Think Before You Launch

a little information could prevent a big accident.


Think Before You Launch (TBYL) is an awareness campaign founded by an alliance of both UAS and Aviation stakeholders interested in improving aviation safety, while educating users about the safe and responsible operation and integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

OUR MISSION is to raise awareness by educating manned and unmanned aircraft operators about hazards associated with the low-altitude environment in order to prevent accidents and improve safety while encouraging coordination and legitimate use of UAS.

Small unmanned aircraft are essentially invisible to manned aircraft operating in the 0-400 ft airspace.

Who is flying in the airspace between 0-400 feet?

Police and First Responder Aircraft Police and First Responder Aircraft

Police and First Responder aircraft include helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. Due to the unpredictable nature of their operations, these aircraft often fly unplanned routes around populated areas, increasing their chances of sharing airspace with unmanned aircraft. The odds of encountering these aircraft are also higher around emergencies – such as natural disasters, fires, and car accidents – and crime scenes.

Birds Birds

Birds can pose a significant safety hazard to manned and large unmanned aircraft, resulting in damage to the plane or even loss of life. Birds have been known to attack small unmanned aircraft, highlighting the importance of being sensitive to wildlife in the area where you are flying.

Aerial Firefighters Aerial Firefighters

Aerial firefighting involves large air tankers, smaller Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) aircraft, helicopters, and command and control aircraft flying together in a very dynamic, dangerous environment. With pilots focusing on performing their mission without hitting trees, mountains, or each other, it's critical for nonparticipants to stay away from these areas. In fact, the FAA will often establish Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) to prevent other aircraft – both manned and unmanned – from interfering.

Aerial Applicators / Crop Sprayers Aerial Applicators / Crop Sprayers

Aerial Application, or "crop dusting," utilizes helicopters and airplanes to seed, fertilize, and protect crops, rangeland, forests, and public health from weeds, insects, and diseases. These aircraft operate at altitudes as low as 10 feet and routinely transit between sites below 400 feet. The work is weather-dependent, making it difficult to know the flight plan until just before takeoff. Aerial Application aircraft can be found flying over farmland, open rangeland (including private, state, and federal lands), forests, waterways, and even the ocean for oil spill clean ups or to feed fish. 

General Aviation General Aviation

General aviation (GA) is all civilian flying except scheduled passenger airlines. GA flights range from gliders and powered parachutes to corporate business jet flights. Many GA flights operate under visual flight rules (VFR) and routinely fly at altitudes of 1000 feet above ground level (AGL). GA aircraft often transit the airspace between 0-400 feet AGL, particularly in the vicinity of airports. It is important for unmanned aircraft users to be aware, and remain clear, of these GA aircraft at all times.

News Helicopters News Helicopters

News organizations operate helicopters under visual flight rules and routinely fly at altitudes of 500-1,000 feet above ground level (AGL). Routinely, these helicopters operate the airspace between 0-400 feet AGL while they are actively reporting the news. It is important for unmanned aircraft users to be aware, and remain clear, of these news reporting aircraft at all times to prevent mid-air collisions.

Even a micro unmanned aircraft (under 4.4 lbs.) can cause extreme damage and put lives in danger.

Learn what can happen if there is a mid-air collision or accident

Check Yourself

Before you take flight with your unmanned aircraft be sure to follow these steps to insure the safety of other aerial vehicles.
Check to see if you are outside of 5 miles from any airport/airfield
Communicate UAS operation areas with any known local low altitude manned operations, prior to flight
Remain below 400 ft above ground level
Stay clear of temporary flight restrictions and any media interest areas (including fires, crime scenes, and sporting events)
Maintain situational awareness and be prepared to take evasive action if a low flying manned aircraft enters the area
Keep your aircraft in sight at all times
Fly without distractions, i.e. no headphones, no reading a book; use a second visual observer if necessary

Make Sure You're Always Prepared

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Collaborating Organizations

Groups and associations dedicated to keeping everyone safe, on the ground and in our skies.

News & Resources
'Drone' hits BA plane: Police investigate Heathrow incident
April 18th, 2016
A police investigation is under way after a passenger plane approaching Heathrow Airport flew into what is believed to have been a drone.
FAA Expands Online Small Unmanned Aircraft Registration
March 31st, 2016
Owners of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) used for commercial, public and other non-model aircraft operations will be able to use the FAA’s new, streamlined, web-based registration process to register their aircraft.
Fed-up antelope gets revenge on nosy drone
February 23rd, 2016
FAA bans drones for Pope's visit
September 16th, 2015
Falling drone injures 11-month old
September 16th, 2015
Kentucky student charged after drone crash
September 15th, 2015
TBYL campaign and website launch
September 14th, 2015
2 airliners fly within 100 feet of drone above NYC
August 3rd, 2015
FAA investigating drone flying close to airplanes near JFK
August 1st, 2015
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating two incidents in which airplanes spotted a drone flying near them as they were landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport, one of the nation's busiest airports.
Drones interfere with wildfire efforts
July 19th, 2015
FAA Looking into Lake Fire Drones
July 2nd, 2015
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating reports that an unmanned aircraft system prevented firefighters from battling the 30,726-are Lake Fire last week.
UAS spotted near aerial applicator
June 25th, 2015
A mosquito control helicopter came close to a small UAS, causing the pilot to change course to avoid a collision.
First UAV Near Miss with Ag Aircraft Reported in Pacific Northwest
January 1st, 2015
Earlier this week a pilot from Idaho was preparing to begin a spray run through a field. Barely visible ahead of him was a small stationary object. He decided it must be a kite since a bird would not remain motionless. As he neared the object, it rapidly shot straight up.
When a Duck and an Ag Plane Converge
May 1st, 2014
WARNING - Graphic Content
Photos & Videos

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We're Here to Help

If you're a first-time UAS owner or a seasoned operator, Think Before You Launch is your source for safety information, links to additional UAS sites and resources for education and risk management. We encourage you to ask questions, provide feedback and be an active participant as we shape the future of small unmanned aircraft use.