This December 26, you might want to look up: Drones are already disappearing from retail shelves, and are likely headed to a questionably legal fly zone near you.
In Europe, where regulations governing consumer use of the flying robots are more lax, shoppers are getting a head start on Black Friday. Maplin, the U.K.-based electronics retailer, tells Mashable that its stores are already struggling to keep up with demand for products like the DJI Phantom ($579), which is currently on back order.
And in the U.S., while the FAA continues to clamp down on unmanned aircraft, “drone” is trending on Google as something that searchers say they “want to buy.” “A year ago people didn’t even know drones were used by the military,” Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist for ConvergEx, a research firm that tracks Google Trends, tells MarketWatch. “To have a drone break in [to Google Trends] and now be considered a consumer device, is fascinating. Drones are on people’s minds.”
That said, the FAA’s mercurial guidelines–combined with varying tolerance for the vehicles on the part of local law enforcement officers, who are authorized to act on behalf of public safety–may dissuade window shoppers from actually clicking to purchase. For the curious, this reference map of no-fly zones, such as airports and national parks, is worth a scan.
Perhaps the biggest change in the drone market since last year has been the drop in price. Functionality that once cost upwards of $10,000 now costs a third of that, with the introduction of DJI’s Inspire 1 ($3,399). And entry-level drones like Parrot’s Rolling Spider ($100) are cheap enough to compete with remote-controlled cars and similar toys.