That has not stopped scores of devices from entering the market. There are generally three types of personal drones available.
There is the toy market, which features devices such as the Parrot AR.Drone. It sells for $300 and can bought online, at the mall or even through the online Apple store. The drone is controlled with an iPhone and operates over Wi-Fi, recording what happens below.
Many newbies start off with the Parrot and eventually graduate to more sophisticated devices, such as the fully autonomous drones sold for upwards of $600 by 3D Robotics, a California company run by Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired magazine, who gave up words for drones.
Anderson said the company, founded in 2009, was generating $5 million a year in sales early on and is now growing 100 percent year over year. His drones can fly for 15 or 20 minutes, with HD cameras attached. If a big gust of wind comes along, the drone knows how to stabilize itself.
And then there are the $20,000-and-above drones, such as the Falcon UAV that police departments are purchasing. They can fly for hours at a time and coordinate with surveillance systems on the ground.
Last month, at Davis Airport in Laytonsville, Md., more than three dozen members of the D.C. drone group gathered for a fly-in. The group included men with their grandsons progressing from remote-controlled planes, photographers and filmmakers hoping to integrate drones into their work, and military contractors such as Ken Druce, who was zooming his drone through the air when another drone came spiraling down to the earth not far from his feet.
"You're fine, you're fine," Druce told the other pilot.
"No, I wasn't fine," he replied.
They laughed. Another pilot offered the following observation: "Everyone crashes." Especially amateurs. But Druce has a loftier goal - starting a company that helps farmers map their fields for fertilization.
The group of fliers is mostly male, ranging from elementary schoolers to retirees, and the diversity of backgrounds is best exemplified by Scott Avey, the group's self-proclaimed "drone evangelist." The title is not entirely in jest. Avey is a pastor at a Frederick, Md., church, or, as he put it, "a guitar-playing pastor who flies drones." He has used his drone to get aerial footage of his church's parking lot to figure out more efficient parking strategies.
Not long ago, he met with members of Congress to discuss the potential for commercial drone uses. Like other drone fliers, he is worried that privacy and safety issues will overshadow the commercial benefits of drones, a concern shared by a variety of groups. The National Football League and Motion Picture Association of America have reportedly both pushed the FAA to integrate commercial use into U.S. airspaces.
"We are at the same place with drones in the technology curve as computers were in 1986," Avey said. "People would have never thought of the uses that we use computers for now."
The Washington group is sensitive to concerns about drones, and it has been pushing positive uses. There are hopes to partner with a local first-responder organization to help with search-and-rescue missions for missing children or Alzheimer's patients who have wandered off. The group wants to work with disabled veterans to help them find commercial uses for the technology. This month, it hosted a guest speaker, University of Maryland professor Tom Snitch, who is helping park rangers in Africa spot poachers, with drones larger than the ones the group typically flies.
Good, the wedding-ring deliveryman, wants to use drones to make commercials and movies, but he knows the nascent personal-drone community has more work to do to make people comfortable with the technology.
"There are people outside the White House probably right now protesting drones," he said. "But we're trying to do really positive stuff with these things, developing uses that are cool and new and exciting. I want to live in the future that is more like 'The Jetsons' and less like 'The Terminator.' "