Buying Your First Drone
There is no denying that drones are the latest, must-have gadget for everyone. It does not matter whether you are 8 or 80, drones are cool.
There are a million reasons to want a drone but the main ones are that they are affordable, reasonably easy to learn to control and buckets of fun.
However, a word of caution. Before you go rushing out to buy a drone, or go online as most people would, there are a number of critical factors to consider before you make your purchase.
Get these decisions wrong and you will be unhappy, sitting with a new gadget that is not suitable for your needs. Get it right and you are guaranteed many hours of fun and entertainment.
Purchasing a drone can be confusing. There are so many different makes and models available, with new ones coming all the time. There are different features, accessories, spare parts and a hundred other things to think about. But do not be afraid, that is the exact reason we put this page together. It is to help explain and simplify the process for you, ensuring that you make the right decision and are happy with your purchase.
Important things to consider before buying a drone
Ok, so you have decided you are ready to buy a drone. Great idea, providing you keep the following ideas in mind, you won’t regret it.
Let’s take a look at the important aspects to consider before you part with your cash.
Why do you want a drone?
It sounds like a bit of a silly question but it is vital that you understand this before doing anything else. If you can establish exactly what you want out of the drone, how and why you want to use it, all the other aspects and decisions will become clearer.
If you simply want something basic, as a toy or to play around with now and then, that narrows your search down quite a lot. You can safely go for one of the smaller, less expensive options available and you should be quite happy. Go for one without a camera or a very basic camera. Do not expect too much in terms of performance, fly time, photograph quality and other features we will discuss later and you will not be disappointed.
If you want a little bit more than just the basics, there a number of options to look at. You will need to consider the battery life or fly time the drone will give you, the range, ease of use and various other features. The camera quality and format are important. If you want to use your drone to take aerial photographs and video, pay particular attention to the camera specifications, features and format. Decide if you need live video streaming or onboard recording. If you are serious about the video and photography aspect, it is probably best to select a drone that allows you to add your own camera onto it instead of their standard integrated camera. That way you can select the type of camera that is suitable for your needs and application.
Fly time refers to the amount of time your drone will stay in the air on a single charge. Remember that manufacturers will always quote fly times under ideal circumstances which in reality; we never get to fly in. Other aspects such as wind resistance, the weight of the drone and flying speed will also affect fly time.
Entry level toy type drones typically fly for 5 to 7 minutes. If you just want to have a bit of fun then that should be ok. Simply charge it up and have another go later. Slightly more expensive drones will give you 10 to 12 minutes but a serious drone enthusiast, hobbyist or aerial photographer would want at least 25 to 30 minutes of fly time.
Remember you can buy additional batteries as well as better chargers that will charge a lot faster than many standard chargers. Take a look at the cost of these accessories when deciding on your drone.
The range, or the distance your drone can fly away from you and the controller can vary from very short distances to up to a few kilometers. While most of the fun is had within a short radius of you, you might want or need something with a longer range so be sure to check on that. Remember, you still need to get the drone safely back to you so ensure there is always enough battery for the return trip.
The camera will generally lose signal before the controller so if you are relying on FPV (first person view) this might be a problem. The environment and interference can also reduce range under certain circumstances.
Ease of use
Drones range from super easy to fly to rather challenging. As a beginner, you do not want to get something too complicated but by the same token; you don’t want something you can master quickly and then soon become board with. The more agile the drone, the harder it will be to control but the more you will be able to do with it. A more stable drone will be much easier to operate but you will sacrifice some of the maneuverability.
Unlike most RC craft, price is not a good measure of ease of use. If you take an RC car, for example, the more expensive models have more features and higher speeds and are more difficult to control. With drones or UAVs the slightly more expensive models are generally easier to control. This is due to additional sensors and functionality in the flight controller.
Some drones have a built in GPS device which will allow you to program routes, GeoTag photographs, track your drone and safely allow it to return to you, amongst other functions.
As with any significant purchase, it is always a good idea to have some sort of budget in mind. You can get drones for less than $50 up to several thousand dollars, even more for the professional quality, commercial drones.
As I said earlier, if you are aware of what you intend using the drone for, it will make your decision a lot easier. It will also help you to budget. There is not point spending a lot of money on a great camera, for example, if all you want to do is fly. By the same token, if you spend too little you might find yourself bored with the limited options an entry level drone offers.
Cost of maintenance, spares and accessories
When considering your budget, be sure to account for accessories, spares and maintenance. The odd crash is inevitable so you will find yourself needing to purchase propellers and other parts to repair your drone.
You might also want to invest in a faster charger or extra batteries. It always pays to have prop guards and spare props.
Be sure to look into the availability and cost of spare parts and accessories before making your purchase.
Where to fly
Rules and regulations do exist and vary from place to place. It is important to acquaint yourself with the local regulations in the areas you wish to fly your drone or UAV. There are a number of websites and apps that can assist with this.
When flying your drone, always be safe, responsible, considerate to others and know the rule and regulation in the area.
Types of drone kits
When you purchase a new drone, they come in a variety of formats, it is important to understand the difference between them.
Ready to fly drones or RTF are pretty much as the name suggests. They are assembled save for perhaps the battery pack and propeller.
More serious or experienced drone users will often prefer to retain their controller and will then purchase a drone only kit. In order to operate the drone, one first has to bind it to the controller, hence the name, bind and fly.
Many drones also offer features whereby you can control the drone using a smartphone, tablet or computer, communication with the drone is via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
ARF drones are Almost-ready-to-fly and will require a fair amount of assembly as well as the addition of many components. The term ARF is used quite broadly so be sure and check exactly what you do and do not get with the kit. It may come without motors, batteries, flight controllers, transmitters and receivers. Unless you have some similar experience, ARF drones are not recommended for the beginner.
Now that you understand a little more about what to look for when buying your first drone, the task will be much easier. Do your homework, give it some thought and get yourself a drone that you can enjoy for a long time.
Omar is tea addict, remote control enthusiast. He enjoys playing with Remote Control Airplanes in the morning and reading about RC Car technology in the night. You can find him on his blog RCState.com