There are approximately 493,000 recreational drones registered in the United States as of March 2021. This statistic illustrates that drone hobbyists are becoming more and more common. Whether you’re a photography enthusiast, interested in drone technology, or simply looking for a new hobby, there are many ways that you can use your drone. Drones are great for both indoor and outdoor use, though you may want to add some weatherproofing if you’re going to be using your drone in the rain, snow, or high humidity.
New drone users should also be aware that they’ll need to register their drone with the Federal Aviation Administration if their drone weighs more than 250 grams before it can start flying. Registration can be done online, costs about five dollars, and takes only a few minutes. Once registered, users have a variety of activities available to practice using their drones.
Join a Club or League
Joining a club or a league can be a great way to meet other drone hobbyists, pick up new drone pilot skills, and create a structured time to get out and play with your drone. These clubs could be photography clubs, drone races, drone customization — virtually any drone activity you can think of could be the basis of a club or league.
You can search for existing clubs or leagues online, or even create your own. The FAA even has a page for recreational flyer organizations that meet on a national and state level. Drone conferences and expos can be another good place to meet up with other drone flyers in person, as well as to check out new technologies and trends in this space.
Create an Obstacle Course
Another fun activity that you can do with your drones is creating an obstacle course. Because drones are low and high-flying vehicles, there is a multitude of ways that you can create obstacle courses. For example, you could create a high-flying obstacle course that has to be navigated via camera, or an obstacle course that takes place in both high and low areas. You can do this in your backyard or a community event for local drone pilots.
Drones allow you to take your photography to a whole new level. Photography drones continue to advance in quality and capabilities, as photography is one of the most common uses for recreational drones. Drones open up opportunities for aerial photography from greater distances, including cityscapes, skyscapes, and other large-scale subjects.
If you’re planning on publishing or selling your drone photography, you must understand what images you’re legally allowed to share without permission. For example, if you take pictures of private property, you may need the property owner’s permission to post those photos, even if you never set foot on the property. Legislation on this may vary from state to state, so you’ll want to check in with copyright and fair use, as well as the reasonable expectation of privacy.
Aerial videography, similar to aerial photography, can help you expand the subjects you capture and create new and exciting content. Things like time lapses, outdoor sporting events, and even wedding videos can all be created more dynamically with drone videography.
The majority of photo-enabled drones can also take video, meaning that you can engage in both hobbies with one machine. You can also invest in camera mounts for your drone if you’re interested in shooting with a specific type of camera. You should still keep expectations of privacy and copyright laws in mind when shooting private subjects or areas.
While the technology isn’t yet available to print 3D models directly from drones, drone images can help you create more accurate 3D models than ever before. Because drone cameras can capture landscapes in higher detail from several different angles, drone images help recreate landscapes to model scale, as well as help create maps. This can be helpful for professional surveyors and city planners, as well as model and mini painting hobbyists.
Search and Rescue
Drones have been used to aid search and rescue missions for a few years now. These drones are equipped with tools like thermal cameras, real-time video capture, and even networks that can detect mobile phone signals from the air.
This helps police and other authorities to continue searching for missing persons in the dark even in challenging or impassable conditions. You can buy a search and rescue drone as a private citizen, however, you may need a special permit to operate this kind of drone depending on the weight and where you intend to use it.
These drones can also help locate lost animals since the thermal camera can pick up images clearer than the naked eye, and the drone can cover longer distances. This can be useful if you live in rural areas with large sections of unlit space, or if you own a lot of livestock.
Finding Valuable Items
Drones can also be used in finding lost valuable items. When used in tandem with tools like metal detectors, drones can help you uncover all kinds of hidden treasures. Jewelry, precious metals, and vintage coins are just a few examples of what you could find.
In addition, there are even certain drones that come attached with a metal detector. However, these drone detectors aren’t typically as strong or accurate as industrial metal detectors, though they may be used in tandem for a comprehensive search.
You can keep these treasures as a collection, or there are online communities that post lost items in the hopes of reuniting them with their owners. This can be a very rewarding and interesting hobby that can get you outside and help you explore your local area. It is important to note that, while laws vary by state, certain areas may not allow you to take home what you find if it bears historical significance. This is pretty rare, but not unheard of.
Data Collection and Surveying
Drones can also help us collect data about the world around us. Professional and amateur wildlife scientists can use drones to recreate topography maps, evaluate seasonal landscapes, and study wildlife without disrupting their habitats. This can help us understand more about the environmental challenges we face, as well as how the land is developing.
Drones can also be used as a form of land surveying technology. They help surveyors plan more accurately and effectively around things like protected areas and species. Drones can also help homeowners with land surveying projects, as they can help you find and map out property lines. This can be helpful if you’re looking to construct a new building on your property, put in or extend new piping, or help with other types of home renovation.
Synchronized Drone Performances
This can be a fun activity to do with your club or league, or if you have more than one drone. You can program drones to fly a certain pattern using flight planning software, which can create performances set to music, lights, or on a timer. In addition, you can get together and practice a manual routine with other drone flyers in your area.
This can be a fun performance to put on at special events like weddings, parties, and other celebrations. You can incorporate lights, sound, or even colored smoke to create a full aerial show right in your neighborhood.
Drone racing has become so popular among pilots that a professional league has started for high-speed drone racers. This can be an exciting spectator sport for drone enthusiasts. Races are held in cities around the U.S., from Miami to Arizona. If professional drone racing doesn’t interest you, or if you’re looking for some excitement in the offseason, you can create amateur races in your communities.
Before you start a race, it’s important to have the proper safety precautions in place. You should also have all the proper permits and registrations, for both your drones and your event if you’re racing for profit. This SVCC rule guideline was adapted from the Canadian Federation for Drone Racing and can be a good resource to see the safety standards professional drone races are held to when designing your event.
As drones continue to evolve, so do their uses. Drones can be a multi-purpose tool for both hobbyists and professionals in a variety of fields. With proper maintenance and care, your drone can last you for several years.