Friday, 18 March 2016

How to Pick Your First Drone: Beginners Buying Guide

Tower by kolibik-foto/dronestagram

Buying Choice

Looking for a drone and not sure which to buy?

Buying a drone is like buying shoes or a car even.

It has to meet certain characteristics like; it has to fit, be comfortable, and also has to fit your budget.

The steps are basically the same when buying a drone.
  • You decide for whatever reason that you need a new one.
  • You make up your mind about what type you want. New or used? What are you going to use it for? Has your family grown? Or in the case of your feet: have they grown or have any special needs?
  • You decide how much money you want to spend.
  • You make a list of places you can find the one you want.
  • You go to different places and test drive your choices.
  • Then you narrow down the choices some more.
And finally, when you make up your mind you take out your wallet.

All done.

What are Drones?

Drones are multi-rotor unmanned aerial vehicles - UAV - which are controlled remotely or can be flown autonomously through software-controlled flight plans that work with GPS.

They are used in aerial filming and aerial photography; including taking selfies.

Basically, drone technology allows you to use a "manless" plane - a flying robot - to capture photographs and videos.

Drones started to become more commercialized in 2007, but their popularity took off in 2014. They were, and still are buzzing over parks, races, beaches and other open-sky areas.

a short history of drones infographic

Top Drone Manufacturers

The sudden ubiquity of these flying machines is due to the companies that make them. Companies like:
  • DJI Innovations are the most popular drone builders in the industry with their Phantom series quad-copters with GPS First Person View.
  • Parrot specializes in wireless devices for mobile phones and automobiles. That is Bluetooth hands-free kits. They have drones like the AR.Drone, AR.Drone 2.0, and Bebop.
  • 3DRobotics is best known for their IRIS Plus model. Their drones are autonomous with GPS waypoint planning. They also made the world's first "smart drone": SOLO.
  • Syma Toys have broken onto the drone scene with their popular Syma X11 mini quadcopter, X5c-1 Explorer 2015 Version drone with a 6-axis Gyro system, and the Syma X5SW Plus quad-copter drone with WiFi FPV camera.
  • Hubscan has become a household name for its Hubscan X4 models including Hubscan X4 H107C and Hubscan H107D FPV X4 mini.
  • Blade has a range of quad-copters with features such as: SAFE to make their crafts easier and safer for flying. The Blade range of quad-copters most popular model is the Blade Nano QX which is awesome for beginners.

  • JJRC Toy Co. Ltd is the manufacturer of the H6C Auto Return RC Quadcopter with 2.0MP camera and the JJRC H26D 3MP HD Headless Mode One Key Return RC Quadcopter drone.
  • UDI RC Toys is a new drone manufacturer with popular models such as the UDI U840 Mini Nana RC Quadcopter and the Updated Discovery U818A-1 RC Quadcopter with HD video camera.
  • Walkera has a wide range of drone models at different price points like the QR LadyBird V2 Mini Quadcopter, Walkera QRX350, Walkera Tali H500, Walkera QRX800 and the Walkera Voyager 3. They also have Walkera 250 Racing Drone.
  • WL Toys has years of experience in the RC toy industry. Some of their better-known drones are the V262 Cyclone UFO Quadcopter, V686 Camera Quad-copter and the Q242G Mini FPV with 2.0MP camera.
  • Cheerson produces the CX-10 Mini Quadcopter and the CX-10C camera. They're also the creators of the open source Cheerson CX-20 that has camera gimbal support for semi-professional aerial video cinematography.
  • Hobbico is not so much a manufacturer, but a distributor of approximately 30 brands of hobby products including Dromida Ominus, Heli-Max and Estes Proto X.
  • Yuneec is the world leader of electric aviation. They provided the world's first ready-to-fly, out-of-the-box drone: Typhoon Q500 quad-copter in 2014. They made the Typhoon an "air and ground imaging solution" by adding a 4K camera and a SteadyGrip. Additionally, in 2015 there were innovative features like Watch Me, Follow Me and Dynamic Return Home which made it easier to capture perfect videos.

Drones and Technology  

These companies have made it possible for you to access the cheapest first-class flight you've ever booked; with the most incredible views!

All controlled by you.

This is accomplished by them providing a wide range of consumer-friendly quads, touting anyone-can-fly simplicity, high-resolution on-board cameras, at impulse-buying prices.

Over the years, drone sales have taken to the skies and is said to increase by 80% by 2020.

As a result, eye-in-the-sky videos are soaring on YouTube.

The quality is similar to what would be captured by big-budget filmmakers with professional helicopter crews.

But can a helicopter crew do this?

Ever wanted to have the maneuverability, freedom and exhilarating speed of a falcon?

This is what is afforded by these toys.

In order for you to take to the skies, the most challenging aspect is deciding which drone to buy.

When you peruse local or online hobby shops you'll find dozens of models on display, with no clear indication of what's best for each type of user.

Drone Shopping

When buying a drone - or anything else for that matter - you should purchase from a distributor who has all or most of the following traits:
  • They should be a reputable dealer.
  • Prominently displays user reviews.
  • Shows pictures and videos of the item.
  • States if the product can be used as is; and if not has the necessary parts and accessories to complete the sale.
  • That accepts various modes of payment.
  • That has a returns policy.
  • The products sold has support.
  • Various shipping times.
  • Offers warranty.
  • Allows you to purchase extended warranty.

Checklist for Buying a Drone

Before you go out drone shopping, check around before you make a final decision.

It would be awesome if you could go to a physical store and test out the drone before you make a buying decision.

When you are making your decision, bear these pointers in mind.
  • Buy a drone for $100 or less, simply because you will crash it, or the machine will fail or the software will fail. When you become more proficient you can spend any amount you'd like.
  •  Get a drone that is easy to control and operate.
  •  One that shoots awesome footage.
  • One that is portable regardless of the environment in which you want to fly.
  • One that has advanced settings; adding to the entertainment value.
  • And of course, it should fall within your budget.
Here are a few suggestions.

Ready for lift off!

For Kids

Which kid wouldn't want a fast-moving flying object?

No doubt about it, drones are dangerous and flights should always be supervised by adults.

The Parrot Mini-Drone Rolling Spider is for indoor flying.

It has a vast array of sensors that does a great job of stabilizing the flights.

The wheels though provide greater functionality by protecting the propellers.

It will need a tablet or smartphone for flying and taking pictures.

The Parrot does not do videos. It's:
  • Inexpensive.
  • Sturdy.
  • And has blade guards to protect siblings, walls, pets and other hazards against a less-coordinated pilot.
The Syma X5C is outdoor ready and comes with a dual stick controller and offers better range. It's
  • Big, fast and sturdy.
  • Has bright downward-pointing LEDs to help keep a track of it from the ground.
  • Comes with a high-def camera for shooting videos.
  • Forgiving design.
  • And is available for a great price from brick-and-mortars or online stores.
The above mentioned Syma X5C is also great for grown-ups and because of its price tag, it won't be a tragedy if you plow it into a tree.

First Time Adults

The Hudscan X4 H107C+ is also a budget breaker, palm-sized quadcopter, with a bit of a learning curve.

It has cool features common to the higher-priced models making it an awesome steal.

There is also a high-end version -  the Hudscan H107C  - that includes a high definition front-facing camera.

The Parrot Bebop drone is for a more advanced pilot who already possess a certain amount of dexterity in handling a robust quad-copter. It's:
  • Stylish.
  • Has a 180-degree fisheye camera.
  • Automatic flight-stabilization built-in GPS which guides the drone back to its launch site.
  • It can fly for approximately 12 minutes on a charge versus the 7-8 minutes for other drones in this class.
The Phantoms are the boss of drones and are responsible for many of the great drone videos on YouTube.

DJI started with the Phantom FC40 that has a friendly non-intimidating white design.

Then DJI went onto the Phantom 2 Vision+ that has:
  • a 25-minute battery.
  • A gimbal stabilized GoPro-style camera that can be controlled from the remote.
  • Return home GPS that allows you to plan your flight paths on your tablet.
  • It is best for everyone as it is the most balanced with:
  1. Great range.
  2. Long battery life.
  3. Nice visuals.
  4. Steady controls.
  5. Terrific mobile app support.
  6. It is pricey.        
There is also a Phantom 3 that’s available at


The best thing about drones is that they do not have to fly in a straight line like planes or helicopters:

 And they can turn on a dime and get up close and personal with dangerous obstacles.

3D Robotics Iris+ is for Hands-Free videography. If you insist on being the next Kim Kardashian with your very own personal camera crew following you everywhere you go. Well then, this autopilot drone is a dream come true. It:
  •  Is the first consumer-oriented drone that can follow - from above! - a target carrying a paired smartphone.
  •  Has up to 22 minutes of flight time.
  •  Gimbal-stabilized camera.


Blade Nano QX is best for beginners.

It's easy to master and with enough oomph to carry out automatic stability that goes towards safer flights.

It is upgradeable with an FPV kit, LEDs or other cool add-ons.

The Ehang Ghost drone lives up to its claim as "the world's easiest drone to fly".

Its uniqueness lies in it's touched-based and tilt control system which is powered by a smartphone.

This means it respond based on your commands and gestures. Its highest speed is 49 mph, and can be pre-programmed with a flight path and uses GPS to track your location.

To boot, it is user-friendly.

Lumenier QAV250 is for the DIY enthusiast who loves assembling their own gadgets: like an erector set. Get a tinkering! It has multiple camera mounts and the frame is also great for customization and a multitude of accessories. It also has its own landing gear and comes with LED strips.


And of course, abide by the rules and regulations as stipulated by the FAA.

You can also download the Know Before You Fly brochure here.

Over to You

So there you have it. A nice little tip of the drone iceberg. Which drone will you be getting?

Feel free to share, leave a comment, make a suggestion or ask a question.

Fly safely.

No comments:

Post a Comment