HomeDrone sales rise for holidays as state leaders ponder security

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457916917_283(KUTV) Mike Thompson, manager at West Valley Hobbies in Taylorsville, said it’s pretty clear: drones will be the hot item in his shop this holiday season.

“There’s definitely going to be a lot more of them after Christmas,” he said.

At the shop, Thompson carries a variety of drones from the tiny, 30 dollar version that’s mostly made for kids to fly around the house to the sophisticated $800 – $1300 drone that has a GPS stabilized camera. They are both popular along with all the models that fall in between.

Thompson said since U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced last month that the federal government will come up with a registration process for drones, some people have purchased drones at his shop in an effort to beat the registration process which will be announced in late November.

“They don’t want to go through the hassle of registering it when it becomes law,” said Thompson who supports registration. He feels there’s a greater need for drone users to become educated on the rules for flying them.

Thompson said because they are dummy-proof and require no skills to fly, drone users usually don’t pay attention to regulations. Unlike people who fly remote controlled airplanes or helicopters, who have to learn and train to operate those, thanks to GPS stabilizers, drone operators don’t have to worry about learning to operate or pay attention to the regulations about where you can and can’t fly.

At Rice-Eccles Stadium on Tuesday, state leaders from law enforcement and other public agencies gathered to learn the latest in ways to detect drones that are used to harm people — like crowds at large gatherings or stadiums.

At the drone security summit, Nancy Ford, owner of Security 101 in Utah, said drones are not bad and there are plenty of examples of how they’ve benefited industries like photography, motion pictures and agriculture. She said her company tries to help clients protect no-fly zones with drone-detection technology.

Jason Curry, with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands said his agency is concerned about uneducated drone owners who fly their drones over wildfires to get video. In the process, they interfere with crews who are battling those fires in helicopters or airplanes.

“One collision between a drone and a helicopter will probably cost someone their life,” said he said.

Curry said in 2015, three such incidents were reported during wildfires. In the Wheeler Fire someone’s drone kept a plane from dropping fire retardant over the flames. The pilot had to dump the retardant at another location in order to land safely because those planes can’t be landed with a load of retardant. State officials are still trying to learn the identity of that drone owner to impose penalties.

State Rep. Kraig Powell of Heber said he will sponsor legislation in the 2106 session to address the problem with drones interfering with firefighting efforts.