Flying into Christmas – Drones, the toys with all the buzz

By Aaron Reynolds

The Surveyor

While the vast majority of toys wrapped in gift paper and resting under the Christmas tree will be reserved for the little ones, it doesn’t necessarily mean adults should be excluded from some fun this year as well.

Drones have all the buzz this Christmas, and no, they are not just reserved for children. They are now sold in several different sizes and designed with different experience levels in mind.

Drones, or “unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), were once only associated with the U.S. government, but have quickly emerged as one of the hottest consumer items for the holiday season and certainly pack plenty of that “it” factor if you are looking for the gift friends, family and coworkers will be talking about this Christmas.

There may be a day when we can all fly around in our own personal aircraft (a la “The Jetsons”), but until then the nearest thing you can get to being your own pilot is to own a UAV. Drones offer the unique opportunity to operate something in the sky (much like previous remote-controlled planes), yet also see the vantage point from above, thanks to the high-quality cameras built into the devices or sold as attachments. It’s as close as you can get to flying on your own right now, and you will be amazed at the type of footage you can get with a drone, whether you are an amateur photographer or professional filmmaker.

Pricing

Drones range in price from $100 to several thousand dollars. As with anything, the price you pay for it will greatly impact, not only the quality of its construction, but also potentially how easy it is to fly. There are also some really cheap drones priced for under $100; however the range and functionality of these drones is very limited, as well as mostly intended for children.

The good news is you don’t have to empty the piggy bank to get into the sport, especially if you have never flown a drone before and are just looking to experiment. In fact, it is recommended you start small with something like the DJI Spark (retail $500) which weighs 300 grams, less than the weight of three iPhone 7s, and is very easy to fly, before investing more than $1000 on a professional drone.

Flying

Drones may look intimidating, yet they are actually much easier to operate than you might expect. Again, the price you pay will vastly impact how easy the drone is to fly, as well as its capabilities in terms of how high and far it will go from you. But the important thing to remember is, they shouldn’t feel intimidating.

Like a lot of things, you can learn a great deal about flying drones with a quick search on YouTube. Here you will find countless informative videos that will help you learn to become a pilot.

License and Restrictions

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) only requires that you register your device with them if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds. Otherwise you do not need to inform the FAA and do not need a special pilot’s license. Furthermore, even if you must register the drone with the FAA, a pilot’s license is not required so long as you fly the drone “purely as a hobby and for solely recreational reasons,” according to the FAA.

While Berthoud is within or near three different counties (Larimer, Weld and Boulder), none of them seem to have any specific rules or regulations on drone use that are substantially different from other areas of the state. As long as you keep your drone within a visual line-of-sight, yield to any and all manned aircraft, remain at least five miles away from airports and air traffic control towers as well as adhere to other regulations of FAA’s Small UAS Rule, Part 107, you are good to go.

Future

Are drones just the latest fad? Considering that UAVs are starting to be embraced by everything from home delivery (Amazon) to local law enforcement agencies it suggests the drone market is here to stay and will continue to serve as a leisure activity for countless Americans in the foreseeable future.

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