WASHINGTON (WKBN) – Experts predict drones will be at the top of many wish lists this holiday season.
By the end of this year, an estimated 700,000 drones will have been sold in the U.S.
Drones are lightweight, fun to fly, and take some of the most beautiful photos you’ve ever seen.
“Hands down, drones are going to be the biggest ticket item this holiday season,” Expert Drones Owner Brett Velicovich said.
His group specializes in the unmanned flying machines, which up until recently, have been too expensive and for serious flyers only. But now, more affordable models are becoming available and popular.
While demand is taking off, for people new to the industry, it’s hard to know where to start, with all the different types of drones. But even after you’ve figured out which drone to buy, questions still remain about who can fly what, when, and where.
“Even though it looks like a great big blue sky, that’s a lot of room out there, it’s actually really congested, particularly in urban areas,” Federal Aviation Administration Director Michael Heurta said.
His department, like others, are scrambling to figure out what rules are needed.
“I don’t think is any single solution,” Heurta said. “It has to be a lot of different things. Clearly education plays a very important role, likewise enforcement.”
Right now, there are some rules for flying, such as: Drones must stay below 400 feet and are supposed to be staying at least five miles away from airports.
On the website Knowbeforeyoufly.org, an interactive map even shows where airspace is off limits.
And by the end of the year, the FAA wants every drone registered into a national databse. It’s not up and running yet, but the government expects it’ll be online after Christmas.
“As you register your drone, you’ll learn what it’s like to operate in the airspace system as part of our Know Before You Fly campaign,” Heurta said.
While drone makers and sellers wait for regulations to be set up, in the end, experts agree it’s consumers who need to be their own watchdog.
“People should understand these things are incredibly powerful,” Velicovich said.