Holiday Buying Guide: What to know before buying a drone - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Holiday Buying Guide: What to know before buying a drone

(Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS) (Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS)
(Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS) (Source: Nichole Cartmell/KFVS)

More than a million drones are expected to be under Christmas trees this year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

But knowing which drone to buy isn't easy to figure out when there are more than 80,000 options on sites like Amazon, not to mention area stores. 

Xtreme RC Hobbies and Collectibles in Scott City has been busy over the past few months, regardless of new regulations and registrations.

Jennifer Rogers, an employee, said customers seem to be up to date and are knowledgeable with the changes made regarding drone ownership.

At the Scott City store, there are drones that fall under the half-pound requirement for registration. However, it's important to keep in mind that any modifications, including installing a camera on it, may put it over the the minimum weight requirement.

When it comes to online purchases, the choices are nearly unlimited.

"You pull up drones and start doing research, your eyes start to glaze over after about 15 minutes because there are so many different types," drone user Brad Davis said.

Davis bought a drone about four months ago. As a photographer, Davis said he had to have one. 

"One of the things that I always wanted was a taller ladder," Davis said. "So this gives me as tall of a ladder as I need."

However, Davis said he would've never been able to find the perfect one with out doing research first. 

Before you make that big purchase, Brad Davis said you should be able to answer the following questions.

What are the regulations?

"For hobbyists the regulations aren't overly stringent at this point," Davis said. "A lot of it is just common sense."

Current regulations for hobbyist drone users include:

  • Fly below 400 feet and remain clear of surrounding obstacles
  • Keep the aircraft within visual line of sight at all times
  • Remain well clear of and do not interfere with manned aircraft operations
  • Don't fly within 5 miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying
  • Don't fly near people or stadiums
  • Don't fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 pounds
  • Don't be careless or reckless with your unmanned aircraft – you could be fined for endangering people or other aircraft

Whether you need to register it, is still up for consideration.

On Nov. 23, the FAA released new recommendations that would require all remote-controlled aircraft larger than 9 ounces to be registered.

The registration would not cost users any money. 

The process would work a lot like how consumers already register new products. You would need to enter your name, physical address, and the drones unique identification number.

The registry would essentially be used to identify the users. 

The registry has not been approved as of Thanksgiving.

However, the FAA hopes to have it in place by Dec. 20.

Until then, Davis does say you want to make sure the drone is covered under your homeowners insurance.

CLICK HERE for all things related to drone regulations.

What are you going to use the drone for?

"Are you just using this for fun? Is it just family snapshot type of thing or do you want the quality that is going to be a little more professional grade?" Davis asked.

If you're looking for a remote-controlled aircraft just to fly around, chances are good you won't need something that has a camera on it. 

Consumers must also decide if they are using the drone for recreational use, meaning for personal interests and enjoyment. If you plan on using the same device to take photographs or videos for compensation or sale to another individual, it would be considered a commercial operation. 

What do you need?

Does the drone kit come with everything you need for proper use? In Davis' case, he had to buy some items separately.

"I learned very quickly that one battery doesn't take you very far," Davis said. "These batteries last anywhere form 15 to 20 minutes."

If you're using a camera, you may also need a memory card to store pictures and video.

For some drones, separate software is needed to use the device. In Davis' case, he downloaded a program on his iPad to navigate where the drone was going.

Once you've done your homework, Davis said it's smooth sailing from there.

"The sky is the limit."

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