Korean Drone Club has 3,400 Members

Drones are becoming a common sight at city parks in South Korea, with the small aircraft emerging as a new toy for “kidults” ― adults enjoying hobbies considered better suited to children. Korea’s largest online shopping mall 11st said it saw drone sales rise 560 percent from January to April this year compared to the same period in 2014. 

Park Seung-wook, 29, a researcher at a chemistry company, is one of the many “kidults” enjoying the luxury hobby.

“I like the sound of the propellers, which makes my heart beat. As I get older, there are fewer things that make my heart flutter,” Park said.

“I also feel like I’m riding a plane while operating the drone by seeing the display on the monitor in real time,” he added.

He is spending most of his weekends flying his AR Drone made by French company Parrot along with other members of his drone club called “Drone, a camera flying sky.”

For some, flying a drone is a life-changing experience. Lee Jung-hoon, who used to be a career soldier aspiring to be an unmanned surveillance vehicle pilot, became a drone importer after first learning about the new devices three years ago.

Last March, he set up drone club Phantom Drone to share his experience with others, and it has now become Korea’s largest drone club with 3,400 members.

“Flying is not something easy to experience. While flying my drone, I get a vicarious thrill,” Lee said.

With an age restriction of 18 or older and a high price tag ― most are more than 1 million won ($900) ― drones are certainly toys for adults. Drone experts said more than 90 percent of the users are men in their 30s and 40s.

In recent months, the number of younger users has steadily been increasing, though it is still a luxury unfamiliar to many.

Oh Yoo-sang, 24, is one of the few college students enjoying the expensive hobby.

“Currently, I am the only one among my friends who has a drone, so I usually fly my drone with other club members,” he said.

He recently sold off his old Phantom 2, priced around 1.5 million won, and bought DJI’s Inspire1 for 3.5 million won. The new model is bigger and has a more powerful motor with a better global positioning system, he boasted.

“I did a part-time job for six months to buy this. Still, it is worth it as I can relieve all my stress during the weekend by flying my drone,” he said.

Amid the growing use of drones for leisure and sports, concerns have also been raised about safety issues.

“Drones are dangerous toys and beginners should be fully aware of that,” Lee Jung-hoon said.

“The small aircraft, which normally weigh more than 3 kilograms and have sharp propellers, can cause injuries or property damage by mistake,” he added.

He recommends that beginners join a club and learn about how to safely operate their drones.

Photo: A man flies his drone in Paju, Gyeonggi Province – Phantompro

Source: The Korea Herald

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