So you have finally decided to join the “drone craze” that has been going on for a few years and has shown no signs of slowing down. Everyone now has a drone, you see it on television every day and you can’t get over your neighbor who takes his/her drone for a spin every other day. And now you are done sitting on the sidelines while others are having fun.
Drone Shopping really is as fun as it sounds (if you are patient) because you get to see a lot of variety of drones that are on the market.
However, it does come with its own set of challenges, the bulk of which is tied around not knowing which type of drone to go for (budget is also a big challenge).
There are more than a dozen drone manufacturers with several drone offerings on the market, this can be quite overwhelming especially if you are purchasing your first drone.
If this is your first time buying a drone, then you have come to the right place. This drone buying guide focuses the spotlight on everything that you need to know before shopping.
Who Needs A Drone?
The number of people joining the drone community is on a steady increase, so we would just say anybody who wants a drone for fun or for professional photography.
If you are already an RC hobbyist (boats, cars, airplanes, etc.) you most likely would want a drone. Also, anyone who is into professional photography (NatGeo level) needs a drone.
If you have been watching YouTube footage of drones, and your interest is spiked -you need a drone. Having your own drone will definitely lead you to appreciate how amazing they are and the exciting things that you can do with them.
Is a Drone and a Quadcopter The Same Thing?
You are definitely going to find some named drones and others quadcopters, and it can be quite confusing especially for someone who is new to the world of drones. They are essentially the same thing.
The only difference comes when you are trying to categorize them – drones are often the more expensive ones, while quadcopters are often used to describe cheaper 4 propeller toys. In general, the word “drone” is used to describe any unmanned aerial vehicle, while quadcopters are only a subgroup of drones with four propellers.
Things To Know Before Shopping For A Drone
n this section, we are going to go through some of the things that you need to know before buying a drone. This is a drone-buying guide that will help provide all the necessary info for a successful drone shopping.
3 Main Types Of Drones
Generally, there are three main drone categories, and our focus will be focused on them. Each drone category has features that give them different capabilities that are suitable for different purposes.
1. Beginner Drones
are usually affordable but have shorter flight times and ranges. Many drones in this category do not have advanced features that you will find in the more expensive ones.
Beginner drones are easy to fly and tend to survive multiple crashes because they are durable, also, their spare parts are sold at very low prices. If you want to learn how to pilot a drone, your best option will be to purchase a beginner drone. Check out the Altair AA108 Drone
2. Hobby drones
Are affordable and durable as well, they share a lot of similarities with beginner drones and could sometimes pass for one. But they usually come with advanced features that enhance flying experience.
They usually come with better cameras than the beginner drones, and they can pass for selfie drones or your FPV drones. They are great for recreational purposes. Check out the Altair Aerial Blackhawk
3. Camera dronesor professional drones
Are expensive and referred to as the top of the shelf because of their advanced features and cameras. They are capable of shooting high-resolution photos and footages. They usually come with professional grade cameras like 4K cameras and are compatible with popular high-quality cameras like GoPro.
They have advanced features like GPS and return home features which make them easy to fly and find should they get lost. The DJI Phantom 4 makes a great camera drone.
Racing Drones are designed for speed. There are drones that have recorded speeds as high 120MPH. They are usually fitted with an FPV camera that allows the pilot to fly the drone as though they were in the cockpit of a jet.
There are drone racing competitions that are becoming more popular globally. However, these types of drones are not as popular as the categories listed above. A good racing drone is the Walkera F210 Quadcopter
7 Features To Consider Before Buying A Drone
1. Flight Time and Extra Batteries
If you new to the drone community, one feature that you almost immediately realize is very important is flight time. This could actually be the most important feature because there really isn’t much fun in flying your drone for just five minutes, especially when you are having so much fun.
Considering the fact that charging a drone battery can take hours, it is important to factor in how much flight time you can get from a single battery. Beginner drones usually have a maximum flight time of up to 10 minutes, but generally, flight time can vary from 5 to 30 minutes.
Even if you have several spare batteries, short flight time can take away from enjoying your flight as you have to bring the drone back every time to swap batteries.
A longer flight time gives you the opportunity to do a lot of exciting things with your drone-like shooting images at a distance far away from without fear of running g out of time.
Having extra batteries will definitely give you a longer flight time, so make sure that the drone you are considering comes with an extra battery, or better still invest some extra batteries.
If you are buying an expensive drone then you can expect the battery to be expensive i.e if you are buying a Mavic Pro from DJI, you can expect to the battery to be expensive considering the price of the drone. Do check the price of extra batteries of the drone that you want to buy.
Buying a drone with a good flight range can mean more fun, and it all depends on what you need the drone for. If you are buying a professional drone for photography then you obviously need a drone that flies up to or more than 3 miles.
Advanced drones usually have a longer flying range. Beginner drones usually go from about a few meters to 100 meters, so if you are looking for a drone indoor or for fun, then this should be suitable. However, if you are a hobbyist then you should consider a drone with a good range.
Virtually every drone now comes with a camera. However, these cameras vary in quality from cheap to expensive drones.
For many drone enthusiasts, a camera is an important feature that a drone must have because shooting aerial images and videos from the air is fun and the world of today can hardly do without a camera lens.
We are betting on the chances that everyone who wants a drone, wants to capture images and record videos with them. It does not come as a surprise that there is a subcategory of camera drones referred to as “selfie drones“.
Expensive drones come with the highest quality cameras that can fit on a drone, whether they built-in like the Parrot Bebop or can be attached like the DJI Phantom series. It all boils down to what you need a camera drone for.
If you want to take fun pictures at parties with your drone you can opt for hobby drones with 2MP cameras that are capable of shooting 1080p videos, also you can opt for the more expensive drones which are designed for such uses like the DJI Spark.
Even though specifications can be deceiving, it is a great place to start when shopping for a drone.
The gimbal is a very important feature that helps to keep the drone camera stable, hence producing better quality and wobble-free footages.
Because your drone will constantly vibrate as a result of the propellers or due to change of direction and winds, having a drone with a gimbal installed is key.
Not all drones have or need a gimbal- drones such as the DJI Phantom 4 require 6-axis gimbals in order to keep the camera stable. If you are purchasing a professional drone with an external camera, ensure that it comes with a gimbal, if not, check for a compatible gimbal and see that the price fits in your budget before purchasing one.
If you are purchasing a beginner drone then you do not need to worry about this feature, as it is meant for the more advanced drones.
5. Headless Mode
Flying a drone can be difficult at first, but drone manufacturers are pushing the boundaries when it comes to features that a drone can have. The headless mode makes it a lot easier to fly a drone, so if you are looking to develop your flying skills quickly, then look a drone with the headless mode feature.
What the headless mode really does is that saves you the stress of bothering about whether the head/ front is facing you or away from you, so when you move the right control stick, the drone will move accordingly without any confusion.
Another reason why the headless mode is important is that most drones don’t have a shape that indicates which part is the head because most of them are quadcopters. They are not designed like planes so it can be quite confusing to a beginner.
With a lot of practice, you can get used to the orientation of the drone by telling the front from the back. Many beginners crash their drones several times before they get used to this.
When you have the headless mode you control the drone the exact same way regardless of where the head is pointing. This is a very important feature that beginners should consider when buying a drone.
6. Return Home Button
This is another fantastic feature that plays a similar role as the #5 feature in helping beginners fly their drones better. This feature allows users to bring their drone back to your position with a simple press of a button.
This feature is available in advanced versions on the more expensive drones and they can include obstacle avoidance. For drones that do not have GPS, the drone will simply fly backward once you press the button.
This is where the headless mode comes handy. This feature takes away the worry of navigating the drone back to towards you if you feel the need to bring it back.
Make sure that you check the availability of spares including batteries, propellers, propeller guards, spare rotors, etc. The fact is that you are going to crash your drone several times, even the most experienced pilots crash their drones sometimes.
There are certain parts of a drone that are most prone to damage like propellers. Most drones come with spare propellers and even batteries, but you will soon realize that a set of spares aren’t just enough. Make sure that you can easily purchase spares of the drone you are considering, as nothing is worse than not being able to enjoy your drone any longer because you can’t the spare on the market.
We hope that you found this drone buying guide list very useful for shopping for your first or subsequent drone. We so do hope that you enjoyed reading. We are always willing to help our readers make the best decisions when shopping and that is why we have taken the pain to itemize everything that you need to know before buying a drone.
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