One of the biggest surprises a new drone owner will ever discover doesn’t come in the box that their drone was packaged in. It’s not in any of the manuals and it’s not a hidden feature that gets unlocked with a firmware update.

It’s online, and it comes from their community of fellow drone owners. And, while this post won’t win me any points with a large number of them, it’s time to address a hard truth: that community is eating itself alive and will find itself to be the cause of its own demise. Enjoy flying while you can because it is your own actions that are fueling a fire that will lead to more regulation, more restriction, and more government intervention and the only thing us licensed commercial pilots can do is hold on and hope that we don’t get swept up in whatever they lay down to bring you under control.

What we’re talking about in this week’s post is the incredible level of toxicity in the recreational drone community and the amount of vitriol that is hurled at anyone who dares question whether it’s a good idea to fly beyond visual line of sight, above prescribed altitudes, in restricted areas, or in any other way that violates the standards of good aeronautical decision making.

Insults like “drone Karen” and “drone police” are just as common in most online drone communities as FPV videos and sunset photos. And the interesting – and perhaps most sad – part is that they appear to be the prevailing voices. Whether they are simply just the loudest remains to be seen as there’s an argument to be made that those who follow the rules are too busy flying for a living to worry about trying to bring sense to the conversation. But, the squeaky wheel gets the grease as the saying goes, and right now, the toxic crowd is squeaking loudest by far.

By flagrantly flouting the rules and laughing in the face of anyone who dares correct them, one has to assume that they are all but sealing their own fates. Just as the parent stands by and watches as the child tests the limits of their freedom and then drops the hammer when they’ve pushed just a bit too far, the FAA and government legislators are watching as drone owners with no regard for the rules that keep the national air space safe disregard not only those rules but in some cases the rules of basic human decency as well. And guess what…they’re reaching for their hammers.

If you are a new drone owner, understand that the decision of what community you will join and be a part of – the decision of what kind of drone operator you will be – not only affects you, but affects the drone community as a whole. I’m not saying that you need to go out and get a license if your sole purpose for buying the drone is to fly recreationally (although, don’t forget that you do need to get your TRUST certificate handled). But a little education goes a long way and understanding your and your drone’s role in the national airspace and the rules that govern it only makes things better for the drone community as a whole. You can fly correctly and safely and be a responsible member of an incredibly exciting community or you can mock those who are trying to protect it.

What those who continuously sing the chorus of “drone police” and “shut up drone Karen” fail to understand is that they’re being corrected and called out by people who care about the drone community and don’t want to see it regulated out of existence. They’re being asked to follow the rules by people who have just as much to lose as the person breaking the rules and flying outside of regulation. They don’t understand the rule breaker and the rule follower are perceived to be one and the same by a public who hears 10 negative drone stories in the media for every one positive story. It is the literal epitome of a few bad actors spoiling the whole thing for everyone else.

And it has to stop.