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Drone gifts require more than batteries

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If children and airplane enthusiasts find drones under the Christmas tree, an estimated 1 million new drones could be flying by the end of the year, unleashing problems for local airports.

A task force recently submitted a proposal to the FAA and Department of Transportation to require fliers to register as drone operators with the government. It could be approved as early as the week before Christmas.

All unmanned vehicles — even the toy-like ones — are covered by federal guidelines, according to Tim Underhill, a Ball State University telecommunications instructor.

“A new drones means more possibilities for problems in the sky and on the ground,” says Underhill, who said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported drone-safety cases for the first time in October. There were more than 40 incidents.

Underhill offers guidelines for parents as they assist their children on Christmas morning:

• Don’t fly within 5 miles of airports.

• Don’t fly higher than 400 feet.

• Pilots must keep the drone within their line of site.

Pilots can also consult an interactive no-fly map at https://www.mapbox.com/drone/no-fly/.

Underhill advises households learn as much as possible before taking a drone on a spin by going to http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/.

“One more word of advice, it’s not if, but when you will crash,” he says. “Be prepared with spare parts such as propellers and landing gear. They will break, but the good news is most UAVs have spare parts available.”

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