7 On Your Side, Consumer Reports: What you need to know about drones

Friday, March 2, 2018
What you need to know about drones
You finally got that drone you wanted. Now that lightweight, affordable models are everywhere.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- You finally got that drone you wanted and now there are lightweight, affordable models are everywhere.

But, you still have so many questions, like what are the general laws and regulations? Consumer Reports just finished testing its first batch of drones, and 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney has some answers.

Kojo Sheng uses his drone all the time. "I love filming cinematics of wherever I go, like on vacation and stuff, and I love making little films with my friends," he said.

RELATED: Sausalito closes in on drone regulations after uptick in incidents

For a long time, drones were used mostly by professional photographers and flying enthusiasts. But lower priced, user-friendly models are flooding the market, allowing consumers to get in on the action.

That sales growth has raised safety concerns as more drones take to the skies. Consumer Reports says if you're planning to buy a drone, it's important to learn the rules. "You don't need a license to fly a drone as long as you're flying for fun and you're not being paid to do it," Consumer Reports Electronics expert Chris Raymond said.

RELATED: Drones used increasingly in Fremont to track suspects, rescue stranded people

But for some flyers, registering the drone is a must. "You do have to register a drone. If it weighs more than a half pound and less than 55 pounds," Raymond said. "You need to go the FAAs website and register there. It only takes a few minutes to do it, it costs $5 and it's good for three years."

When it comes to where you can fly the drone, there are a few clear cut restrictions. You cannot fly it higher than 400 feet and it must be in your line of sight at all times. "The FAA insists that you stay away from prisons, power plants, government buildings and military bases, airports, stadiums, and national parks," Raymond said.

Consumer Reports recommends starting with an inexpensive toy drone before investing in a more expensive one.

The outdoor drone that tops their first-ever drone ratings is DJI's $900 Mavic Pro. Their top-rated lightweight selfie-drone is the $400 DJI Spark.

Click here for more 7 On Your Side stories and videos.