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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – A Christmas gift that has been growing in popularity: drones. A cool piece of technology that people are picking up as a hobby – but there is a lot that people need to know to safely operate that new gift.

The owner of a drone consulting company said people need to understand the responsibility of owning a drone before buying one as a gift or for personal use.

Drones are growing in popularity and aren’t hard to buy, and anyone can do so. But people using them need to know the rules to keep everyone around safe, especially in an area like Huntsville with an international airport and Redstone Arsenal that sees regular military training in the sky.

“Typically with toys, you don’t have to be worried about injuring people; but with this “toy,” you definitely do,” says Matt Sloane.

Matt Sloane founded Skyfire drone consulting in 2014. The company works with police and fire departments nationwide.

“We make sure they are trained properly, that they are flying safely and that they have the best equipment and the right tools for the job,” says Sloane.

He has been flying drones for 10 years and also has his manned aircraft pilot’s license.

“I come at this from the drone-flying perspective and also from the aircraft-flying perspective. We try and teach people that it’s like taking a remote control car and taking it on the highway, you’re basically taking a remote control airplane and putting it up in the sky,” says Sloane.

He says the big concern when somebody buys a drone is that they might put it up near an airport, helipad, or in town, in Redstone Arsenal airspace.

“What we try and tell people, even if they are using drones for recreational purposes, is first understand where you are and make sure you’re not next to an airport. There are lots of great apps you can download that show you exactly where you are in the National Airspace System,” says Sloane.

Sloane says you have to register your drone.

“It’s a requirement to register it, it costs $5 but it is a federal crime not to register it and put the number on the outside,” says Sloane.

And the pilot has to pass The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST).

“This is a test you take as a recreational flyer from the FAA. It doesn’t have all the regulations we do as commercial operators but it makes sure you understand the basic rules of the road,” says Sloane.

Sloane says some people make the mistake of flying over people and traffic, but the consequences can be grave.

“So you have to think about this: ‘if the drone [fell] down, am I going to cause a bigger problem than just breaking my drone?’ If you’re flying over the highway and [the] drone crashes – you might actually cause a car accident and cause loss of life,” says Sloane.

Sloane says the rule for flying drones recreationally is this: it has to be within the operator’s line of sight, under 400 feet in the air, only during daytime hours, and in uncontrolled airspace…meaning not near an airport or military base.