An AscTec Hummingbird soars through the air during a demonstration for the Daily Pilot, by Revolution Aviation located at John Wayne Airport, on Tuesday at Bonita Creek Park in Newport Beach. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / May 20, 2014)

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Robinson attributes the slow uptake in part to his decision not to emphasize promotion of the lessons just yet. Before they get going full swing, he wants to be sure the company is fully prepared, perhaps with an employee who focuses solely on those classes.

For now, in addition to the full-day course, Robinson also offers $550 half-day classes for the more experienced, or $95 an hour for those just seeking a little help.

He turns away students looking to fly drones commercially, suggesting instead that they take a more long-term course. The University of North Dakota, for example, offers a bachelor's degree in aeronautics with a major in unmanned aircraft systems operations.

Those who wish to use drones for commercial operations must be cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration, which requires flights to have a certified aircraft and a licensed pilot, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

This authorization would include any real estate agency looking to use drones to photograph its properties, as well as a private flight school that charged students for lessons, he said.

To date, only one commercial operation has met FAA criteria and received authorization for flight, which was limited to the Arctic, he said.


The Rules

Although operating standards exist, people who wish to fly model aircraft as a hobby do not require approval by the FAA.

Because Robinson is not flying drones for clients, he believes Revolution Aviation is simply helping provide such customers with information.

"They're paying us for our knowledge and our expertise to instruct them," Robinson said. "We're not being hired to provide a service."

Meanwhile, a Costa Mesa resident, who did not wish to be identified for privacy reasons, taught himself to fly a remote control quadcopter using a $33 device available, ironically enough, on Amazon.

"If you fly that for a month and you get decent at it, then you can get into the hobby-grade stuff," he said, adding that he had a background in racing remote control cars.

On a recent Tuesday morning, about 18 months after he first began dabbling with quadcopters, the electronics engineer was at a park in Newport Beach flying two different remote control devices he had built himself.

He waved as a Newport Beach police officer drove past. (Police spokeswoman Jen Manzella said they do not enforce air traffic issues, but would respond if there were a public nuisance complaint. So far, drones have not been a significant issue for the department.)

The copter, with red and green lights shining, emitted a buzzing sound as it flipped and turned in the air. He continued to practice flying it, taking caution when pedestrians came near, and only packed up reluctantly when the clock pushed toward 10 — time to get going to work.