Drones can be hazardous if operated incorrectly. If you are new to drones, we recommend learning the ropes first on a mini-drone. Make safety your first priority, and always follow these best practices.
Spinning propellers can cause serious injury. Become familiar with your drone’s arming procedure, and always disarm before handling the propellers. On 3DR RTF (ready-to-fly) and other Pixhawk-powered vehicles, the safety button provides an additional safety measure by blocking power to the motors while the button is disabled (blinking red), allowing you to handle the drone safely.
When flying, always make sure to keep a safe distance between yourself and the drone. Don’t take off with the drone facing towards you or fly directly over your head. It is your job to ensure the safety of the people around you; make sure that spectators maintain a safe distance from your drone at all times.
Maintaining visual contact with your aircraft is the best assurance of a safe flight. Don’t let the drone get too far away from you; keep it where you can easily see its orientation from the ground. This is called your visual line of sight and prevents a situation where you cannot recover the drone safely.
Flying within visual line of sight is also a good way to ensure that your radio signals (from the RC and telemetry radio systems) aren’t blocked by buildings or other obstructions. If you can’t see through it, it’s likely that your radio signal can’t either.
Keep your drone flying below 400 feet (120 meters) altitude to avoid conflict with full-scale, manned aircraft and maintain visual line of sight. To give you an idea of how high that is, the Statue of Liberty is 300 feet (93 meters) tall.
Always maintain at least 100 feet (30 meters) between your drone and people, vehicles, and buildings. This rule is important for flying near crowds, buildings, and roads due to potential hazards from unplanned landings.
To prevent conflict between your drone and manned aircraft, always fly at least five miles (eight kilometers) away from all airports and other locations where manned aircraft are in use. Research your area to find all areas of restricted airspace near you.
A fail-safe is a preprogrammed behavior designed to prevent a crash in the event of an unsafe situation. All ArduCopter vehicles include a GPS fail-safe activated by default. 3DR RTF copters are also preset with radio control (RC) and low-battery fail-safe behaviors.
If the drone loses GPS signal in a flight mode that requires GPS (loiter, auto, return-to-launch, guided), it lands automatically, indicated by a blinking blue-and-yellow status LED and a high-high-high-low tone. Always fly outside in an open area for optimal GPS signal strength.
If the drone loses contact with the RC transmitter, it lands automatically, indicated by a blinking yellow status LED. If it loses RC signal during a mission, it returns to the launch point before landing.
If the battery reaches 25% charge, the drone lands automatically, indicated by a blinking-yellow status LED and a quick repeating tone. If the battery runs low during a mission, the drone returns to the launch point before landing.
Your common sense is the best fail-safe. Always be ready to regain manual control of the drone in the event of an unsafe situation. Before you fly, determine the boundaries of your safe flying area. If the drone moves outside the designated area or exhibits instability in flight, switch to stabilize mode and land the drone manually.
Remember that, despite specific regulations, flying recklessly or creating an unsafe situation for the public is always illegal. As the operator, you take responsibility for the behavior of your drone at all times.