The guide to buying a drone
how to buy a drone
Do you want to buy a drone but don’t know where to start?
Perfect. Keep reading. You will find all of the information that you need to select the perfect drone.
No matter what your occupation or passions are — an aerial videographer, a land surveyor, construction site mapper, wildlife tracker or simply an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) / drone hobbyist, drones are the new and exciting toys/tools. Owning a drone has become the dream of many.
It is recommended to learn to fly a drone using something simple like the Hubsan H107L quadcopter; this drone is small and easy to learn basic flight orientation on. Then, you can purchase more drones — larger more expensive.
Here is a guide to buying drones that pros wished that they had when they started flying and exploring the UAV industry.
Related: Check the 15 amazing drones for sale.
The drone industry is changing exponentially. New drones are constantly being released. So, without further ado, let’s get to the tips for buying a drone.
What exactly is a drone?
Despite the fact that the term “drone” has been more of a military term, it’s become synonymous with other terms like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). These both have come to describe remote controlled (RC) or autonomously programmed aerial machines. Drones have been built for recreational purposes, but also for professional aerial photography and videography. They have even been perfected to carry cargo, to inspect architectural structures, to track wildlife, and currently some want to use them for delivery. Advancements in drone technology have made owning a UAV unit much more affordable than ever. Because of this, the UAV “drone” community has grown exponentially over the last half of a decade.
Note: If you live in the U.S. and plan to earn money as a professional drone pilot, check out our step-by-step guide to getting certified. Recent laws mandate that commercial pilots be registered.
who should consider buying a drone?
Doesn’t everyone want their own flying machine nowadays?
You should consider purchasing a drone if you:
You’re a RC enthusiast .
You’re a photography / videography professional looking for a new way to capture scenes
You are looking to make a commercial use of drone technology
The best way to learn more about the UAV industry is to purchase and fly your own drone. You will quickly fall into live with these flying wonders. While they’re somewhat difficult to master, they’re very easy to pick up.
Build your own or ready to fly?
The first thing to say about drones is that you are not obligated to buy one. Sounds odd, but you can build your own drone.
As you probably can imagine, this requires a steeper learning curve, as you’ll be assembling, coding and tweaking a number of pieces. This can be tedious and complicated, but if you’re up for the challenge, this is the way to go.
If something malfunctions, you’ll have to diagnose and debug yourself. Depending on your experience level, this can quickly turn into a much lengthier process than you wish.
Fortunately, numerous companies have put together ready-to-fly (RTF) or almost-ready-to-fly (ATF) drones, making it much easier to get started. The DJI Phantom, for an example, can be built and calibrated and ready to fly within 45 minutes.
Regarding cost, you may not end up saving that much money building one yourself. Pre-built, RTF quadcopter can be bought for less than $150! Also, some of the more advanced drones use mechanisms that, if purchased by themselves would be significantly expensive, so much so that if you were to re-create some of the more expensive units, you might end up spending close to the same amount of money you would buying it pre-built.
There are multiple types of consumer drones on the market, but most people, especially those new to drone technology, will want to stick with the quadcopter.
Quadcopters generally have an X or H square frame and are known for being stable and reliable. The four propellers on most quadcopters can generate enough lift to carry 1-2 pounds and can maneuver quite smoothly, even at wind speeds of 10-15 mph.
All quadcopters follow the same basic design framework. Four motors and propeller blades, and a gyroscope or accelerometer to measure a quadcopter’s pitch, roll, and yaw – how it’s positioned in the sky.
Using this information, the quadcopter can automatically (and individually) adjust each of the four motors, enabling it to hover in place. The pilot uses a transmitting controller to pilot the quadcopter. It can either gain or lose altitude, move left and right on horizontal plane, or spin 360 degrees.
best drones for less than $200
If you’re just entering into the UAV field and are learning to pilot a drone for the first time, it’s a good idea to start with something basic. Try something that you will not be distressed if it crashes. Although no one wants to plan on it, it does happen, even to the best.
Here are some of the best drones under $200 according to some of the best pilots:
Hubsan X4 w/ FPV – an affordable beginner FPV (first-person view) quadcopter, perfect for novice drone pilot training
UDI 818a HD+ – an exclusive from USA Toyz, comes with an extra battery; has “return to home” and “headless mode” functions
Parrot Rolling Spider – removable wheels and an embedded mini-camera for aerial selfies
Blade 180 QX – different configuration levels for safer newbie training and an embedded aerial video camera
Nano QX – weighs little more than half an ounce and perfect for indoor flying
Syma X1 – can do flips, stable in outdoor conditions and can carry small payload
Aerial Videography Drones
Once you have mastered drone flight and want to get with with a more capable camera, here are are quadcopter units used by aerial videographers:
Parrot AR 2.0 – not only does the Parrot AR 2.0 boast a durable (and light) styrofoam frame, but you can also pilot it with a smartphone or tablet
Parrot Bebop Drone – another exciting innovation from the Parrot crew, the Bebop drone sports a 14 Mpx “fisheye” camera, user-controlled 180 degree vision, and a built-in GPS (read this parrot bebop review from QuadHangar)
DJI Phantom 3 Standard – an undisputed market leader, DJI offers this model as one their mid-tier options but still fantastic (Check out the Advanced and Professional models too)
DJI Inspire – the preferred choice for many residential and commercial real estate photographers and videographers; 360-degree camera view and dual-operator mode
3D Robotics Solo – “the world’s first smart drone”; some phenomenal autonomous features and 3DR’s leading product out right now
Yuneec Q500 4K – have enjoyed flying this model; comes with a built-in camera and 25-minute flight time; great bang for your buck.