NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Drones are flying off store shelves this holiday season, but the Federal Aviation Administration has new regulations you need to know about before you take off.
At one Metairie shop, sales are way up.
"Drones are very popular this Christmas season. We actually have an increase in sales due to the holidays," said assistant store manager Alex Perez.
And,they're not the only ones seeing big business. The FAA expects hundreds of thousands of drones, or what they call "model unmanned aircraft," will be purchased this holiday season.
But here's what you need to know: Any recreational user of a drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds must register that aircraft with the FAA. If you had one before Dec 21, you have until Feb. 19 to register. If you buy one after Dec. 21, you have to register before you take your first outdoor flight.
"I don't have an issue with it. I look at it as we're not doing anything wrong. If you are following the guidelines as the FAA asks you to follow, then you should be fine," said local drone user David Flores.
The feds say the new registration process gives them an opportunity to educate new users so they understand airspace rules. And that may be needed now more than ever when you consider how many close encounters pilots have had with drones, including several here in Louisiana.
According to the FAA, in February of this year, a drone was reported flying too close to a plane at Louis Armstrong International Airport. There were similar reports in Baton Rouge, Monroe and another in New Orleans last December. The FAA stresses that flying drones near planes or helicopters is not only dangerous - it's illegal.
As for the new FAA registration rule, "I don't think it will affect sales," Perez said. "A lot of consumers have been asking us about it, a lot of them are actually stoked about it because now there is accountability and some safety. Everybody is feeling comfortable about it."
Recreational drone users are now legally required to register with the FAA, and you can do that starting Monday. There is a $5 fee, but that will be waived for the first 30 days of the registration process.