The recent explosion in the drone market has had hobbyists and professionals taking to the skies. A search online will give you a wide range of casual to professional, to racing drones across all price points. The goal of this article is to help determine which type of drone will best suit your needs.
Drones are remote-controlled, multi-rotor flying devices. They offer a different perspective of the world through photos or videos. Most drones will enable the first-person view to live, allowing the user to explore the area as a pilot could.
Three things to consider before purchasing a drone: budget, intention, and experience. Below are some considerations for each category:
- Flight time will be limited by battery capacity. In addition to the drone, you might need more batteries, so know what they cost.
- A cheaper toy drone is a fantastic way to get the basic skills down before investing in a higher-priced drone.
- Drones typically fall into two categories: under $100 or over $500. Lower cost drones come with basic features and include limited in distance, functionality, and battery life. Higher cost drones will have many more features like obstacle avoidance or tracking.
- What is the distance that the drone can fly from the controller?
These drones will typically be around the $100 price point. They are designed to be fun and are easy to fly. These will come with short flight times, usually less than 10 minutes. They will have the ability to do tricks and be fast. If replacement parts are needed, they will also be inexpensive. Some might have a camera, but it will be a low-quality picture, similar to the front camera on a smartphone. An example of this type of drone is the Parrot Mambo.
These drones are designed for taking pictures and capturing videos. The price for these drones come in between $500 – $1,500. They are heavier than beginner drones and require registration with the FAA before a flight.
These drones will have a camera attached to a gimbal. The gimbal cushions the camera and results in ultra-smooth footage. The gimbals allow the camera to pan around without moving the drone. In addition to the gimbal, these drones will often have software packed with features like obstacle avoidance. The flexibility of these features makes these drones perfect for professionals from photographers to construction workers.
The batteries in these drones are also bigger, resulting in longer flight times. The batteries can recharge and are capable of being swapped out quickly for longer sessions. Replacement parts are available, but these drones are more complex and might be challenging to repair. A popular drone that falls into this category is the DJI Mavic 2 Pro.
As drones become more popular, competitive drone racing is rapidly growing. Racing drones focus on speed and agility, all in a small package. Pilots will have a first-person perspective to control its movements. Pilots will also modify these drones to make them faster and more agile. Prices for these drones start around $120 and go up from there. The Uvify Draco HD is an example of a racing drone.
Drone Laws & Safety
Drone popular has sparked regulation from the government. If the drone weighs more than 250 grams, it must be registered with the FAA. For more information about the registration process, click here. The regulations include prohibiting flight over 400 feet, restricted flight within five miles of an airport, and no flying in national parks. Regulations can vary from area to area and the different levels of the government.
Drones have some protection to keep them operating safely. Most drones have propeller guards to protect the rotors as well as fingers. Here are some other tips for safe drone operations:
- Read the instruction manual and get familiar with the controls before flying
- Make sure there is no damage to the drone
- Keep an eye out for other people or wildlife
- Take it to slow the first time you are flying a drone to get the hang of the way it operates
- Land the drone before the battery runs out to prevent it from falling out of the sky
- Be a courteous neighbor, drones are loud and can be scary to those who are not familiar with them
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