Whether it’s the holidays, a birthday, or just that weird occasion when nothing but the coolest new toy will do; drones top the list of coveted gifts for both children and adults. But before you rush out to the mall or over to your computer for a little retail therapy, there are a few things you should know about buying a drone as a gift. Here are the 5 things to keep in mind:
#1. Choose the right drone for the occasion. Just as sweaters come in every size and color and style, drones come in all sizes, price ranges, and capabilities. It’s important to choose the right product for your recipient: appropriate for their age, abilities, and likely use. If you’re buying for a child, who just wants to fly it around like a remote control toy, a toy store will probably have a good selection. But if you’re buying for a teen, they may want the drone to take sports selfies or action photos – for which they’ll need one with a camera; some drones are specially designed to follow during sporting events. If you’re buying for a photography buff, you may want to consider a drone that is extra easy to fly, but has an excellent camera. If the lucky recipient is a model airplane or aviation enthusiast, you might want to buy a faster or racing drone that uses First Person View (FPV) goggles to steer. And if you’re buying a gift for a real gadget geek, you can even consider looking into a make-your-own drone kit. Sound confusing? Don’t worry, DRONELIFE has you covered – check out the drone configurator on our front page to find the right model for your requirements and this list of the best drones available for under $500.
#2. Registration. As of last year at about this time, all drones weighing more than .55 pounds must be registered with the FAA. This is a simple and quick online process that requires a credit card, address, and email. The cost is only $5, but the registration requirement holds even if you are buying the drone for a child. A child over the age of 14 must register themselves (but they’ll need your credit card for the $5 payment.) A child under that age will need an adult to register the drone for them – you could even take care of it before giving the gift. The law says that all drone operators need to carry their registration with them at all times, so registration will have to be taken care of before the drone is taken outdoors for its first flight. You can find out more information about registration on the FAA website, and you can register your drone here. This list from the FAA gives examples of drones that need to be registered or those that do not fall under the requirement.
#3. There are Rules. Drones are amazing technology: they’re tremendously fun to fly and offer incredibly opportunities for racers, makers, photographers and videographers. But they’re powerful, too – and any time you share the airspace with other aircraft, there are some basic rules that need to be followed. These rules can be found on the FAA website, on the KnowBeforeYouFly website – created in collaboration between the FAA and the drone industry – and even in the manufacturer’s box of many drones that you fly. In addition, some drones will come with apps that help drone operators stay out of restricted airspace and out of trouble. The FAA also offers several short videos to make the rules easy to understand. The regulations for hobby drones aren’t complicated – stay away from airports, buildings, and people; keep your altitude under 400 feet; and be considerate covers most of it – but they’re important to follow.
#4. Location, location, location. One thing that you should keep in mind before buying a drone as a gift is where the recipient will fly. If the person who will receive the drone lives in a rural area, away from an airport, there’s probably no problem. But if they live in the heart of the city or right near an airport (FAA regulations say you can’t fly within 5 miles of an airport without notifying the airport first) they may need to find a drone-friendly park or flying field to try it out. Check out the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) website to see if their local chapter may be able to make a suggestion, or ask other drone operators in the area where they fly.
#5. You’ve Just Hit Future Gift Jackpot. One of the best things about buying a drone as a gift – besides getting the award as the coolest aunt, cousin, grandpa or boss ever – is that you will now have an endless array of ideas for future gift opportunities. Carrying cases, upgrades, and accessories – there are new toys emerging every month! And a drone enthusiasts enthusiasm never dies. Who knows? After researching all of the cool things drones can do, you may find yourself shopping for one for yourself.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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