Unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs), AKA drones, are playing an important role in the military. But if you thought these odd looking flying devices were only for spying on suspects and dropping bombs, you’d be wrong. An increasing number of affordable consumer drones means that pretty much anyone can get their hands on one of these fascinating gadgets now.

A mini indoor drone with limited functionality might set you back $40 (£25), but if you wanted to go all in for a fully equipped monster you can expect to pay upwards of $15,000 (£10,000). There is also a range of offerings to meet various price points in between.

All of which means that consumer drones are finally coming into their own, and more than likely coming to your neighborhood.

The Dangers of Drones

The thought of the average person being in control of such highly sophisticated technology is enough to make you become a recluse. Sure, consumer drones won’t be armed to the teeth with explosives like those used by the military, but in the hands of your next door neighbor a UAV might pose an entirely different risk.

In June, earlier this year three South Korean tourists got into trouble after losing control of their drone and crashing it into the iconic Milan Cathedral. It is claimed that they narrowly avoided causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Then there was the crash at the Great Bull Run in which several people were injured after a drone operator lost control and sent the UAV hurtling into the crowd.

Even so-called drone experts have difficulty handling these complex devices, as this Fox segment video shows. On it, tech journalist Dave Mosher talks about drone safety before crashing one, accidentally, on live television. Mishaps like these have certainly made people wary of UAVs, and there is no doubt there is an element of danger that cannot be ignored.

Nude Sunbathing is Off

Having a 100lb electronic device fall out of the sky onto your head is a justifiable concern, but there is also another worry; that of privacy. Many of the more sophisticated drones are, or can be, equipped with high-tech cameras. This is, of course, intended for use by professionals such as photographers and news reporters. However, any can get their hands on this equipment, providing they have sufficient funds.

It is easy to envisage a scenario where a crafty neighbor uses his camera-equipped drone to invade the privacy of others. Even if you are not in the habit of sunbathing nude in your backyard, the mere thought of these things hovering around your home might be enough to make your skin crawl.

There has already been an instance of a drone being shot down because it allegedly invaded someone’s privacy. But don’t go reaching for your shotgun just yet.

Drones Are Awesome

So here’s the thing, despite all the fears and concerns drones are awesome. Maybe not so much when in the hands of Tim next door, no offense Tim. But they do have a place. Consider the agricultural industry for example. A farmer can quickly and easily monitor the progress of his crops or discover damage to his fencing that needs mending.

Drones could also be the eye in the sky for TV reporters, helping them to retire the costly and environmentally unfriendly helicopter. Not to mention the benefits that could be had by both hobbyist and professional photographers. And then there are live sporting events where drones could be programmed to follow the action and capture unique angles not easily accomplished with regular cameras.

Besides the more advanced UAVs, there is a growing category of simple-to-control and affordable drones which are, perhaps, more Tim-friendly.

Best Drones For Ruling Your Neighborhood

Whatever peoples’ reservations about this technology there is little doubt that there is a drone craze on the horizon. Right now there is probably someone in your neighborhood honing their skills on an indoor mini-drone in preparation for a larger more sophisticated model. The fact is that you cannot appreciate just how much fun you can have with these things until you get your hands on one.

So why not take a tentative step into the world of drones with something the Axis Aerius. This one is so small that someone could mistake it for a flying insect, but it is perfect for practicing the control of a drone away from prying eyes. It also costs less than fifty bucks so crashing it will not be as heartbreaking as one of the more expensive versions.

Best Drones

Pretty soon, though, you will likely want to graduate to something a little meatier. The Blade Nano QX would be a worthy consideration. Stylish, compact, and featuring an exclusive SAFE technology making it easier to fly. Finally, when you are feeling confident enough you can consider something like the fantastic DJI Phantom 3. But by then you might well have had to move out of your neighborhood and into the countryside. Seriously, drones can get you into a lot of trouble if you’re not careful.

It is worth bearing in mind that many of the scary drone stories, such as those mentioned earlier, relate to hi-tech UAVs with complex control systems. These, in the hands of an inexperienced controller, can most certainly be worrying. However, some exciting things are happening with consumer drone technology: Drones are getting cheaper, safer, and easier to use. It would be a shame to miss out on all the fun.