More than 30,000 people own drones in the great state of North Carolina, and I expect the numbers are similar in lesser states and even higher in far superior states. There are probably quite a few drone owners in commonwealths, and at least a half dozen or so in territories.
That’s why drone safety is important, especially with the holidays approaching and even more drones set to be unwrapped and launched into the wild blue yonder on Christmas Day, according to Bobby Walston, aviation director for the N.C. Department of Transportation.
“It’s amazing how much can be done with a drone these days,” Walston told me. “We’ve just got to make sure everyone is aware that they’re more than just a toy and need to be flown responsibly.”
Bobby didn’t tell that exclusively to me. It was in a press release sent out to every newspaper scrambling to fill space. It goes something like this:
“We’ve got a hole to fill on page 8 and we’re all out of local copy, chief.”
“Great Caesar’s ghost! Find something to stick in there. I don’t care if it’s that drone press release or another monkey column.”
So, yeah, drone news is important.
As interim senior correspondent for small unmanned aircraft technology at this award-winning publication, I’ve put together the following Q&A to address some common queries from those who may be giving or receiving a drone this holiday season.
Q: Hey, Scott. Thanks for addressing my query, whatever that means. My little nephew B-Dawg (his real name is Brandon but he’s going through a phase where he wants to be called B-Dawg, and if we don’t he flops right down in the floor and pitches the worst fit you have ever seen with kicking and screaming and the spit just flying) asked me to buy him a drone for Christmas. Would this be an appropriate gift for a 10-year-old?
Answer: Yes, as long as Bran — uh, B-Dawg is a responsible young man who obeys the rules, a drone is a wonderful gift.
Q: What if he is an irresponsible young man who does not obey the rules and is a suspect in several outbuilding fires?
Answer: Then no, it would not be an appropriate gift.
Q: But I believe it could help him develop his entrepreneurial skills because he said he was going to fly it next door and secretly take pictures through the window when his teacher Ms. Tanner does yoga in her bedroom and sell the pictures on the internet. Shouldn’t we encourage young businessmen like B-Dawg?
Answer: Absolutely not. Drone operators must respect the privacy of others. An FAA fact sheet on drones says operators “cannot fly a small UAS over anyone not directly participating in the operation.”
Q: She’s a teacher not a doctor. She ain’t operating on anybody, she’s doing yoga. Let’s move along. I believe a drone will also develop B-Dawg’s kind and generous nature. He said his older cousin J-Dawg wants him to bring his new drone to the parking lot of the correctional institution and deliver him some care packages over the fence containing everyday necessities like soap, a cellphone, ramen noodles and a blister pack of 500 blue Mexican valium. Wouldn’t that be a nice holiday gesture?
Answer: No. Drones should not be used to smuggle contraband into prisons.
Q: Sounds like all these rules are taking the fun as well as the practicality out of drone usage. Next you’re going to tell me B-Dawg can’t fly it at night or higher than 400 feet or use it to drop an M-80 down the chimney of the school psychologist’s house. What kind of crazy rules are these?
Answer: They are common sense rules designed to protect the safety and well-being of everyone, from drone operators to the general public.
Q: OK, then. I guess I’ll get him that AR-15 instead.
Answer: On second thought, stick with the drone.