Over the past few years, drones have risen in popularity, and as a result, the selection had diversified and grown exponentially. Each brand of drone has many different models and sets of features to choose from. Each come with their own sets of weaknesses and strengths. Let us go over what to look for when purchasing a drone including: type, quality, key features, price, and more.
A Basic Guide to Drones
There are 3 different classifications of drones based on intended uses. Their classifications are commercial, recreational, and children’s drones.
Commercial drones are extremely useful in many different industries. If you work in real estate, photography, energy, law enforcement, or any other industry, you might be in the market for a drone that will help you to successfully perform your job.
Before purchasing a commercial drone, you should make sure you are familiar on the rules and regulations regarding drones for commercial use. Check with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and your local law enforcement agency before making your final selection.
For commercial purposes, the main thing to consider is what your needs will be regarding flight length and range of travel.
You’ll also want to purchase a drone with a gimbal, or at minimum a gimbal attachment, if you will be using your drone to take photographs or video. Gimbals are like the stabilizer that counteracts the movement of drones and will minimize any shaking or blurry images that might be caused by motion. They’ll also be able to capture a larger variety of footage than an FPV (First person view) drone.
Also becoming a popular option for professional drone use are Octocopters. These drones have 8 blades, allowing them to bear heavier loads, climb to higher altitudes, and maintain better navigational controls.
You’ll want to keep in mind remote control and Wi-Fi range as well when determining which commercial drone to purchase.
Drones that are for recreational, or hobby, use are usually a bit less advanced than commercial drones, but with many similar features. They are also usually less expensive than professional commercial drones.
While there are many different types of recreational drones on the market, First-Person View (FPV) is one of the most popular types purchased. FPV drones will be equipped with a camera and Wi-Fi that a user can tap into so that you can essentially “be the drone”, doing so in real time.
Keep in mind, the higher the altitude you plan to reach, you’ll need to purchase a drone with greater Wi-Fi range capabilities. The best drones will have a range of 700 meters. GPS is also an important factor. It will help with the navigation of your drone, and help you to land safely in the event of an emergency.
Last, but certainly not least, are drones for kids, and of course adults who are kids at heart. They are everywhere! Chances are, you’ve seen kids using them at your local park, or you’ve helped your child to learn to use their own. Keep in mind that children’s drones, while resilient, are not toys, but should be thought of as learning tools.
Learning to fly a drone takes time, patience, and most of all practice. Anyone learning to fly a remote aircraft for the first time can expect to “crash land” at least a dozen times. The advantage with children’s drones is that you are learning on a less expensive drone, one that usually can handle a few bumpy landings.
You can usually find a wide array of options when looking for children’s drones, including planes and helicopters, which are the least expensive and more resilient of the options available. There are also quadcopters, but they can be a bit harder to control and will cost more to replace or fix if broken.
As with recreational drones, you’ll want to make sure your children’s drone is equipped with easy to navigate remote controls, GPS and Wi-Fi.
Features of drones
There are key descriptions on the packaging that you’ll want to look for when deciding which drone is the right fit for your purchase:
- Ready to Fly (RTF) This drone will come fully assembled and will be ready for flight straight out of the box. This is a great option for a novice.
- Bind to Fly (BTF) This label indicates that the drone will be pre-assembled, but you will need to “bind” it to a compatible transmitter before taking flight.
- Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) As the label indicates, this drone will be almost ready for flight. Your drone will come partially assembled. Once assembly is complete and the drone is bound to a transmitter, it will be ready for flight.
Other Features to Consider When Purchasing a Drone
When shopping for your drone, consider the following features and functionalities that will help your drone to perform to meet your needs:
- Battery life and flight time . Make sure you find a drone that has the battery life to support the flight time you plan to spend airborne.
- Motor quality. You may find that a brushless motor, though a bit more expensive, will completely be worth the extra $200 in the end. They are smother, faster, and more resilient, thus giving them a longer life than their regular counterparts.
- Camera capabilities.
Drone cameras come in a wide array of quality and capability. From VGA to 4K resolution. Consider gimbals if you need motion control.
Since video streaming is now a popular option for drones, you may want to look for a drone that comes with “direct recording” via an on board memory card, rather than relying on transferring footage to your device. There are also drones that allow for the installation of Go Pros if you need to capture even higher quality aerial footage. Go Pros will be able to weather basically any environmental stress, and come with high quality options for capturing the best footage.
- Range and GPS . A GPS navigation option will allow you to program your drone’s flight path, and will also be handy if your drone goes down and you need to find it. Since FAA regulations require your drone always be in line of sight and control, drones with longer range will offer that option, but will also be able to travel farther distances.
- Return Home: This option will command the drone to return to the point of takeoff.
- Partner Accessories: Drones are highly customizable, allowing for partner accessory pairing. Those accessories include joystick controls, gimbal rigs, range extenders, etc.
- Pricing: Drone pricing ranges from relatively inexpensive, starting at around $100 for children’s drones, to extremely expensive. They can run upwards of thousands of dollars for professional, high-end remote control aircrafts. The best tip we can give you is not to be blinded or guided fully by price. The most expensive drone won’t always be the best fit for your needs. Drone pricing is also based on the load they can carry, as well as capabilities. A “smart” drone will cost you more than one that just comes out of the package ready for flight. You get what you pay for, and the need for higher end options will affect your purchase price.
Final Thoughts Before Purchasing a Drone
Overall, think about how you intend to use your drone. Will it be a gift for your kids, is it for recreational hobby use, or will it be used for professional purposes? If for commercial use, you’ll want to go with a drone that provides high-quality footage and is quicker and more responsive. If you are concerned with control of your drone, think about remote control customization, rather than picking a drone that is simply controlled from your hand-held device. These considerations should guide you toward choosing the drone that will be the right fit for you. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with federal and local rules and regulations, you can confidently purchase your drone and the sky will be the limit!