OAKLYN, N.J. (AP) – DJI Phantom 3. Hubsan X4. Blade Nano QX.
These aren’t names of new characters in the upcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
They are the most popular personal drone models available.
Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that hover in the air, guided by GPS to collect imagery. You can buy drones for personal use and customize them with various modifications, including a GoPro camera, a WiFi signal or apps.
According to DroneLife.com, the drone business has been booming since 2010. Drone manufacturer 3D Robotics estimates at least 500,000 drones were sold in the U.S. in 2014.
The FAA estimates the drone industry will total over $90 million by 2020, as more hobbyists emerge and more companies receive permission to use them commercially.
Drone models are selling for as little as $30. However, many hobbyists spend upwards of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on modifications.
Drone hobbyists, like the members of the Oaklyn Rotor-E Drones Club, frequently meet to discuss the physics of flight, go over safety tips, share drone stories and- of course -fly their drones. The club formed in 2014 and has hosted several successful gatherings in New Jersey.
“The drone movement in the United States isn’t just a hobby,” club President Lavon Phillips told the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill
He says it has a significant impact on technology development and growing local economies. One of the ultimate goals of the Rotor-E Drones Club is to enhance community engagement with technology and facilitate connections among New Jersey residents.
“We started it just to have fun but also to introduce the community in large to this technology and help them fix things,” Phillips said.
According to Phillips, one of the reasons drones are so appealing is because there are so many different shapes, styles and sizes.
This past Sunday, the club gathered at Laurel Acres Park in Mount Laurel to meet new friends and see new custom drones hover over the park.
“Generally, we fly anywhere we are allowed,” Phillips said. “You need to have at least a 300 yard radius around where you fly. We prefer to fly in places that have no trees, wires or things like that.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has strict rules when it comes to commercial and personal use of drones.
According to Dronelaw.net, the FAA says you can buy a model plane or helicopter with a camera attached and shoot video for personal use, but trying to sell the video or use it to promote a business is strictly prohibited.
But hobbyists, like the individuals involved in the Rotor-E Drones Club, have the freedom to fly their drones as long as they are in line of sight, not above 400 feet and it is during daylight hours.
All 112 members of the club have Academy of Model Aeronautics licenses. AMA is one of the advocates for personal-use drones, helping members understand rules and regulations. The group is the world’s largest model aviation association dedicated to promoting development of model aviation as a sport and recreation activity.
Rotor-E Drones Club member Allan Hallowall of Mount Holly bought his first drone three years ago. He now owns 12.
“I have been working on my collection now for three years, adding parts and making modifications,” he said. “Anyone interested in drones can buy some of the more popular models and go on from there.”
Not formally a member of the Rotor-E Drones Club, he said he saw the Meet Up posted online and decided to come hang out with fellow hobbyists. “It’s great to see everyone come out and put a positive spin on such a fun hobby.”
Jake Olah of Hamilton has only been flying his personal drone, an S50 Hexacopter he custom-built with a DGI flight controller, for one month. He said he bought his drone for fun and hasn’t looked back.
“I joined the Rotor-E Drones Club because I wanted to find more people who shared the same interest and get more ideas for the drones I buy in the future.”
Donovan Gardner, West Hampton, spent 22 years in the United States Air Force. He worked professionally as an engineer and aircraft mechanic before finding a love for UAVs.
“I was always interested in aircraft and after doing a little convincing for my girlfriend, I bought a Phantom P2, which is one of the more popular models you can find online through Amazon or other sites like that.”
As hobbyists make strides for using drones, a company in New Jersey has made progress in commercial use.
In 2014, Unmanned Sensing Systems LLC was granted an FAA exemption to operate UAVs for aerial imagery collection, becoming one of the first companies in New Jersey legally authorized to use drones commercially.
The aerial data collection company is able to operate their small, unmanned aircraft primarily to assist farmers in monitoring and optimizing their yields.
Dany Murray, founder of US2 said it was a long time coming. “The FAA exemption allows us to finally offer this amazing technology to those who really benefit from it.”
Although many are concerned over how drones may interfere with conventional airplanes, Murray says the FAA granted the company a prescribed set of operating conditions and requirements to keep their operation safe and responsible.
“It’s an exciting time and we are proud to be a part of it.”
Information from: Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.), http://www.courierpostonline.com/
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/20150530_ap_8b5c237f95de4a9d9dbec991ba856bc1.html#ZB4XKHEBirLAtHh9.99