HACKENSACK, N.J. — The hottest present this holiday season is a gadget both kids and adults can enjoy: a drone.
There is even a drone for less than $100. Radioshack sells its Surveyor Drone for just $60. The Surveyor can be flown with a smartphone. It shoots video from the air.
"They're Cool"Rob Powley of Mahwah, New Jersey, has many drones. He has so many that he’s lost count. Some he bought already made. Others he built himself.
“I bought them because they’re cool,” Powley said. “It’s amazing what you can do with a drone. They’re getting better all the time.”
For years, drones were used by the military for secret missions. Drones gathered information and dropped bombs.
Remote-controlled airplanes and helicopters have been around for a long time. Drones are different, though. They are easier to fly. They can be flown in small spaces.
Powley flies his drones around his house and office.
“You can fly with first-person video, so it looks like you’re inside it. That’s really cool,” he said.
Buzzing Like Angry BeesMilitary drones were designed for stealth: to be as quiet as possible. The drones sold in stores are not very sneaky. Most of them buzz like a hive full of angry bees.
Drones run on batteries. If its battery runs out, a drone can fall out of the sky like a stone.
But drone technology is improving quickly. Soon, drones will use lighter equipment and better batteries. They will fly higher, farther and faster. They are also getting cheaper.
Five years ago, most people could not afford to buy a drone, said Mike Blades. He is an expert on the drone business.
In the last five years, sales of drones have skyrocketed. Next year, people will buy twice as many drones, Blades says.
More drones buzzing around has brought problems.
Stay Away From Airports!The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in charge of the nation's skies. It also runs airports in the U.S. It has received many complaints about drones. Pilots have seen drones flying close to their planes.
On Sept. 8, three different pilots reported “a very close call” with a drone as they flew into La Guardia Airport in New York.
Even a small drone could bring down a jet. To deal with the worries, new laws are being made.
Drones Should Not SpySafety is not the only problem. Another worry is that drones could be used to spy on people.
Russell Percenti was arrested after he used a shotgun to shoot down a drone. His neighbor had been flying it over his house.
A small drone with a camera makes it easy to spy on your neighbors, said Jeramie Scott. He is an expert on privacy.
Drone supporters say drones are not a big threat to privacy. Michael Drobac works for a group that represents drone makers. He says a good pair of binoculars is a better spying tool than a drone.
Drones can only fly for a short time, he said, and they make a very loud buzzing noise, so people can hear them if they are near.