More than ten million drones will be sold this year. These are consumer drones. It is a fledgling but rapidly growing market. Before long, there will be 100 million of these out there. Many of these are toy unmanned aerial vehicles, suitable only for learning to fly one around your living room. But many are for real and most contain cameras.
Toy drones cost around $100. More serious consumer drones cost $500 to $1500. They typically fly at speeds up to 50 km/h and to heights of a few hundred meters. The biggest technical problem facing new drone owners is battery life (typically 5-10 minutes) and self-destruction.
Drone Christmas. Where can I fly it?
So, you got a drone for Christmas. What can you do with it? As with many new technologies, the regulatory frameworks are a mess. In Canada, federal regulations basically say that if you fly for fun and your drone is under 35 kg (75 pounds) you can fly in daylight under visual control. But you need to stay below 300 feet, outside of populated areas, and more than 150 feet away from people, animals, buildings, structures, or vehicles. Also, you are not supposed to fly one within 9 km of an aerodrome or helicopter landing pad. Since most of our hospitals have landing pads, that rules out most of my city.
Then there are municipal regulations, also confusing. According to interviews conducted by the Calgary Sun, the police say the only place to legally fly my drone is my back yard. That could get tired fast. And, what’s more, it contravenes federal regulations.
No problem. I live next to a provincial park. Wide open space. Sorry, that is not allowed either. Don’t want to scare the animals.
And all of the regulations are going to change in 2017, anyway, but nobody know to what. And, there is a whole set of different rules for flying drones for business or research. It seems to me that with millions of drones showing up, people are going to fly them. Look for lots of confusion ahead.
And then there’s Amazon.