Drones are remotely piloted aircrafts. Operators need to be licensed to fly large or commercial drones — the kinds used by military and aerial photographers — but anyone can fly a small drone. Unfortunately, not all drone hobbyists are careful flyers.
A few years ago, a drone hit the face of a Brooklyn reporter and cut off the tip of her nose. In another incident, a drone that was recording video for a festival in Virginia crashed into a crowd, injuring several spectators.
In 2015, a tech blogger was giving a demonstration on drone safety at the FOX & Friends studio when he lost control of the drone and narrowly missed crashing it into the head of a camera operator.
Just last year, a student was hit in the head by a drone while attending a frat party. The head injury resulted in profuse bleeding, impaired vision in one eye, dizziness, and disorientation.
A couple of months ago, a flyer decided to use a drone camera to take dramatic video of a family reunion. As the drone swept close to the crowd, he lost control and smacked a family member in the face.
Just last month, a drone flew into the back window of a car in Wisconsin. The drone struck and injured a child who was strapped into a car seat. As drone sales continue to climb, accidents like these will become a common occurrence.
More than one million drones have been registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). That number does not include the many unregistered drones used by armatures. Industry analysts expect 7 million hobbyist drones to be in operation by 2020.
Drones are regulated by federal and state law. Unfortunately, hobbyists who disregard those regulations place other people in danger.
When drones are flown for commercial purposes, including aerial photography, the drone operator must be certified by the FAA. In addition, the pilot of any drone that weighs more than 55 pounds must obtain an FAA license.
Drones flown for recreational purposes must be registered if they are flown outdoors and weigh more than 250 grams (8.8 ounces). A registered drone must display its registration number, making it possible to identify the owner if the drone crashes into a person.
Drone operators must always keep their drones in sight. An off-duty, intoxicated government employee lost sight of his drone before it crashed into the White House lawn in 2015. Losing sight of a drone increases the risk that it will fly beyond the range of radio control and will crash when its battery is depleted.
Drones should only be flown during daylight hours. The FAA recommends that drones not be flown higher than 400 feet above the operator. Failing to follow that recommendation might not be unlawful, but it would be evidence of negligent drone operation.
Drones may not be operated within 5 miles of an airport and may not fly near manned aircraft. Several incidents of drones causing damage to aircrafts have been reported. No drone collision with an airplane has resulted in a crash, although a helicopter did crash when its pilot made an evasive maneuver to avoid a drone.
Eighteen states have adopted legislation that pertains to drone operation, some of those laws prohibit drone operators from using cameras to peer into the windows of private residences. Other states have made it a crime to operate drones in a reckless manner.
Many communities have enacted their own drone laws. They might, for example, prohibit flying drones over a stadium or in designated parks. Violating laws that protect the public’s safety is strong evidence of negligence.
Compensation for Drone Injuries
Responsible drone hobbyists take time to learn the guidelines for safe drone operation. Following those guidelines can prevent most drone accidents.
Careless drone operators, on the other hand, pose a danger to anyone who happens to be in the vicinity of the drone. It is difficult for people to protect themselves from drone injuries because accident victims are often unaware that a drone is in the sky until it crashes.
Drone operators can be held responsible for injuries caused by the negligent operation of a drone. Examples of negligence include:
- Flying the drone beyond its battery capacity, causing the drone to crash when it loses power.
- Flying the drone beyond the operator’s line of sight.
- Operating a drone while intoxicated.
- Allowing an unsupervised child to operate a drone.
- Flying the drone over crowds of people.
- Flying the drone in a crowded room.
- Flying the drone near an aircraft.
- Operating a drone that is not equipped with propeller guards.
Head and face injuries, including eye injuries, are the most common injuries caused by negligent drone operation. A personal injury lawyer can help injury victims recover compensation for injuries caused by the careless operation of a drone.