Flying a drone? Rules to know before you take off

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The drone industry has propelled to record numbers. According to the Consumer Technology Association, more than 3.4 million units are expected sell this year.

If you're looking to use one as a hobby, or for business, there are some rules you need to abide by.

Zainil Kadiwal and Ali Dhukka with Droneforce Studios have advice for anyone thinking of purchasing one.

"You're supposed to register these drones with the FAA," Kadiwal explained.

Before you even turn it on, the FAA wants to know what you're flying. Small drones weighing less than .55 pounds do not have to be registered. Those weighing more than .55 pounds are required to be registered.

Also, you cannot just fly anywhere. Depending how close you are to an airport, you may not even be allowed to fly -- even if it's in your own backyard.

"Any airport, regardless of their class, every pilot should be wary of them," Kadiwal said.

Whether you're flying drones as a hobby, or commercially for real estate imagery or even wedding photography, you need to be aware of the airspace you're in. Also, you're not allowed to climb higher than 400 feet.

For the hobbyist, there are apps that alert you if you're in a restricted area.

If you're flying for business, there is extensive testing you need to go through. The testing includes knowledge of weather, safety, aviation and pilot terminology.

For those not familiar with drones, certified pilots want you to know they're not spying on you.

"It's understandable for you to be suspicious," Dhukka said.

If you see one flying extremely high above, there's no need to be alarmed. The people on the ground will appear quite small in the video. However, if it becomes too close for comfort, what do you do?

"What the FAA recommends is that you contact your local authorities, because they can be on-site a lot quicker and they can address the issue," Dhukka said.

Restrictions do not allow drones to fly over crowds, stadiums and sporting events. Some government buildings, such as the Texas State Capitol, are also restricted. If you're going to fly over private property, it's advised to get permission from the property owner if hovering below 200 feet.

It's always important to check with local privacy laws as well.

If you see a drone flying in your area, never disrupt its flight, or knock it down.

"It's actually a felony. The FAA treats these drones as an aircraft," Kadiwal explained.

"That drone could be collecting data for the city. That drone could be on a search and rescue mission. That drone could be inspecting a building for leaks," Dhukka said.

Bottom line, they're highly regulated by the FAA and they're here to stay.

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