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Drones governed by some basic rules

The drones are coming. Actually, they’re here, and there will be more of them in coming months. Some retail prognosticators say that the hot item this Christmas will be home remote piloted aircraft systems and kits, at affordable prices, meaning you’ll likely see a drone nearby.

Unlike radio-controlled airplanes, which often are modeled after real aircraft and offer a hobbyist a chance to build, learn and grow in the hobby, drones are generally ready to go right out of the box, often have ways to mount cameras on them and don’t have a lot of hobbyist mentors telling the do’s and don’ts of flying.

It’s not to say everyone flying a home drone is a knowledgeless drone themselves, but the work of a few can destroy a possible new hobby for others.

Out West this summer, the flying of drones near wildfires has impeded the flying of real aircraft with real crews aboard at work spraying fire retardants.

The FAA is receiving reports of drones being flown close to busy airports.

California legislators have taken the drastic step of introducing a bill that would restrict people to flying drones over their own property or above public streets and parks. Flying 350 feet or less over private property would be banned. The rules seem aimed at the potential uses of paparazzi in celebrity-filled California.

Drones present a whole new area of case law to be written, to be sure. Like the social media libel laws that still are developing 20 years after the rise of the Internet, it will be years before there is anything like a fully understood set of rules regarding home drone flying.

For now, knowing the FAA regulations about unmanned aircraft systems, as the government calls them, is a good idea for the potential new or current drone hobbyist. The FAA is a partner with several industry associations in the Know Before You Fly campaign, seeking to educate the public and owners.

The basic rules for now include flying below 400 feet, remaining clear of obstacles, keeping the aircraft in the line of sight, remaining clear of manned aircraft operations and staying beyond a five-mile radius of an airport unless permission has been granted by contacting the control tower, stay away from people and stadiums, don’t fly a drone weighing more than 55 pounds and use common sense.

Information is available at knowbeforeyoufly.org.