The popularity of drones has taken off in recent years, especially with hobbyists.
“The units sold went from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands in the blink of an eye,” says Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA has ramped up its educational efforts to meet the growing popularity of drones, and at the same time, relaxed some of the requirements for those who fly drones as a hobby.
For instance, hobbyists no longer have to register their drones, but they do have to abide by most of the same rules as licensed drone pilots.
“If people who are new to the field abide by a few common sense rules, they’ll be able to operate safely and have fun at the same time,” says Gregor.
If a drone is on your family’s wish list this year, these are the basics:
You have to fly your drone under 400 feet and keep it within visual line of sight at all times.
You can’t fly your drone over crowds of people or near emergency response situations, like fires or accidents.
And finally, you can’t fly within five miles of an airport without notification and permission.
When it comes to privacy laws, it all depends on the particular state and local statutes. In Nevada, you can run into some legal problems if you continue to fly your drone over private property after the homeowner has asked you to stop.
So far, drone enthusiasts have done a good job abiding by the laws, with the FAA only having to deal with about 50 enforcement actions nationwide in the past few years.
“When you compare the number of total drone operators to the number of enforcement actions, it is pretty rare,” says Gregor.
And everyone hopes it stays that way. So fly away, have fun, but use common sense and never leave safety up in the air.