Can someone borrow my drone? How to do it safely…

Once you are known as the friend who owns a drone, someone may ask you to borrow your drone. I have always been incredibly cautious when people reach out to me and borrow my drone. I am very accommodating when they ask to fly my drone, but I typically insist on being there for the first flight at least.

It is perfectly legal for someone to borrow your drone as long as they adhere to all of the legal requirements of piloting a drone. In some jurisdictions, this means becoming a registered drone pilot and sitting a simple exam or online test to demonstrate knowledge of the regulations.

Several considerations need to be considered before you loan out your drone to someone without any experience. I often ask my friends if they understand the drone rules and have done the simple online test before taking my drone without my supervision.

Flying a drone ultimately comes with some risks associated with accidents and crashes. I recommend that you have an ironclad agreement with the person who is borrowing your drone, which outlines what will happen if the drone crashes and needs a repair or replacement.

Here are all of the important considerations I suggest you make before you loan out your drone to someone. No matter how good a friend they are, it would be best if you still protected yourself and the drone to get it back safely and in one piece.

Can someone borrow my drone? [SOLVED]

Considerations before letting someone borrow your drone

The most common way people have operated my drone is under my direct supervision.

Will you be there?

Having someone borrow your drone can be nerve-racking for you and them. Most people know how expensive drones are and how easy they are to crash.

At some point, most of my friends have flown my drone or looked over my shoulder while I have been flying.

Typically my friends ask to fly my drone when I am flying recreationally in their presence. Being present for the flight means that you can quickly troubleshoot any issues and provide real-time advice for any problems.

Luckily, drones are becoming easier and easier to fly with self-protection mechanisms and software features that will stop the drone from crashing into overhanging branches and other obstacles.

That said, it’s still very easy for someone with limited experience to panic and inadvertently damage your drone.

Suppose you are not going to be there during the flight. In that case, I recommend that you make the pilot aware of where to get their pilot’s information and licence and understand all of the appropriate rules and regulations before flying.

You can think about it like loaning your car. As soon as you loan your car to someone, they are responsible for having the appropriate licenses and following the road rules.

A drone is no different, and it is their responsibility, and they face the consequences if they do not follow the rules and get caught.

Can someone borrow my drone? [SOLVED]

All of the worst-case actions

If I am landing out my drone, I often like to lead with the pilot’s actions in all of the worst-case scenarios.

The new pilot must understand the actions to take if they find themselves in any bother.

When I was picking up my first ever drone, I had a test flight with the previous owner. He showed me that letting go of the controls was the first thing I should do if I got into any problems. A drone with self hovering and altitude hold will be much easier for a new drone pilot to manage if they get into any danger.

Besides letting go of the controls, I often tell new pilots that they should understand all of the return to home functions of the drone. The return to home function is a failsafe that everyone understands that you are learning your drone two. Pre-programming it with the appropriate return to home height will also allow the drone to safely navigate back to the landing spot.

Obeying any warning signals until they are comfortable dismissing common signals such as high wind warnings is also an important component of landing your drone and overcoming the most common but worst-case actions.

Have they got their pilot licence?

You will know all of the rules and regulations and red tape hoops that you had to jump through to get your pilot’s license and fly your drone within the bounds of the law.

Checking with the pilot and ensuring that their licenses and other paperwork in place will protect them while flying your drone.

Even though the pilot getting a fine isn’t any of your concern, the police can still confiscate your drone if they believe it has been used to commit a crime or it has flown near sensitive government facilities or airports. If the person is taking your drone abroad, some countries can confiscate the drone upon arrival.

If you want to know more about whether or not police can confiscate your drone check out my other article – click here – where I share video evidence of people having their drone confiscated.

Can police confiscate your drone [EXAMPLES]

Drones are very easy to spot because they are loud, easy to pinpoint and often have bright lights which attract attention. The attention is often just members of the public very interested in what you are doing. Sometimes it is attention that could get you into trouble. A disgruntled member of the public can easily call security or police, which can further escalate the problem.

Agreements if they crash or damage it

One of the most important aspects of learning out your drone to someone is an ironclad agreement of what will happen should the worst happen.

Some people have drone insurance, which will cover the cost of repair or replacement for their drone. However, many people have not got drone coverage, and it, therefore, makes sense for them to have a clear agreement with the person borrowing their drone on what will happen should the worst occur.

If you feel that it is appropriate, I would recommend getting the person to sign a simple agreement with you that bullet points out the borrower’s responsibilities should the worst happen.

Considerations for the agreement should include:

  • who will pay for any repair of damage sustained during their flight
  • who will pay for a complete replacement drone if the drone is irreparably damaged
  • what typical wear and tear includes
  • who is liable for payment of fines issued during flight

Being upfront about these four components will give everyone peace of mind and help the borrower understand the importance of looking after your drone and that it is a tool and not a toy.

Will they be using your smartphone?

The last component I would consider while blending out my drone is to agree on which smart device they will be using to view the live video stream.

Most remote controls require the attachment of a smart device such as a phone or tablet. You may feel more comfortable blending out your tablet along with your drone to ensure that the smart device is completely compatible during their flight.

Alternatively, you may wish to check that the app used to control the drone is stable on their device before landing out the drone. There are many types of smart devices, and not all of them play equally well with the different apps on the market.

Now that you understand the considerations of lending out your drone, here are all the steps that I would go through to ensure that my drone is loaned out safely.

How to loan your drone safely

lending your drone out safely means being open to checking the drone before lending it out, providing all of the accessories and components for charging and running through a complete calibration before allowing the person to take the drone.

Age of the person

I would not feel comfortable loaning my drone out to someone under the age of 13.

If the person is under the age of 13, I would much rather be in their presence while operating the drone.

Each person will have their tolerances as to the age limit they are willing to learn their drone out to, but the older, the better.

There are plenty of toy drones on the market should a child wish to have a go at flying a drone that will not risk your very expensive consumer-level drone.

Check the drone is in perfect working order

Before lending out your drone, I recommend that you go through each component and ensure it is working perfectly.

Can someone borrow my drone? [SOLVED]

Sometimes drone manufacturers like to put out firmware updates which can easily consume half an hour of uploading and upgrading the firmware to the remote control and the device.

The items to check include:

  • propellers
  • motors
  • arms and frame of the drone
  • batteries can be fully charged
  • remote control has all components and moves smoothly
  • battery charging components are free of damage

providing the drone in perfect working order means that you can be confident of operational safety.

Provide all accessories for recharging

We often overlook one aspect of flying a drone is how often the batteries need to get charged.

Provide the borrower of your drone with all of the charging cables and smart docs that you have two ensure your drone is looked after safely.

Providing them with the official manufacturers charging implements will protect the battery. Lithium polymer batteries are very sensitive to a range of charging issues and temperature changes.

Calibrate all sensors

Before handing over your drone, make sure that all sensors are calibrated efficiently.

This calibration can include but is not limited to sensors such as:

  • The compass
  • The inertial measurement unit consists of:
    • the thermometer
    • the gyroscope
    • a barometer
    • the accelerometer
  • Geomagnetic calibration

Depending on the drone you have purchased and the advanced software features, such as auto stabilisation, auto hover, altitude hold, and other flight assistance software, this calibration could be an important component for achieving a stable and safe flight.

Some drones require you to calibrate the compass every time you set up your drone. This is typically so that the GPS can track your drone, and it will be able to return to home and land automatically should there be an issue throughout your flight.

A rule of thumb for all drone flyers is that as soon as your drone is airborne, you should hover at about 3 to 5 m, check in with stability, and make sure that it performs exactly the way you expect it to.

If it does not, you should land the drone and recalibrate the compass and anything else with a recent warning alert.

Doing this simple cheque only takes a matter of seconds but can save you from losing an expensive gadget to a silly miscalibration error.

If you want to know more about how to calibrate your drone and all of the insider secrets, check out my other article – click here – where I go through everything you need to know.

Why do I have to calibrate my drone

Their smart device compatibility

Lastly, I would double-check the compatibility of their smart device with the remote control and drone flying app required for operating your drone safely.

I would recommend lending out the smart device that you use along with the remote control if you can. Lending out your smart device relies on you having a dedicated smart device for operating your drone, and not everyone can do that.

Summary

In this article, we have been through everything you need to know about whether or not someone can borrow your drone. There are no issues with someone borrowing your drone as long as they can also comply with all of the rules and regulations required for flying safely and within the limits of the law.

You can think about it like loaning your car. As soon as you loan your car to someone, they are responsible for having the appropriate licenses and following the road rules.

A drone is no different, and it is their responsibility, and they face the consequences if they do not follow the rules and get caught.

Before you lend out your drone, ensure that all of it is in perfect working order and that the pilot is aware of all of the safety features which enables a stable and smooth flying experience.

Coming to an agreement on what will happen should the worst case occur will also give you and the new pilot peace of mind.

 

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones. His favourite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!