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A significant issue is all around us with the exponential increase in quadcopters and other drones.

Drones this Christmas 2015?
For safety's sake, help spread the word...

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)
 
The gift giving season is upon us.  Some of you may expect to give or receive a drone or model airplane.  Whether a simple one bladed drone or advanced digital camera-equipped quad-copter both of these are considered a "UAS" and flying them is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
 
Regulation of UAS (aka "Drones") in the hands of civilian pilots took a big step forward December 14, 2015. 

The Federal Aviation Administration announced units weighing between 0.55 pounds and 50 pounds must be registered by February 19th, 2016. Anyone flying a UAS without proper registration after that date could face stiff penalties. Civil penalties include a fine of up to $27,500 and Criminal penalties include a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years imprisonment.
 
UAS come in a variety of shapes and sizes and serve diverse purposes. Regardless of size, the responsibility to fly safely applies equally to manned and unmanned aircraft operations.
 
Currently, small unmanned aircraft systems ("sUAS") may be operated for hobby and recreational purposes under specific safety guidelines as established by Congress. Small UAS flown for recreational purposes are typically known as model aircraft and weigh less than 55 lbs.
 
The recreational use of sUAS is the operation of an unmanned aircraft for personal interests and enjoyment. For example, using a sUAS to take photographs for your own personal use would be considered recreational; using the same device to take photographs or videos for compensation or sale to another individual would be considered a commercial operation and fall under a separate set of regulations. 

Prospective operators should check with the FAA for further determination as to what constitutes commercial or other non-hobby, non-recreational sUAS operations.
 
Under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, recreational UAS must be operated in accordance with several requirements, including a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA). 

Operators not operating within the safety program of a community-based organization should follow the FAA's guidance at Know Before You Fly. The Watsonville Municipal Airport has a standing letter of prior notice for operations with a local AMA chapter, the RC Bees of Santa Cruz County.
 
The FAA has partnered with several industry associations to promote Know Before You Fly, a campaign to educate the public about using unmanned aircraft safely and responsibly. Individuals flying for hobby or recreation are strongly encouraged to follow safety guidelines, which include:
 
1)   Follow community-based safety guidelines, as developed by organizations such as the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).

2)   Don't fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 lbs. (these have different regulations).

3)   Fly no higher than 400 feet and remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible.

4)   Don't fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport.  If within 5 miles of Watsonville Municipal Airport call (831) 768-3575 before flying.

5)   Keep your sUAS in eyesight at all times.

6)   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.

7)   Don't fly over persons or vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property.

8)   Don't fly in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility.

9)   Don't fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

10)  Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operation of the sUAS.

11)  Don't fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities, etc.

12)  Check and follow all local laws and ordinances before flying over private property.

13)  Don't conduct surveillance or photograph persons in areas where there is an expectation of privacy without the individual's permission.

14)  Don't fly near people or stadiums.

15)  Don't be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft - you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact the airport office.

~KWVI Management

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Watsonville Pilots Association, a Chapter of the California Pilots Association
A 501 (c) (3) organization. All Rights reserved.
Mail to: P.O. Box 2074, Freedom, CA 95019-2074
Last modified: 12/21/2015
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