The gentleman’s guide to drone etiquette

Before your shiny new obsession spins out of control, we take a look at the bad manners and irksome habits that fly in the face of droning

Flying drones can be difficult. Not the technical side of things — anybody with two thumbs and enough cash can take off, hover around and land without incident. But the etiquette of using these camera-equipped quadcopters? That’s where things get turbulent.

We’re not talking about law-breaking, either. Any self-respecting drone pilot knows that airports and power lines are no-fly zones. We’re talking about manners. For some reason, the minute we fire up our drones, polite behaviour flies out of the window with them, and any sense of discretion or deference spins — like their little rotors — out of control.

As such, we’ve identified the five most irksome habits of drone enthusiasts. So — and at the risk of droning on ourselves — read on, listen up and stop flying in the face of civility.

Ask if your drone should stay at home

This may come as a surprise to some drone devotees, but not every event needs to be aerially shot. Don’t get us wrong, we all like a sky high panning shot of some rolling hills, but you need to start asking yourself: before I head out, does this thing really need to be filmed from above?

If you’re embarking on a precipitous free-climbing attempt or doing your first ski jump, by all means get those gadgets charged up. But certain things just don’t need drone footage. Nobody wants to see a fly-past at a birthday party or a drone whizz across the dance floor at a wedding reception. At best, you’ll look like a bit of a loser; at worst, you’ll get cake icing everywhere.

The manual is there for a reason. Read it!

Men especially have a tendency to ignore the instructions. But, considering it takes real pilots at least two years to learn how to fly, we think you can spare 20 minutes on a pamphlet. We get that you might be beyond excited to see what your garden looks like from 400 feet in the air — see ‘loser’ above — but it is in everyone’s best interests that you brush up on what the buttons do first.

Neglect to do this, take your drone out for a fly on the fly, and one of three things will happen. If you’re lucky, you’ll simply unbox it outside and discover you don’t know how to turn it on. If you’re slightly less lucky, you’ll get it started before realising you can’t do much else. And, if your luck has completely run out, you’ll turn it on and fly it immediately and disastrously into a tree, the road, or your children.

Never drink and drone

We’ve all been there: one too many pints at the pub, and you start boasting about your fearless, button-bashing, Top Gun flying skills. But, puff yourself up as a pilot like this and you’ll soon be asked to prove your mettle. Cut to you flying your prized gizmo through a pylon (highly illegal), blindfolded (highly stupid) or as close to the clouds as it can possibly go (highly high).

The solution is simple; never drink and drone. Even one little Pimm’s at the village summer fete could lead to a trail of embarrassment and drone destruction — and that’s why every drone session should be a sober drone session.

Don’t look creepy

This one’s a biggy. Unless you’re a fully-fledged, fully-certified videographer, there is no reason to go out flying a drone on your own. Nothing says ‘suspicious’ like a solitary figure filming stuff. Best case scenario, you’ll get mistaken as a spy. Worst case scenario — well, we’ll leave that to the jury…

And, if you really, really have to fly your drone solo, here are a few tips to keep you out of handcuffs. Don’t wear an anorak, dark sunglasses or a bucket hat. Don’t take it too close to any airfields, hospitals, banks or schools. Don’t leave it hovering in one place for too long. And, as desperate as things may have got for you, for god’s sake don’t start talking to it.

Beware of false drone friends

Of course, some of you will have the opposite problem. For every drone loner, there’s a man whose new toy has made him the centre of attention. Everybody suddenly wants a go at flying your drone — and you couldn’t be happier!

But beware. These are false, fickle friends — flocking to you for your shiny new quadcopter. And, inevitably, one will soon push you past the limits of your flying skills, persuade you to soar out of your comfort zone, and then BAM! No more drone. No more friends. The dark side of droning claims another casualty.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Follow these guidelines — stay off the bottle, among friends, and away from airports — and you’ll be flying high forever.

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