BALDWIN — Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems have become more popular in recent years, and more affordable. What many people don't realize is these devices are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

These small remote controlled or automated flying devices are used for a variety of uses. They are used mostly by civilians for recreational, media or photographic and video projects due to the common practice of attaching a camera.

The FAA's primary responsibilities are regulating private and commercial aircraft. However, the group's regulations also restrict drone use within areas where they may interfere with other air traffic, such as an airport.

FAA rules also prohibit drone use over most federal land, such as national forests and parks, a relevant — and to many people, surprising — factor to those living near the Huron-Manistee National Forest.

"All national forests and most federal land have the same policies determined by the FAA to ensure federal airspace is controlled," explained Ken Arbogast, the public affairs officer for the National Forest Service. "There are benefits for our specific post, such as if we need to fight fires or monitor the forest to prevent fires. We don't want to have to worry about our aircraft getting interference from drones in an emergency situation."

Members of the National Park Service have argued drones can annoy visitors to public places who are typically seeking peace and quiet. A drone can disturb, or even harass, wildlife. Others have pointed out how drones may also interfere with other aerial activity such as wildfire detection and suppression. There have been several incidents in recent years in which firefighters have had to suspend the use of aircraft in fighting wildfires because of the presence of private drones.

Recent FAA regulations state drones above a certain weight must be registered or the owners can face civil and criminal penalties. The Huron-Manistee National Forests encourage the public to be aware of these regulations and the responsibility involved in flying a drone.

"The Huron-Manistee Forest follows the same national policies regarding drone use," remarked Arbogast. "To register drones you need to do so through the FAA. Just make sure you are familiar with the local rules about airspace before you start flying it."

More information on drone registration and regulation can be found at faa.gov/uas/registration/faqs/.