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Let’s Fly Wisely When Hiking and Drone-Flying with Minors

While hiking with a drone is a great way to enhance the experience of exploring scenic surroundings, FAA rules always apply whenever UAVs are in flight. If a minor is tagging along in the hiking trip with his lightweight flycam DJI Mavic Mini (letsflywisely.com/dji-mavic-mini-review/) the Federal Aviation Authority’s (FAA’s) most recent Remote Flyer Certificate requirement still applies; not to the minor but to the adult who is in-charge of supervising the minor’s use of the small drone.

What is the FAA’s Remote Flyer Certification?

A Remote Flyer Certification (RFC) is proof that a drone operator is knowledgeable of the safety rules and regulations to observe when flying an unmanned aerial vehicle. That is regardless of drone size and of the purpose; whether recreational or commercial in nature. However, the FAA issues an RFC only to those who passed the Aeronautical Knowledge and Safety Test.

Actually, prior to taking the test, one must first pass the preliminary Aeronautical Knowledge Exam in order to be considered as eligible to take the test. Other considerations for eligibility include: (1) being at least 16 years old, (2) having the ability to speak, read and understand English, and (3) being physically and mentally sound as operator of a UAV or drone.

Even if a small aerial vehicle like the DJI Mavic Mini is exempt from the FAA’s registration requirement, the RFC is still required for all operators regardless of the weight of the unmanned aerial vehicle.

As in cases when and where minors are allowed to engage in certain activities participated in by legal-aged individuals, a parent or an older adult, such as a sibling, a teacher or guide, must be present to supervise a minor’s use and operation of a drone. That being the case, the supervising parent or adult must be able to show a Remote Flyer Certification as proof that he or she knows the aeronautical and safety rules prescribed for UAV use.

Mainly because there are federal and statutory restrictions in place, which minors may not thoroughly know of, or have full understanding of the safety measures related to such restrictions. .

Overview of the Aeronautical and Safety Rules to Be Observed by Flyers of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

UAVs, drones or quadcopters, whether for recreational or commercial use are not allowed to fly in national parks, in the 31 designated wilderness areas of Washington and in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, including the recreational areas within these restricted locations. To make sure, always check with the nearest ranger station first before hiking with drones.

If you’re hiking anywhere near urban areas, flying drones near airports and stadiums is prohibited. Be sure to check with local governments about other location restrictions stated in their laws for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).

Make it a point to avoid wildlife, as drones are known to cause stress in animals. While a chance encounter with wildlife is possible, drone flyers must keep their UAVs at a distance of about 200 yards away from the animals.

Stay clear of emergency operations including ongoing wildfire suppression operations, as the unmanned flying objects could cause interruptions, or even endanger emergency responders.

Always be conscious of the surroundings and of the presence of other trail hikers as they might not approve of being unintentionally photographed or do not approve of UAS per se.

Moreover, refrain from flying your drone in areas where drone recovery is hard to perform in case the aerial vehicle crashes. Retrieving fallen drones in canyons, lakes, rivers and waterfalls poses safety concerns.