So you got a drone. Congrats! Now what?
There’s a lot you need to know about getting started before you even get your drone in the air (sorry). From registering, to getting a license, to knowing where you can fly, here’s everything you need to do before you get to the fun part — flying!
Don’t have a drone yet? Click here to visit my Drone Buying guide.
- Register it. Is your drone more than 0.55 lbs and less than 55 lbs? You need to register yourself as a drone operator with the FAA. The process is easy. Simply visit the FAA’s drone registration website and create an account. You’ll have to enter your address, phone number and email. You’ll also have to pay the $5 registration fee. From there, you’ll receive a Registration number, which you need to simply need to affix somewhere on your drone. I recommend writing it with Sharpie on a piece of masking tape, so you can easily remove it should you decide to sell or give away your drone. (The registration number is tied to the pilot, not the drone).
- Get a Part 107 license if you intend to fly drones commercially. Do you intend to make money off your drone? Will you sell the videos you take from it or use it for some other sort of paid service? You need a commercial license, which you can get by passing a written test — similar to the permit test you took when you were 15 before getting a driver’s license. Here’s my guide to everything you need to know about the Part 107 test. If you’re looking to take a Part 107 online study course, I personally used (and highly recommend!) Drone Pilot Ground School. But, here’s a list of other training courses if you’re interested.
- Make sure you are allowed to fly in the air you intend to fly in. You can legally fly in Class G airspace without needing any type of approval. However, if you are flying in Class B or C airspace — which will happen if you’re near an airport, or other controlled airspace, you’re going to need permission. Still need to fly in a restricted area? Here’s my guide on how to do it. Don’t know what the heck Class G Airspace is? AirMap made a handy app where you simply imput the address of where you’re flying, and it tells you if you’re clear to fly or not.
4. Start practicing with a cheap, toy drone. Good-quality camera drones like the DJI Mavic or the Autel X-Star are easier to fly than ever. But that does NOT make them idiot-proof. Once in your lifetime you will crash into something. Make it a cheap, toy drone, and not your expensive one. The harder to fly, the better! That way, you’ll be a master by the time you get to your fancy drone. You would way rather fly the $30 toy drone into the pool than your new DJI Mavic, right? Trust me, I’ve heard way too many stories of this happening.
5. Fly in open space. If you MUST fly your brand new DJI Mavic now and skip step 4, at least start in open space. A football field, a desert, basically anywhere with minimal trees or water is excellent.
6. Follow the FAA’s operating rules. This includes:
- Yield right of way to manned aircraft
- Keep the aircraft in sight (visual line-of-sight)
- Notify airport and air traffic control tower before flying within 5 miles of an airport
7. Join a flying community. The best way to learn how to be a better pilot is to fly with others! Look for local meetup groups. I started with a group I found on Meetup.com. I’ve also seen local groups on Facebook. Search for a local group near you!
Is there something I should add to this list? Leave it in the comments below! Happy flying!