Guest column: Maintain positive impact of drones on our lives

They continue to provide support in monitoring Mohawk River ice floe

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Congratulations to The Gazette on the informative and interesting article with supporting video on the historic ice jam on the Mohawk River. 

Drones, aka sUAS (small Unmanned Aerial Systems), deployed by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office have been and continue to provide support in monitoring the ice floe along the Mohawk River.

These aerial systems with their different sensors are unique in that they capture high resolution RGB and thermal imagery, quickly, efficiently, and less costly than traditional methods. All performed without the risk of deploying pilots into the airspace. With that imagery orthomosaics, contour maps and 3D models are produced providing quantifiable data and a level of detail that gives stakeholders better information to use in their decision making process. 

Kudos to Sheriff Craig Apple for being the first law enforcement agency in our region, and probably the state, who has implemented a drone program.

With his leadership the Sheriff’s Drone Unit has set the bar high and paved the way for others agencies to follow.

Drone footage is everywhere.

We cannot watch TV without seeing some snippet of sUAS footage.

Whether it is the local news, a commercial, the Olympics or your favorite program, it is out there.

This is not new technology. Radio controlled aircraft have been around for decades.

However, it wasn’t until the commercialization of the lithium polymer battery (LiPo), coupled with advanced semiconductor devices such as MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) and imagery sensors, did it provide the genesis for the drone industry to explode. 

Today, there are well over 1 million drones flying in and about our national airspace.

Unchecked and without adherence to the rules, these micro-modern marvels have the potential to cause us much harm.

It is paramount that all drone pilots, both the professional and hobbyist alike, operate, safely, responsibly, with respect for others privacy and, most importantly, by the rules set forth by Federal Aviation Administration.

The FAA breaks up civilian operations into two categories, commercial and hobbyist.

The rules for both groups are basically the same, with the professionals having added restrictions.

If you fly your drone for hire or use it in the course of your business, you’re operating in a commercial capacity and need to have a Part 107 Remote Airmen Certificate.

If you are flying for personal enjoyment, you are a hobbyist and do not require a certificate.

However, both groups must follow the same rules.

Below is a list of the top rules that will help protect all of us and keep our airspace safe. 

  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 pounds, including payload, at takeoff;
  • Fly in Class G airspace(uncontrolled, not within five miles of controlled airport without authorization);
  • Keep the unmanned aircraft within visual line-of-sight;
  • Fly at or below 400 feet;
  • Fly during daylight or civil twilight;
  • Fly at or under 100 mph;
  • Yield right of way to manned aircraft;
  • Do not fly directly over people or traffic;
  • Do not fly from a moving vehicle, unless in a sparsely populated area;

It has been my experience that most people are not aware of the rules associated with owning and operating a drone.

As a drone pilot it is your responsibility to take the time to educate yourself and follow all the rules when operating.

That drone you are flying has the potential to cause death and destruction.

Here’s more information on the rules and regulations:

Ed Capovani is a member of the Albany County Sheriff’s Drone Unit and founder of In Sky Aerial Services, a local drone services company based in Schenectady County.

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