An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, as an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), or by several other names, is an aircraft without a human pilot aboard. The flight of UAVs may operate with various degrees of autonomy: either under remote control by a human operator, or fully or intermittently autonomously, by onboard computers.
Recreational drones became popular in the United States in 2015, with approximately one million expected to be sold by the end of the year.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has experimented with several models of UAVs, and has begun purchasing a fleet of unarmed MQ-9 Reapers to survey the U.S. border with Mexico. "In more than six months of service, the Predator's surveillance aided in the arrest of nearly 3900 arrests and the seizure of four tons of marijuana, border officials say.
On May 18, 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a certificate of authorization which will allow the M/RQ-1 and M/RQ-9 aircraft to be used within U.S. civilian airspace to search for survivors of disasters. Requests had been made in 2005 for the aircraft to be used in search and rescue operations following Hurricane Katrina, but because there was no FAA authorization in place at the time, the assets were not used. The Predator's infrared camera with digitally enhanced zoom has the capability of identifying the heat signature of a human body from an altitude of 10,000 feet, making the aircraft an ideal search and rescue tool.
According to a 2006 Wall Street Journal report, "After distinguished service in war zones in recent years, unmanned planes are hitting turbulence as they battle to join airliners and weekend pilots in America's civilian skies. Drones face regulatory, safety and technological hurdles – even though demand for them is burgeoning. Government agencies want them for disaster relief, border surveillance and wildfire fighting, while private companies hope to one day use drones for a wide variety of tasks, such as inspecting pipelines and spraying pesticides on farms.
An interesting Blog at http://www.TheDroneHum.com keeps you updated on recreational use drones with reviews and competition events.