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Think before you buy a drone

Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri --

With Halloween in the rearview mirror and with Black Friday on the horizon, many Team Whiteman members will begin focusing on what to get loved-ones for the holidays. Some may even consider buying an unmanned aerial system or drone as a present.

If you are considering buying a drone, be sure to follow these simple rules in order to avoid breaking federal law while operating the drone and incurring a potential $25,000 fine.

1. Know where you can and can't fly, especially here on Whiteman. The bottom line is Whiteman’s airspace is deemed a “no-drone zone” by the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). The FAA divides the national airspace above us into categories: A, B, C, D, E and G. The airspace over Whiteman AFB is Class D restricted airspace and drone us is strictly prohibited.

- Class A is 18,000 feet and above sea level and you must be communicating with the FAA to operate at that height. So just remember, Class A is “above” where small unmanned aircraft should fly.

- Class B/C/D is the airspace around airports and requires two-way communications with the airport’s tower, so small unmanned aircraft need to steer clear of these areas. Just remember not to fly within 5 nautical miles of an open airport/airfield/heliport, military or civilian.

- Class G airspace exists around uncontrolled airports (no two-way communications), but small unmanned aircraft must still remain clear by the 5 nautical miles.

2. The FAA now requires registration of all recreational drones weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds. Go to http://registermyuas.faa.gov to register. Flying an unregistered drone could land you with up to a $25,000 fine!

3. Respect the propellers. The two-inch propellers of a micro-quad model can sting or cut you if they nick your finger. The nine-inch propellers on larger models can send you to the emergency room.

4. Know your controls before you take off. Some smart-device-enabled drones even have simulators you can use.

5. Don't fly over people, cars, emergency responders or any other situation where the equivalent of a rapidly descending drone could cause injury to yourself or others.

6. Most drones don't do well in high winds and open areas around Missouri are notorious for windy weather. If your drone isn't behaving well, land it.

If you decided to purchase before reading this and now you are confused about where can you fly, a good source of information is your local Radio-Controlled, or R/C, club. They know the best, and safest locations to fly.

If you prefer to go it alone, here are some words of caution before you take off: If you become the latest close call and you’re not following the rules, you stand not only to lose your potentially $1,000 aircraft, but you may be subject to Federal charges and an FAA fine of up to $25,000.