Toy drones are growing in popularity. As the holiday season approaches, a lot of electronic stores, novelty shops, and toy stores start stocking a variety of drones in a wide range of prices, hoping to cash in on the craze. A lot of people forget, however, that drones can also be dangerous. If you're thinking about buying a drone for someone, here are two things to keep in mind.
1.) Drones are harder to operate than a lot of people think.
Those little helicopter-style drones move fast, and they can be harder to manipulate than most people realize. Some of the better drones on the market boast horizontal speeds of up to 40 MPH, which is incredibly fast when you are considering something that could be subject to thrown off course by a stiff wind.
While some drones have a 360-degree maneuverability capabilities, how well that drone actually maneuvers depends a lot on the person operating the controls. For example, the operator of one drone was trying to show a reporter how the drone could actually land on her hand, but ended up flying it into a bystander's face instead. The drone got tangled in her hair and cut her face. The operator's slow reaction time likely contributed to the damage.
A drone's operator who overestimates his or her skills could end up involved in a personal injury lawsuit very easily if someone gets seriously hurt. For professional legal help, contact a personal injury attorney.
2.) Drones can easily end up violating aviation regulations.
One of the problems with drones is that they are still so new that the laws haven't quite caught up with them. That leaves a lot of gray areas, legally, about when and where and how drones can be operated.
Most local jurisdictions don't have laws on the books yet restricting the use of drones in public areas, but that doesn't mean you can't end up running afoul of the law. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the authority to fine operators who fly their drones "carelessly or recklessly." Fines can range from $1,000 to $25,000.
The problem is that it isn't always clear what "carelessly or recklessly" means, and you can end up in court fighting over the definition. A man who was fined $10,000 in 2011 for flying a drone around the University of Virginia ended up fighting the FAA in civil court for several years. The fine was eventually settled for $1,100, but the legal fees were probably more significant. In that case, nobody was even injured.
While it's unlikely that drones are going to disappear anytime soon, it's important to exercise caution if you buy one. The best way to avoid ending up in the courtroom is to operate it only in a wide-open space (preferably on your own property) and keep it away from other people.
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