PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Some people call them unmanned aerial systems. Others call them remotely piloted aircraft, but most people know them as drones, and the high-tech flying machines are becoming more and more popular by the week.
They can also turn into piles of rubble very quickly if not used properly.
“I have watched (YouTube drone crash) videos and I can tell right away what (pilots) did wrong,” said Colin Romberger, a flight instructor for Dart Drones, which trains drone pilots throughout the United States.
“This is what you didn’t read and this is why you should come and get training,” he continued.
Romberger has flown remote controlled planes and helicopters for years, and is also a private pilot. Over the past two years, he’s also become very involved in the drone industry and business. Besides owning his own drone aerial photography business, he also teaches classes throughout the country on how to legally and properly operate unmanned aerial aircraft.
“The tech makes them a lot more useful, and a lot easier for the average person to pick up and fly and for business,” he said.
“But about 2 or 3 years ago, the (Federal Aviation Administration) looked at things and said, ‘Hey what’s all these aircraft flying all over the place and what are we going to do about it?’” he continued.
Now commercial drone users must essentially pass the same aeronautical knowledge test private pilots must pass before getting into the cockpit.
“Part 107 (is the rule) which is the new FAA regulations that took effect at the end of August,” said Romberger. “(Pilots must) understand fully the national airspace system. (They must understand) different classes of airspace, different types of airports. It’s a very complex system,” he explained.
Those who plan to use the drone for commercial purposes must pass the Part 107 exam, and it can take up to 40 hours of studying. Recreational users though do not have as many stringent requirements, but there are safety guidelines that must be followed.
Those guidelines include keeping recreational drones below 400 feet and within eyesight. Anyone can fly without any training as long as the drone is registered with the FAA.
“You pay $5, you register it and you’re good to go,” said Romberger.
“That’s it,” responded Romberger.
Drones have become so popular, entire stores devoted to them have opened in the Philadelphia area. One of them is Liberty Drones, located on 5th Street near Lombard.
“We opened the shop because we saw the need,” explained co-owner Cliff Grimes “We’ve been flying drones in the area and there has never been a place to go to get extra batteries, props when you need them,” he said.
Grimes says he’s seeing an increase in first-time buyers of drones purchasing higher-end aircraft. Many have advanced systems such as accident-avoidance and collision warning features.
Even so, Grimes says training is the best and safest way to protect yourself and your flying investment
“There are people that stop in that have never seen a drone before to people that have built their own. We give them as much education as you can. Sometimes they’ve never seen or touched one before,” he said.
Experts say before buying a drone, read what the requirements are for operating one, and don’t believe they are simply a cool new toy.
“If (drone users) don’t have the understanding of how our airspace system works, accidents can and will happen. Collisions between unmanned aircraft and manned aircraft can definitely have catastrophic results and could lead to loss of life with people,” said Romberger.