MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A new, hot holiday gift is taking flight this year. With prices starting as low as $60, sales for drones are soaring.

Thanks to evolving technology, anyone from kids to adults can pilot a drone.

The Federal Aviation Administration said as many as a million drones will be unwrapped this winter. But you may need to put some work in before taking off.

Mike Israel, co-Founder of AirVūz LLC, said anyone who’s interested in flying objects, like remote helicopters and airplanes, will naturally gravitate to drones.

“The technology has been evolving for some time, but it’s finally at the point for $1,000 or, in some cases well under $1,000, you can find a consumer drone that works out of the box and has safety and failsafe functionally,” Israel said.

Just because they’re fairly simple to fly doesn’t mean you’re cleared for takeoff once the box is open.

Drones used for commercial use will need to be registered with MnDOT. However, most drone purchases are from hobbyists and their use does not require a registration.

“Model aircraft have been around for a long time and people have been flying them safely,” Rick Braunig, MnDOT aviation safety and enforcement manager, said. “[But] they can be dangerous  if not handled with care.”

Since they are an aircraft, safety rules do apply.

Steer clear of airports, planes and helicopters.

The FAA cited more than 650 incidents this year where pilots reported drones flying too close. Drone users are advised to contact an airport or control tower if they’ll be flying within five miles of an airport.

Don’t fly at night or in bad weather.

And the FAA doesn’t want your drone buzzing higher than 400 feet.

“One good rule of thumb for people, as far as elevation is concerned, is to stay below surrounding objects,” Braunig said. “So, if you’re flying in a park and there are trees around, stay below the tops of the trees.”

An FAA task force has recommended the government require every drone owner to register online for free. It also suggests pilots be at least 13 years old.

As far as what you can do with your drone, the sky’s the limit.

“People are capturing everything on camera or video these days. This is just adding another dimension to that,” Israel said.

The FAA hasn’t said yet how it would enforce the recommendations, which is why MnDOT is helping spread the word about flying safety. You will find their MnDOT Recreational Drone Infographic.

Many groups are popping up around the state and country for aviation enthusiasts to learn more about drones. You can see many videos of how people are using their drones at airvuz.com.

Comments (3)