The Ultimate Drone Buying Guide
Drones put you into the pilot's seat without ever having to leave terra firma. With a hobbyist drone, you can enjoy a thrilling flight from a pilot's viewpoint. Some drones are perfect for performing aerial stunts, while others are designed for racing. Depending on the drone's camera quality, you can experience vibrant and detailed pictures or video shots that are accessible only from a bird's eye view.
Drone prices vary greatly, and the drone you choose will depend on the type of experience desired. Do you plan to take hundreds of aerial photographs of your neighborhood and your home? Are you looking for a comprehensive flying experience? Do you dream of hours practicing loops and other aerial stunts to show off to your friends and family?
Once you have an idea of how you plan to use your drone, it's time to look at the features different types of drones offer:
When shopping for a drone, there are specific features to consider. The complexity of these features will influence the price of the drone:
- Skill level
- Battery life
- Flight time
- Camera specifications
Beginner: Entry level or beginner drones typically cost less than $100 and are lightweight, small and often compatible for indoor use. They're designed to be ready-to-fly (RTF), and if it includes a camera, the resolution may not be as high as cameras found on intermediate and advanced level drones.
Intermediate: The intermediate level drone features larger models that work best outside. Some of these drones come equipped with an onboard camera or can be fitted with an external action camera of your choice. These are ideal for flights above the neighborhood park, or if you want to capture bird's eye images of your home and property. Consider this level if you're looking to perform aerial tricks.
Advanced: Any advanced drone will be at the highest end of the price point, but will offer multiple features and may include as many as six or eight rotors to supply the drone with maximum lift and superior stability. Look for cameras on the advanced models to offer 1080p video or better, plus a high-quality stabilizing mount to ensure the best and smoothest picture quality.
Battery Life and Flight Time
These two features go hand-in-hand, as battery life ultimately determines the drone’s flight time. Most beginner and intermediate drones will have considerably shorter flight times due to the battery’s capacity; normally between 5 to 15 minutes. The good news is that these drones have replacement batteries that cost much less than pro-level drones, so buying a few extra batteries to extend flight time and cut down on recharging is easy and cost effective to do.
Advanced drones can easily see 20-30 minute flight times. These longer times can take the drone to much further distances or supply plenty of hovering time to capture the perfect shot or video. Also, the larger, more powerful batteries included with advanced drones contribute to faster flying speeds and feature built-in sensors that will notify you when the battery is low, so the drone can return home safely.
The camera included with your drone will vary drastically depending on the level and cost of the drone. Lower cost beginner and intermediate drones will have sufficient cameras that will give you a great view of the landscape and take some good photos, but you’ll need an advanced drone if you’re serious about film or photography.
Depending on which brand and model you choose, many advanced drones feature incredible built-in cameras. They’re capable of filming in 4K resolution and feature 12-22 megapixel cameras to capture crisp, professional-level photography.
Wingspan and Sensors
Wingspan is used to determine the size of the drone — it measures from one blade tip to the other opposite blade tip. For indoor use or drone flying in the backyard or neighborhood park, a smaller wingspan will suffice. For capturing video footage and high-quality pictures, you'll need a drone with greater wingspan.
Sensors are often featured on intermediate and advanced drones. The GPS sensor offers various functions including the auto-return feature and the ability to program the drone with longitude and latitude coordinates.
Drones can be an extremely fun and exciting hobby and can be put to work capturing video for news broadcasts, motion pictures, or weddings. No matter how you’ll be using your drone, determining the experience level and choosing the appropriate drone to fit your needs is an important step to take before purchasing one. See our full line of drones from DJI, AEE, Yuneec and more and find the right drone for you to start piloting today.