BEND, Ore. –
If you’ve ever spent much time at Bend’s Skyliners Sports Complex, you’ve probably seen something curious in the sky: Ken Fayal’s drone.
“I was really interested in seeing what you can do with cameras on these things,” the Bend resident and self-described drone enthusiast said Tuesday.
Fayal said he either goes to Skyliners or Pine Nursery Park to play with his quadcopter.
He not only gets good views, but a lot of questions.
“Some are like, ‘That’s cool — how does it work? Where can I get one?’ And then there’s people who ask, “Is that safe? Do you have the camera on? Am I being filmed?'”
Fayal, who is also a software engineer and private plane pilot, said when he gets those questions, he likes to land his drone for a show-and-tell.
“Just let them look at it and explain whatever I can, ” Fayal said. “I like to be vocal and raise awareness. I’m trying to put down that whole mentality of ‘shoot it out of the sky.'”
Fayal’s not the only one taking advantage of new technology. Bend hobby shops told NewsChannel 21 that drone sales have skyrocketed.
“There’s definitely more interest, and I think it’s just because of exposure — people are seeing them more,” said D’s Hobbies Manager Chris Jaentsch.
It’s not a cheap hobby. Depending on what you want it to do, a drone can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to more than $1,000.
Most of Jaentsch’s customers do not use them entirely for recreation.
“I would say about 80 to 90 percent of the people buying them have specific applications,” Jaentsch said. “We have ranchers using them. We have land surveyors using them to do plotting, bridge inspection. ODOT has been using them occasionally.”
With the new view comes new responsibility. Fayal said he had an eye-opening experience when his drone crashed out of the sky, for no apparent reason.
“The first time the thing malfunctions is when you start realizing: This is not 100 percent,” Fayal said.
It’s those concerns with safety and also privacy that have led the FAA to develop some guidelines for flying unmanned aircraft as it continues to develop new policies.
Here are some of its basic rules at present:
- Follow community-based safety guidelines, as developed by organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).
- Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible.
- Keep your UAS in eyesight at all times, and use an observer to assist if needed.
- Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations, and you must see and avoid other aircraft and obstacles at all times.
- Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.
- Contact the airport or control tower before flying within five miles of an airport.
- Do not fly in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility.
- Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operation of the sUAS (small Unmanned Aircraft System).
- Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.
- Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.
Jaentsch said he believes the evolution of these rules will determine whether hobby drones are a fad or just taking off.
“The determination of that is going to be what kind of laws come out and what kind of restrictions come out on them,” he said. “I think that’s really going to determine the future of the multi-rotors.”