According to the latest PEW Research Center survey, 8% of Americans say they own a drone and 59% have seen a drone in operation. Just like in the UK, drones are catching on as consumer goods in the US. However, regardless of the unmanned aerial vehicles’ increasing popularity, many Americans have reservations about where and under what circumstances drone operations should be allowed.
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Age is big factor in drone tolerance among the American public
The study shows a difference in drone ownership based on gender and age. More men (11%) own drones than women (6%) and more younger people (12%), between the ages of 19 to 49 own unmanned aircraft than people over 50 years old (4%).
Americans have different opinions about drones being flown in their vicinity and what rules should be applied. 58% of all Americans would be curious if a drone was flown nearby, whereas 45% would be interested, 26% would be nervous, and 12% would be angry or scared (11%).
Asked about the rules that should apply to drone use, more than half (54%) of the American public thinks that drones should not be allowed to fly near people’s homes. Only 11% thinks that it is ok to fly your drone near people’s homes and 34% thinks it is ok in some circumstances but not others.
More than half (53%) of the American public are of the opinion that drone usage by citizens should not be allowed near crime scenes or accidents. 45% think that drone flights should not be allowed at public events such as rallies, sporting events or concerts. Americans are more tolerant towards drone usage in public parks or at beaches.
Many Americans have not yet made up their mind about hard and fast rules of where and when drone flying should be allowed. Between one quarter to a third of the public say it depends on the circumstances as to whether drone flights should be allowed in a certain location or not.
Older folks are more negative towards drone usage
Furthermore, older people are far more negative towards drone flights than younger people. For instance, only 6% of people aged 65 and older would feel indifferent about drones flying near their homes versus 25% of 18- to 29-year-olds. And 17% among those aged 65 and older would feel angry. Only 5% of the younger people would share that feeling. The group of Americans aged over 65 is also more strict when it comes to banning citizens’ drone flights in certain areas, most notably near people’s homes. 73% of them think this should not be allowed. 67% of them think drone flights should not be allowed during rallies and concerts.
As of May 2017 more than 820,000 drone operators had registered their unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. As of October 2017 this number has grown to 943,535, including 106,739 non-hobbyist (or commercial) drones and 836,796 registered hobbyists. These numbers do not include drones weighing less than 0.55 pounds as those are exempt from the recently reinstated drone registration.