor’s car, or worse, your neighbor. It’s going to feel like a brick when it hits and likely cause extensive damage or injury.

Your drone is also not immune to a cyber attack and today’s smart hackers can easily take control of your new toy for the purposes of stealing it or to simply cause some chaos in your neighborhood.

How can you make sure that all of your drone flights are smooth sailing? Once again we direct you to the FAA…you’re starting to sense a theme here, right? The FAA has created a very useful safety checklist that will help you fly safe, smart, and still have fun, whether you are a newly minted drone pilot or have been flying as a hobby for years. Lighthouse suggests you carefully go through this pre-flight checklist every time you plan to put your drone into the clear blue sky. Also, remember to regularly check for any updated safety guidelines on faa.gov/uas.

In addition, you may have noticed “No Drone Zone” signs cropping up around Southie – ironically, there’s one at that gorgeous new dog park at East First Street (Between M and O). Apparently, the buzzing sound of a drone doesn’t just drive moms crazy; dogs get very riled up as well and will chase a drone all day until they can catch it and destroy it.

But, despite the increasing no fly zones, there are still lots of great spaces in and around Boston that are easily accessible, a safe distance from airports, and as beautiful of a landscape as the dog park, including Magazine Beach, Fresh Pond, and John F. Kennedy Park at Harvard. No matter where you choose to fly your drone, always review local and state park ordinances and regulations before departure.

South Boston Drone Operators May Require Enhanced Insurance Coverage

Your insurance agent is an important person to contact at many stages of your life, like when you’re buying a home, expanding your family, or adding another driver. You can now add one more special event to that list …. when you buy a drone.

Sure, a toy drone isn’t really a momentous occasion compared to these other life events. However, remember that you are now much more than the owner of a drone; you have in your control a toy that is actually considered a plane by the FAA.

There’s no question drones are an exciting technology that can certainly enhance our lives in many ways, including providing your family with a fun hobby. However, the team at Lighthouse Insurance also wants to make sure you are aware of the risks and liability related to drone ownership and operation.

If you think a drone may be a brand new addition to your household this holiday season or in the future, then please call your Lighthouse agent. We will review your current policies to ensure that you have sufficient personal injury coverage under your home, condo or renters insurance policy or umbrella coverage to protect you should you have an unfortunate drone-related accident or claim against you. Contact us today or come see us at our very convenient West Broadway office.