They are expected to be one of the biggest sellers this Christmas.
But anyone buying a drone should expect to be governed by new regulations as Westminster cracks down on the craze.
Proposals to come before Parliament include a requirement to register all drones with the Civil Aviation Authority and for owners to undergo training.
It follows concerns that the machines, some of which can go as high as 500 metres, as far as three miles and reach speeds of up to 70mph, could collide with aircraft.
Experienced user Steve Benson, a town councillor in Mirfield who has more than 800 hours’ flying experience, said he expected to see a big rise in the number of drones in the sky after Christmas.
But he added that users would be expected to self-regulate how they flew their machines until restrictions were introduced. Even then it would be difficult for use to be effectively policed, he said.
“If they are to licence it they need to think about rolling it out to become affordable,” he said.
“Training for commercial users, including pre-flight assessments, permission to fly and insurance, can cost more than £2,000. It’s not cheap. I’d imagine the average owner would carry on flying regardless. You will never stop this sort of activity.”
Clr Benson has been flying drones non-commercially for more than six years and owns a DJI Inspire 1, worth around £2,000. He has used his machine to check weir damage on the River Calder and has worked in collaboration with the Environment Agency, Kirklees Council, and the Canal & River Trust.
Last year he used a drone to capture aerial footage of land around Balderstone Fields off Hepworth Lane in Mirfield, which is earmarked for housing development. The footage was edited into a 27-minute video as part of a local campaign against the proposals.
Drones can be bought for as little as £50. Some weigh as little as 3lb but others can be as heavy as 30lb. Battery life means most can fly for between 20 and 26 minutes with a speed between 32mph and 67mph.
In July drone enthusiast Conrad Williams, of Bradley, caused a stir at the John Smith’s Stadium when he buzzed his device over a friendly match between Huddersfield Town and Liverpool, causing the referee to halt the game over concerns for the safety of fans and players.
He was later arrested and prosecuted for flying a small unmanned surveillance aircraft not in accordance with permission issued by the Civil Aviation Authority.
He was given a 12-month conditional discharge but ordered to pay £85 costs and a £20 victim surcharge.
Small unmanned aircraft are now widely available for commercial and recreational use. More popularly known as drones, they can cause injury or damage if they are not used responsibly and so are subject to safety rules, which are underpinned by UK law.
Anyone using a small drone needs to be aware of the regulations contained in the Air Navigation Order, specifically:
* Not recklessly or negligently causing or permitting an aircraft to endanger any person or property.
* Not causing or permitting any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a drone so as to endanger persons or property.
* Safe flying must be ensured, and the operator must maintain direct, unaided visual contact to monitor a drone’s flight path for the purpose of avoiding collisions.
* Drones weighing more than 6kg must not be flown in controlled airspace, or within an aerodrome traffic zone, unless permission has been given, or at a height of more than 400ft.
* Drone users are not permitted to undertake commercial work without permission from the Civil Aviation Authority.
*Surveillance drones must not be flown over or within 150m of any congested area or open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons, or within 50m of other people or vehicles.