So,you are thinking of buying a drone but do not know where to start or even what kind of drone you want. Hopefully, by the time you have finished reading this guide to buying a drone,you will have a better understanding of the fast-growing world of drones,the types of drones that are available to consumers and which one suits your needs.
There are two types of drones,ones that are available to consumers which are the drones what I will be discussing about in this guide and the other type is drones used for commercial applications.
Both have multiple sub-categories, for instance, consumer drones can be broken into these categories;
While drones for commercial intent can be broken into these categories
- Drones in Agriculture
- Drones in Construction
- Drones for land surveillance
- Drones for security
- Drones for search and rescue
- And many other uses. Just by reading this small list you begin to understand the size of the drone industry.
However,I will not be talking about commercial drones in this guide as it is outside of my expertise. If you would like more information about the commercial application for drones,this article from Business Insider is a great place to start.
Why Buy a Drone?
I have written an article on reasons to buy a drone,you can read it here.
There are many reasons to buy a drone, I love drones because they are fun to fly.
I remember when I was small I always wanted one of those remote-controlled planes or helicopters, but they were always priced way too high.
However with drones, it’s different,you can purchase decent one with a camera for less than $50.
Others will different reasons,some just want to know what all the fuss is about,others will look for to up their aerial photography skills,maybe you are looking to buy a drone as a gift for someone(awesome idea if you are).
Whatever the reasons are,this guide will help you when you decide to purchase a drone.
First things first
Something to be aware of before you start looking for a new drone and that is the ever-changing legislation regarding how,where and when you can fly drones.
For those residing in the UK there are 5 rules you must follow if you fly for recreational purposes
- Don’t fly near airports
- Stay below 400ft (this lessens the probability that you will encounter a manned aircraft)
- Keep your drone in line of sight
- Keep a distance of 150ft from people and residential properties and 500ft from crowds and high-rise buildings if your drone comes with a camera.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s guide and fly responsibly.
- If you are a casual flyer and do not intend to fly for any commercial reasons, you will not need to register your drone. However, this situation may change in the UK as drone registration may be required for all users very soon.
If you intend to fly commercially, you will need to get permission from the CAA,more information can be found here.
The rules may be different if you live in another country,please do check with your governing body and see what rules apply.
Drones for beginners
Drones generally come ready to fly (RTF), meaning you do not need to assemble anything other than maybe the propellers and propeller guards.However,not all drones come ready to fly,you may see these two abbreviations when purchasing a drone.
ARF- Almost ready to fly – With these you will have to assemble the drone yourself
BNF-Bind N Fly – Drones with these abbreviations mean that they do not come with a controller. You will have to buy your own and bind it to the drone.
As a beginner,you should always look to purchase drones that are ready to fly.
For first time buyers, I will always recommend starting with the less expensive models, so that you can hone your droning skills and if you damage them many can be easily repaired.
There are many drones that can be purchased for under a $100, some of them I reviewed on this site.
Some of my personal favourites are:
Holy Stone F181 – A fantastic drone with a really cool design,has propeller guards to minimise damage if you crash. Comes with an HD camera and altitude hold. This means it can hover in the air should you release the controls. It features headless mode for easier flying.
Blade Nano QX – On of the smallest drones on the market, extremely lightweight and a great drone to fly. Despite its size,its pretty robust and can withstand the occasional bumps. It also comes with an innovative technology called SAFE which makes it easier to fly.
Hubsan X4H107D – This a few years old and yet it remains a very popular drone and is great for beginners. It comes with an HD camera and FPV (first person view) controller,which means you can stream video straight from the camera. It is one of the few drones under $100 that has this cool feature.
For more choices,here is my complete list of the best drones for beginners.
Generally speaking most beginner drones will be ok for kids as well,however, you may also want to consider these simple toy drones that can be purchased for less than $50.
Scorpion T36 Mini Drone – Comes ready to fly,with one touch button for 360° flips and return home key. It has a flight time of 5 minutes and weighs a mere 21g.
T1000 Gesture Control Drone – Pretty cool drone and will make for a great gift. What sets it apart from other drones is its unique controller that looks more like a computer mouse. The drone is controlled via hand mouse with the controller. It can also do acrobatic moves and has a flight time of 5 minutes.
Hubsan H111 Nano Drone – Probably the smallest drone in the world and weighs around 8.5g. Can do some cool flips and has LED lights under the rotors that are useful for night time flying.
Drones For Aerial Photography
One area of drones that is showing rapid growth both as a hobby and for commercial reasons are drones for aerial photography.
Not only do these drones come with many advanced features but most of them are also equipped with 3-axis gimbals and 4K cameras.Despite the sophisticated technology that comes with them,they are actually quite easy to fly.
Many of them also have intelligent flight modes,these make it easier to control the drone and take images and videos. Some have obstacle avoidance technology so crashing them is minimised.
I have written an article on the best drones for aerial photography,which you can read here.
My personal favourites are the Mavic Pro
The Mavic Pro – The most powerful compact drone on the market. It has a foldable design which makes it great for travelling around with and it comes with lots of cool features. These features include:
- 4k camera
- Intelligent flight modes
- Obstacle avoidance technology
- Intelligent batteries
One of the most powerful drones available and is perfect for aerial photographers. The Phantom 4 Pro comes with a powerful obstacle avoidance system that can sense obstacle from 5 directions. It also has several intelligent features and can record in UHD.
Not the most powerful drone from Yuneec,but still one of the most popular in their range. The design and colour scheme makes it look very futuristic,it also comes with a few intelligent modes and 4K camera. The controller has an integrated Android tablet for FPV and its camera can be upgraded.
Drones for racing
Drone racing is another area that is showing rapid growth even to the extent that it now has quite a few leagues and has televised events. With events rewarding winners as much as $250000 and securing sponsorships from large multi-national companies,this sport will only get better.
Although you can purchase drones for racing purposes,the consensus is that it is best to build your own racing drone if you are serious about racing professionally.
Price and Flight Time
Prices for drones vary according to what kind of drone you are looking to purchase.
Drones for beginners can be purchased for less than $20,these are very simple drones with that can used as practice for those looking to hone their flying skills. Expect to crash a lot and damage a few!! Still many are great fun. These drones will you a flight time of around 5-7 minutes.
Drones between the ranges of $50-$200 can give you flight times between 8-15 minutes and those that are more than $200 can vary between 15-30 minutes.
Suffice to say the more expensive a drone is, the more flight time you will get. However, I always advise people regardless of whichever drone they buy,to always purchase extra batteries. As you will most definitely find yourself being frustrated with such limited flight time. As the technology evolves so will the flight time but at the moment always buy extra batteries.
The flying range of drones also varies from 50m-100m for budget drones to 600m-5km to the more expensive and technologically advanced drones. If you are a electronics expert,you can modify these ranges and extend them. However, I would never advise unless you are very confident in your abilities. Weather can also affect the range in which you can control a drone,good weather usually means less interference and better signal quality
For the first time drone pilots and even experienced drone pilots, crashing is part and parcel of the drone flying experience and there may be even some kind of thrill from it. When buying drones, make sure you can get spare parts like propellers and motors should they break or malfunction. In the UK there are many places where you can purchase parts and accessories for drones. These include:
Should you need repairs to your drone,there are many centres in the UK specialising in drone repair.
A quick google search and you will probably find more.
Where to buy
There are so many places you can buy drones from, as this is the internet age, it’s always good practice to search around and find the best prices. Below are just some of the places where you can buy drones from.
There are many training centres that are CAA approved.
The training cost range between £999-£2000 and last a couple of days. In the US there are similar training centres that are FAA approved,for more details on how you can become a FAA approved drone pilot read this guide from uavcoach.com.
Whether you buy a drone for fun or for commercial reasons,make sure to do go over all your options so that you purchase the best drone for your needs.I hope you enjoyed this guide and if you have a question please leave me a comment.