Nave, 28, has been a self-proclaimed “tech nerd” for as long as he can remember, but last year an online video of a model helicopter inspired him to construct his own drones, which are commonly associated with unmanned aircraft used by the military. Drones are similar in concept to remote-controlled airplanes but have all the bells and whistles of modern technology. Nave said the drone built can hover as high as 10,000 feet and travel 40 to 50 mph.
By attaching a GoPro video camera to the device, Nave captures aerial footage of his friends surfing at the beach or skateboarding at a skate park. An analog television transmitter attached to the drone allows Nave to see live video footage through goggles while he steers the device with a remote. His drone also uses a GPS navigation system.
“Technology is getting so much better and drones are becoming so much more affordable for hobbyist to get into,” said Nave, who owns BN’s Lawn and Landscaping in Port Orange.
Drones are becoming an increasingly popular hobby for model aircraft enthusiasts, said Mike Roy, manager at High Fly Hobbies in Daytona Beach. The hobby store sells drone building kits and small drones that are ready for takeoff.
“I’d say the hobby has grown immensely in the last year for sure,” Roy said. “We’ve been slowly adding them to our inventory and at least one person comes in each day asking for one.”
While drones used by government agencies and businesses require operating permits from the Federal Aviation Authority, drones used for recreational purposes have fewer limitations. Concerns about using any type of drones for surveillance, however, have fueled debates about how drones should be used and monitored. While seven states, including Florida, have passed laws restricting drone use by public entities, Idaho and Texas became the first states last year to pass laws restricting drone use by private citizens.
The FAA is expected to implement guidelines next year that would integrate unmanned aircraft weighing 55 pounds or less into domestic airspace and outline regulations for recreational use. While it’s too soon tell what those new regulations will look like, it could result in requiring recreational drone operators to obtain a license or membership in a community-based organization that promotes safety standards, said Rich Hanson, director of public relations and government affairs for the Academy of Model Aeronautics. The national nonprofit organization sets forth safety and operating guidelines in line with FAA standards for its 164,000 members.
“There is a sense of responsibility that needs to be instilled in the community,” Hanson said. “Instructions for how to safely operate the devices aren’t on the packages. I think there are people who might be doing things that are questionable, but I don’t think they are trying to be irresponsible. I just don’t think they know.”
Nave began building his own drones about a year ago. He estimates the drone he currently owns is worth more than $2,000. He said he follows FAA standards requiring operators to fly model aircraft within a safe operating distance from schools, neighborhoods and churches. The standards also require operators to fly drones no higher than 400 feet and avoid flying in proximity to large aircraft.
Nave recognizes that there is a slight risk that his device could succumb to equipment failure and crash, which is why it’s important to fly responsibly, he said.
“Back in the day you’d need a helicopter to get this kind of footage,” he said. “Now you can take it on vacations and get beautiful and amazing footage. You do take risks but that’s just part of the hobby.”