Drones have taken the world by storm. Numerous celebrities, especially those on YouTube, have purchased drone technology to improve their video production quality and cinematography. The 2018 Olympic opening ceremonies featured over 1,000 drones in a world record feat of simultaneous drone flying.

Personal drones, officially dubbed as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by the Federal Aviation Administration, are mostly used for hobby use and vlogging and have gained popularity within the last three years.


Why Are Drones Popular Now?

Drone technology has been around for decades in the United States military. The U.S. military’s reliance on the use of drones has been increasing for years as the technology made significant advancements. Drones became consumer products many decades after the initial use by government entities.

So you may be asking: why have drones become so popular in recent years?

In my opinion, this is due to the increase in public interest in technology. Drone technology at the consumer level has continued to advance at an exponential rate, with smaller, more portable drones being put out on the market in the past year at cheaper prices.

DJI is the most well-known personal drone maker and offers various types of drones for different needs. DJI makes two categories of drones: consumer and professional. Consumer drones range from $400 (DJI Spark) to $1500 (DJI Phantom 4 Pro) for the drones themselves (excluding accessories). Professional drones, which are made for film production, begin at $3000 (DJI Inspire 2) and up. The primary difference between these drones is flight time (16 minutes for the Spark and 30 minutes), range of flight (2-7 km), video quality (1080p on the Spark versus 5.2K+), and the speed of the drone itself (30-60 mph).

Recently, I purchased a DJI Spark, the newest drone that DJI has to offer. It’s one of the more affordable drones on the market right now. The technology is incredible, but the regulations have begun to take an effect on the market.

Regulating Personal Drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enforces a law passed on August 29th, 2016 called the Small UAS Rule. This rule designates that all commercial drone flights must be registered and approved by the FAA and local officials. Drones are also restricted from flying within 5 miles, and must have permits and approval from said airport to fly within 15 miles of the airport.

Earlier in the month, I attempted to gain permission to fly my drone over Syracuse University’s campus to capture footage for this blog post and for future vlogs (another shameless plug). In order to gain permission, I needed to do the following: Register my drone with the FAA, confirm that the drone is marked per FAA regulations, submit a formal drone request to Syracuse University, provide proof of notice to SUNY Upstate Heliport and Hancock International Airport, obtain pre-approval from a faculty member and the Provost’s office, and get the Syracuse men’s basketball team dancing in March.

With technology advancing and regulations attempting to keep up, the battle between drones and law will continue to evolve. One thing is for certain: drones are not going away anytime soon, and they may continue to gain in popularity.