Owning an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or a drone has a lot of perks. Whether you are aspiring to be an aerial photographer or videographer, a land surveyor, or a plain drone or RC vehicle enthusiast, there’s nothing more exciting than having your very own drone.
The price of drones has declined over the past couple of years which made them more accessible to casual hobbyists. Today, you can get a drone for as little as $50, although you really can’t expect much from a drone at that price point.
To help you on your quest for buying your first drone, here are some pointers on what to know before buying.
Types of drones
There are a wide variety of drones in the market today with various features suited for their specific purposes. Here’s a general overview of the types of drones you can get according to their features and price points.
Entry level drones
Entry level drones, those priced around $50 – $200, are very small and light. They are designed for casual drone flyers, so you can’t expect them to fly for very long or to withstand a windy day. This type of drone is perfect for first-time flyers because they allow you to get used to controlling a UAV without spending too much.
If you want to get started on aerial digital photography or videography, upgrading to intermediate drones is best. These drones are typically priced at $200 – $1,000 and they are sturdy enough to be flown outside. Some intermediate drones are also equipped with a good quality action camera, so they are good enough to take a couple of high-definition photos.
For serious drone enthusiasts, advanced drones with 4 or more sturdy rotors allow them to fly higher, longer, and better. Advanced drones may cost upwards of $1,000 but they definitely fare better against tough outdoor conditions, and they last longer as well. You also get better control of your drone plus advanced features like GPS and programmable software.
Things to know before buying a drone
If you are beginning to search for a drone, it is important to know what your purpose for owning one is. Doing this will help you determine what type of drone is best for you and also what accessories you may need. When comparing drones, there are many factors that you need to consider.
Drone Flight Time
First, you have to check the drone’s flight time. Flight times can range from around 5 minutes to about 30 minutes on a single charge. The ones that fly the longest are usually the most expensive, so consider your options carefully. The good news is that you can frequently extend a flying session by quickly changing the batteries.
Beginner or Advance Level
Next, consider your skill level and buy a drone that matches it. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on an advanced drone if you can’t even fly it properly. Buy an entry level one first and work your way up.
Although brushless motors are more expensive than brushed ones, they provide better flight performance, durability and require less maintenance than brushed motors, which has led to them becoming the industry standard for drones. Some of the popular brushless motors for drone are:
- Hobby SunFun 2207 2400KV
- EMAX ECO II 2207
Look for the photo and video resolution in the camera specifications if you want the highest-quality footage possible. Without including toy drones, the majority of decent-size models now come with an integrated camera, though some let you attach your own.
However, video drones typically need to be registered with the FAA because they are larger and heavier than other drones due to the added equipment necessary to function.
Despite the fact that it is currently only found on a select few high-end drones, it is an essential feature for all drones. It will stop your drone from colliding with a tree, structure, or other objects. Before buying a drone check if that model has this feature or not.
Finally, check out the controller. You want to have a controller that perfectly syncs with your drone, and it helps if it shows real-time information about your UAV. Get a feel of the different controls to ensure you’re comfortable with them.
You might also want to check for bonus features like GPS sensors. They’re usually for more expensive drones, but they’re helpful when you want to plug in some coordinates and have your drone get there automatically.
Consider looking into drone accessories such as action camera and other video recording equipment, gimbals, remote controllers, batteries, propellers, and storage cases to improve your flying experience and take better care of your drone.
Our few top Drone picks
We won’t bore you with a comprehensive list of all consumer drones; instead, we’ll focus on a select few that are stylish, enjoyable, and packed with features and comes under $500. Additionally, you have a better idea of what your future drone will look like.
DJI Mini 2
It has a range of slightly more than 6 miles and an impressive 31-minute flight time. It weighs only a little under 249 grams, or 0.55 pounds, so you can fly it without registering it with the FAA. DJI Mini 2 costs a reasonably low $449, so it won’t break the bank.
DJI Mini 2
- Impressive 4x zoom (1080p), 2x (4K and photo mode).
- 31-minute maximum flight time.
- Takeoff Weight < 249 g
- 3-axis gimbal for a stabilized video.
- Precise Flight with GPS, return to home feature.
DJI Mavic Air
The DJI Mavic Air is perfect for adventurers and professionals alike. Its small size makes it incredibly portable and its camera technology allows for crisp and clear visuals. This camera drone is equipped with several intelligent flight modes to help you get the perfect shot.
In addition, its battery life can last up to 21 minutes, giving you plenty of time to capture your images and videos. It packs 4K video recording, a three-axis gimbal, an upgraded obstacle avoidance system
DJI Mavic Air
- Slim, Compact and easy to carry
- 3-Axis Gimbal-Stabilized Camera
- Top Speed of 43 mph
- 8GB internal storage
Among the most popular drones available to both consumers and professionals are those made by Parrot, following DJI. It includes a 4K camera with a gimbal that can rotate 180 degrees and 2.8-times zoom, up to 25 minutes of flight time, and an operating range of around 2.5 miles. Parrot PF728000 ANAFI Drone is also a great option for beginners.
- 4K UHD 2160p video recording
- 25 minutes of flight time
- Top Speed of 55 km/h
- Features 2.8x lossless zoom and SmartDronies
Before flying it high into the blue skies, read though FAA’s new rules and regulations or you will be fined as high as $1,000+ for not complying with Drone Rules and Regulations.
Lastly, make sure that you fly responsibly. Join a few clubs of drone enthusiasts to learn about the ethics of flying. If you own a larger drone, you might be required to get it registered as well.
- DJI Rival Autel launched four drones, weigh only 249g, and uses RYYB sensors
- FAA is investigating of drone flying dangerously close to plane landing
- Amazon’s get 30-minute drone delivery clearance from US govt’s