Drone safety advice: buying, charging and flying your drone safely
Drones have fast become a must-have gadget and are a popular gift for any budding pilots who want to explore the skies.
These clever mobile flying machines – which can perform stunts, take photographs or even stream video – were once used solely by the military. Nowadays, they’re widely available on the high street.
But, like all electrical products, drones can carry a number of safety risks that consumers need to be aware of.
Want to buy a drone yourself? Here’s some information to take into consideration before you purchase yours.
Perform some basic checks before purchasing your drone
- Check that the manufacturer’s name, trademark and contact details on the drone, packaging or instructions.
- Check that there are not any misspellings on the packaging, and that the instructions make sense.
- Check that the drone looks well-constructed and is not damaged.
- One of the best ways to ensure that the drone you have is safe is to only buy from a reputable retailer. Further advice can be found here.
- Ensure that the product is traceable. If manufacturer’s contact details aren’t included, the drone is likely to be substandard. Faulty drone will also often be missing instructions, warranty cards or other associated literature.
For more tips on purchasing electrical products, take a look at our Safe Shopper's Guide.
Make sure you’re charging safely
- Most drones come supplied with rechargeable lithium polymer (LiPo)batteries and a battery charger that connects to a standard USB port. Always ensure you use the supplied charger, or recommended by the manufacturer, as the correct charging voltage and current is critical for safety.
- If you have spare battery packs you should also make sure that they are of the same type and rating as supplied with the drone – if in any doubt, check directly with the manufacturer.
- If a 3-pin mains plug charger is provided, check that there is at least 9.5 mm between the edge of the pins and the edge of the charger (about the width of a ballpoint pen) and that is easily plugs into a plug socket. You can check that the charger is safe by using Electrical Safety First’s Plug checker.
- Don’t use mains plug-in charger that does not have the UK style 3-pins.
Make sure you’re storing your drone safely
- Always store your drone and associated battery packs in the way recommended by the manufacturer, and make sure that the storage area is dry and not susceptible extremes of temperature. Storing inside your house rather than in a shed or outside storage area would be preferable, particularly in winter.
Make the right pre-flight checks
- Before using the product, always familiarise yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions, taking special notice of any warning notices or cautions. During operation you should always follow the instructions to help ensure safe usage, including using the Drone in an appropriate area with adequate space (avoiding power lines, electricity sub-stations, etc.)
- Ensure you comply with the Civil Aviation Authority Drone Code
As with any new product group the technology, guidance and legislation affecting usage is in constant evolution. Following the manufacturer’s instructions and the basic safety considerations listed above will help ensure that your drone use is fun, useful and, most importantly, safe.
How to report a sub-standard or faulty drone
If you suspect you have been sold a faulty or sub-standard drone, you should stop using the product immediately and report the fault to the manufacturer or retailer (if known) and the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03444 111 444.
Facts about drones
- The first reusable radio-controlled aircraft was built by the Royal Marines in the Thirties.
- In April 2016, a drone crashed into a British Airways jet over Heathrow. Although the aircraft landed safely and was undamaged, the incident led to calls for tighter legislation on the use of drones.
- In March June 2013, Domino’s experimented with the ‘DomiCopter’, a drone that delivers pizza!
- The paparazzi often use drones to try and spy on celebrities’ home and get picture exclusives (tsk-tsk).
- The Civil Aviation Authority’s ‘Drone Code’ includes rules saying that drones fitted with cameras can’t be flown within 50 metres of people, vehicles, building or structures. You’re also not allowed to fly any drone higher than 400 feet.