Getting a drone for Christmas? Be prepared to follow strict guidelines

Drones have come a long way over years and they’re taking off in popularity and price.

“You’re looking at about $700 and move up to about $1,300, depending on the model that you choose,” Robin Hoffman of London Drugs in Kelowna said.

So who’s buying drones? Believe or not, parents and professionals top the list.

“Real estate agents are buying them, wedding photographers, teenagers and dads. Dads are the big market this year,” Hoffman said.

Len Steg knows a thing or two about remote controlled aircraft.

He’s a long time member of the local RC flying club.

Steg believes drones are taking off in popularity because they’re easy to fly, but you just can’t fly it anywhere you like.

“You can fly it indoors in your rec-room, but when you go outside, you’re restricted as to where you can fly it, how you can fly it,” Steg said.

Transport Canada dictates where, when and how you should fly your drone.

For starters, you can’t fly it higher than 90 metres or 300 feet. If it’s a small drone, you have to keep it 30 metres away from vehicles, vessels and the public.

That stretches to 75 metres if it’s a large drone (more than 1 kg).

Flying within 5.5 km of an airport is strictly forbidden, you can only fly it during the day and you must be able to see it at all times. The maximum fine for breaking the rules is $3,000.

Think twice before heading out to the nearest field to play with your new toy.

“School yards are definitely out, playgrounds are out, local parks, government agencies — things like that — they prohibit radio control models of any sort now,” Legg said.

And if that’s not enough, Steg said you have to carry liability insurance in case the drone gets away from you and smashes into something or someone.

So if a drone is on your wish list, be prepared the follow the rules and one last thing — don’t expect a refund if you crash it on your first try.

“The thing to remember with drones is that when you buy them, they are a final sale,” Hoffman said.