University of Dubuque hosted an event Thursday that put drones in the spotlight.

UD is participating in the Federal Aviation Administration’s first National Drone Safety Awareness Week by hosting an event to help people learn about regulations for the devices and how they are used locally.

Drones are a hot topic nationally, but many people don’t know the specifics of what it takes to fly them, said Joan Kariuki, instructor of applied aviation technology at UD.

“You need to know what you’re doing,” she said. “You need to know the regulations that are there.”

Whether you’re a drone enthusiast or still trying to figure them out, here are a few things to know about drones in the tri-state area:

Drone basics

  • First things first. If your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, you will need to register it with the FAA, according to John Walberg, a principal operations inspector for the agency.
  • Also, figure out if you’re a hobbyist or commercial drone pilot. If you plan to make money using your drone, you’ll have to pass a written test to become a certificated remote pilot.
  • Whether you’re a hobbyist or a commercial pilot, you still have to abide by FAA rules, such as keeping your drone within your line of sight, keeping your drone at or below 400 feet and avoiding controlled airspace.
  • You can find pretty much everything else you need to know about drone safety regulations from the FAA at You can also download the B4UFLY app to find out where you can and can’t fly your drone recreationally. ”There’s more places to fly than not to fly,” Walberg said.

Drones in Dubuque

  • Members of the Dubuque police and fire departments use drones to help keep themselves safe during operations. Firefighters can use the devices for search and rescue, hazardous materials incidents and hot-spot detection while putting out fires. Police officers can use them for reconnaissance purposes and to find people who are evading capture. “It’s obviously safer than putting people in harm’s way,” police Cpl. Travis Kramer said.
  • Tri-State Modelers, a chapter of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, has a flying field at FDR Park near Dubuque to use drones and model airplanes. The group includes instructors such as Merlin Green, who can teach you how to fly.
  • “Until you know what you’re doing, we’d like to see people come out to our flying site so you can learn,” Green said.

The future of drones

  • Drones made headlines this week when UPS Flight Forward delivered a prescription to a customer via drone. Wing, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, launched a test run last month to deliver some purchases via drone in Christiansburg, Va.
  • Keith Kauten, a licensed commercial drone pilot and owner of RPA Aerial Inspections & More, sees drone delivery options taking off in the future. ”I see it as the next wave of technology,” he said. “It’s fast. It’s efficient. It’s cost-effective.”
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