About a month ago, I purchased the DJI Mini 2 drone to capture views of bike trails I plan to visit and share on YouTube. I chose the Mini 2 because it had great reviews, and is very user-friendly to those new to drones. It has lived up to the hype, and I’m having a lot of fun learning how to use it. But there are laws and regulations you need to know to avoid costly fines from the FAA and other government agencies.
One of the nice things about the DJI Mini 2, available on Amazon, is that you don’t have to register it with the FAA because of its weight. Any drone, weighing 250 grams or more, must be registered with the FAA. It’s not a big deal to register a drone, but still it’s something a lot of people like to avoid.
So, it’s no wonder why the Mini 2 weighs in at 249 grams. DJI squeezed about everything they could into the little but capable drone, to fall below 250 grams.
BTW, DJI is getting ready to release the DJI Mini 3, probably in April 2022. So, you might want to hold off purchasing the Mini 2 until then.
Like a lot of people, I went in not knowing anything about drone regulations. So, as it was, one of my first flights was one that could have been a huge, costly mistake. I flew the drone over a lake in my city, near a zoo. I thought it would be an ideal spot to get some great photos and video. I figured I wouldn’t have to worry about obstacles like trees and power lines, though I did have to worry about drowning my brand new $600 drone in the lake.
Because of that, my knees were knocking the entire the time I was flying the drone. I was picturing the worst outcome, and flew the drone back as quickly as I could.
I knew better than to fly over the zoo, but didn’t think flying over a lake would be a problem. It was.
It wasn’t that the lake that was the problem, but the small airport that was located about 2-3 miles away was. I got a warning on DJI Fly, the app that is used to control the drone, that I was in Class D airspace. Not knowing what this meant, I went ahead and flew the drone for a few minutes.
When I got back home, I Googled Class D airspace, and realized my error. I got lucky that I wasn’t caught.
So, that got me looking for more information about laws and regulations regarding drones, and luckily a suggested video on YouTube pointed me in the right direction.
They recommended a training course to become certified in operating a drone. The video also shared the terrible news that if you publish any footage captured with your drone on YouTube (or elsewhere), and you’re not certified, you can get fined up to $50,000 by the FAA.
Also, you can land yourself in deep doo-doo if you fly over restricted spaces, like National Parks, whether you’re certified or not.
So, I took their advice and started a course with Pilot Institute. They offer a course called Part 107 Commercial Drone License. The program offers video lessons, practice exams, and study material for passing the FAA test.
The test itself is offered at hundreds of locations in the United States, through PSI. You’ll be taking the Unmanned General Small (UGS) exam. I’d highly recommend taking the course with the Pilot Institute before taking the exam. Not only will it help you pass the exam, but you’ll also learn a lot of important and helpful information for operating your drone.
The course can be completed in as little as two weeks, and costs $149, subject to change. This gives you lifetime access to the program. The FAA test through PSI cost $175, also subject to change. You are required to take the test in-person.
I’m just happy that I learned my lesson before I was hammered with a costly fine. Flying a drone is fun, and it will add a lot to my videos on my YouTube channel. But, if you don’t know what you’re doing, like Bob Ross always said, it’ll be Agony City.
Instead, fly above all the happy trees, and share some awesome footage with your friends and followers. Have a blast knowing all the dos and don’ts. You’ll thank yourself later.