WINDCREST, Texas - How do you fly a drone? Are they spying on us? What are drones used for? KSAT meteorologist Kaiti Blake set out to get answers about unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, in this week's edition of Blake's Brainiacs.
David Hook, president of Droneport Texas in Windcrest, runs a free drone ground school for anyone interested in learning about drones.
"Right now, there are 1 million registered drone users in the United States, according to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)," Hook said. "In three years, we believe there will be 3.5 million."
That means in three years, one in every 100 people you meet will be a registered drone flyer, and the industry is only going to get bigger, which means the need for people who can fly drones competently and safely will only grow.
"There's also a need to educate the drone flyers that they have a responsibility as pilots. As soon as they open that box, they are as responsible as a pilot, as that 747 captain is flying that big airliner in the sky," Hook said.
So what do we need to know about drones heading into the future?
First, Hook said, all drones are not spying on us.
"Just because you see an unmanned aircraft flying, it doesn't mean it's up to no good," Hook said. "Chances are it's little Bobby down the street, flying the drone and having fun. And you probably wouldn't have complained about Bobby flying a kite."
Second, Hook said it's important to know the rules. The state of Texas has its own regulations for drones, but each city may have separate regulations in addition to those state rules. No matter where you live, your drone must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration.
"It comes down to this — the golden rule should always apply in what we do," Hook said. "If you don't want someone to do it to you, you ought not to be doing it to someone else."
That especially rings true with pictures and videos taken by drones.
"We do have laws here in the state of Texas that clearly define when a picture really shouldn't be taken," Hook said.
But those pictures and videos taken by drones can also be life-savers. Drones fly in areas where it's difficult to see people during search-and-rescue missions, for example.
“You can put the drone up at 400 feet and have a bird’s-eye view of the entire area, and that makes the rescue much faster," Cook said.
Third, learn how to fly your drone. Hook will be happy to teach you.
"Drone flying is like any kind of flying. It's a skill, and it's a perishable skill," Hook said. "Just because you can fly a drone really well today — if you pack it up and not fly it for a month — your skills are going to deteriorate."
Droneport Texas offers free six-lesson courses on how to fly drones, the rules of the air, airplane avoidance and registration requirements. Children, adults and seniors are welcome.
What will drones be used for in the future? Hook said the sky is the limit.
“You may find a drone when you walk out of a building in New York City that immediately follows you because it’s raining and it has an umbrella,” Hook said. “When you dial 911, it can be faster for a drone with a defibrillator to get to a heart attack patient than it can be to get that advanced medical team in an ambulance.”
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