From beneath the tree to above them: What you need to know about drones

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Drones were a popular item beneath the Christmas tree this year but there are some things you might want to know before flying one over the tree.

Drones weighing more than a half-pound must be registered with the Federal Aviation Authority. The FAA says more than 45,000 people have registered their drones for recreational use since December 21st.

The allure of the drone is obvious.

"It will follow you whether you're surfing, biking, whatever you want to do," said Rafal Mirael, owner of Extreme RC in North Charleston. "These days, you can sit on your couch and fly outside, which is pretty awesome. Your eyes can travel everywhere."

Mirael said last year, remote controlled helicopters were all the rage, but now drones -- also known as quadcopters -- are flying off shelves.

"Since drones came out with video technology and live feed and Wi-Fi, we've seen a big increase, probably a 35-40 percent increase in sales," said Mirael.

Drone expert Tom Fernandez runs Skyview Aerial Solutions, a photography/videography company based out of Summerville. When he started his business two years ago, he said there were just five registered commercial drone users statewide.

"There are now 37 and in 2016 we'll probably see that number double," said Fernandez.

The FAA already requires commercial drones to register their unmanned aircrafts. Fernandez said requiring recreational users to register is smart and helps hold people accountable.

"If someone flies a drone over a football game for example and crashes it, authorities need to be able to track who owns that unit and why it was being operated," said Fernandez.

While he welcomes growing competition, he hopes people will take their new toys seriously.

"Use common sense," he said. "Don't fly over crowds of people, don't fly near buildings, don't fly near heavy traffic and definitely don't fly anywhere near an airport."

People can register their drones for free until January 21st. After that it will cost a $5 fee.
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