Commercial Drones PilotsWith drone use booming, officials urge new operators to be safe while flying

November 5, 2021by helo-10
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They capture video, deliver packages and someday might even transport people. Drones grow more popular each year, but with so many in the sky, flying safely is more important than ever.Drones seem to be becoming a part of everyday life.”It’s shocking just how many people are actually out flying,” said photographer W. Marc Bernsau.For photographers, a drone is another tool to capture the world.”I think if you ask most people if they could have a superpower, what would it be? And I think a lot of people would say flying,” Bernsau said. “So, this is, in a way, a way to do that.”Many commercial operators are required to be licensed drone pilots, so Bernsau turned to the University of New Hampshire Drone Academy, took four courses and got certified.”The UNH certificate proves that you know how to fly a drone safely, legally,” said Kyle Hirshkind, program manager for the UNH Drone Academy.UNH started its program in 2017.”We see people from every sort of industry come through the class nowadays, a lot of police officers, emergency response officials, real estate agents, retirees,” Hirshkind said.The Federal Aviation Administration estimates there are more than 865,000 drones registered in the United States. With the industry booming, UNH’s course grows more relevant each year, even though owning a drone can be costly.”For something like this with the kit and everything else, spare batteries, everything that you’d need, probably about $3,000,” said flight instructor Jim Cloutier.Cloutier said drone delivery is a part of life now, and it’s changing how crews respond to emergencies.”You can take this unit out and prep it and launch it in less than five minutes, so you can have it up in the air for search-and-rescue or something like that,” he said.Drones that weigh between 0.55 pounds up to 55 pounds have to be registered with the FAA. Heavier drones are considered commercial drones and are regulated differently.”You now have a camera that can go ahead and fly in areas that you typically can’t go, and you always have to ask yourself that question: ‘OK, I can fly there, but should I fly there?'” Cloutier said.One place you shouldn’t fly is at the airport. According to the FAA, there have been five drone sightings near airports this year in Manchester and Nashua. There were three last year and eight in 2019.”Nationally, yes, there’s an uptick,” said Ted Kitchens, director of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. “Here locally? It’s about the same.”The restricted airspace extends five miles around Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. That includes Londonderry Town Hall to the north end of Manchester to the western shore of Lake Massabesic.”We haven’t had any issues where it’s interrupted operations,” Kitchens said. “Most of our reported sightings come from pilots, and then we pass that along to local law enforcement, who go and try to find the operator.”Illegal use around airports, airplanes and helicopters could lead to fines or criminal charges. Manchester Airport doesn’t have a drone detection system, but as they become available, officials said they’ll look into it.”I highly encourage everybody to download one of the many apps that are out there,” Kitchens said. “The one I use is ‘Before You Fly.’ It will tell you if you are in a restricted airspace.”Drone technology is taking off, even into vehicles. Cloutier said flying taxis might be in our future.”So, ‘The Jetsons’ is coming soon,” he said.

They capture video, deliver packages and someday might even transport people. Drones grow more popular each year, but with so many in the sky, flying safely is more important than ever.

Drones seem to be becoming a part of everyday life.

“It’s shocking just how many people are actually out flying,” said photographer W. Marc Bernsau.

For photographers, a drone is another tool to capture the world.

“I think if you ask most people if they could have a superpower, what would it be? And I think a lot of people would say flying,” Bernsau said. “So, this is, in a way, a way to do that.”

Many commercial operators are required to be licensed drone pilots, so Bernsau turned to the University of New Hampshire Drone Academy, took four courses and got certified.

“The UNH certificate proves that you know how to fly a drone safely, legally,” said Kyle Hirshkind, program manager for the UNH Drone Academy.

UNH started its program in 2017.

“We see people from every sort of industry come through the class nowadays, a lot of police officers, emergency response officials, real estate agents, retirees,” Hirshkind said.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates there are more than 865,000 drones registered in the United States. With the industry booming, UNH’s course grows more relevant each year, even though owning a drone can be costly.

“For something like this with the kit and everything else, spare batteries, everything that you’d need, probably about $3,000,” said flight instructor Jim Cloutier.

Cloutier said drone delivery is a part of life now, and it’s changing how crews respond to emergencies.

“You can take this unit out and prep it and launch it in less than five minutes, so you can have it up in the air for search-and-rescue or something like that,” he said.

Drones that weigh between 0.55 pounds up to 55 pounds have to be registered with the FAA. Heavier drones are considered commercial drones and are regulated differently.

“You now have a camera that can go ahead and fly in areas that you typically can’t go, and you always have to ask yourself that question: ‘OK, I can fly there, but should I fly there?'” Cloutier said.

One place you shouldn’t fly is at the airport. According to the FAA, there have been five drone sightings near airports this year in Manchester and Nashua. There were three last year and eight in 2019.

“Nationally, yes, there’s an uptick,” said Ted Kitchens, director of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. “Here locally? It’s about the same.”

The restricted airspace extends five miles around Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. That includes Londonderry Town Hall to the north end of Manchester to the western shore of Lake Massabesic.

“We haven’t had any issues where it’s interrupted operations,” Kitchens said. “Most of our reported sightings come from pilots, and then we pass that along to local law enforcement, who go and try to find the operator.”

Illegal use around airports, airplanes and helicopters could lead to fines or criminal charges. Manchester Airport doesn’t have a drone detection system, but as they become available, officials said they’ll look into it.

“I highly encourage everybody to download one of the many apps that are out there,” Kitchens said. “The one I use is ‘Before You Fly.’ It will tell you if you are in a restricted airspace.”

Drone technology is taking off, even into vehicles. Cloutier said flying taxis might be in our future.

“So, ‘The Jetsons’ is coming soon,” he said.



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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.

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