We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so that you know, we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Thank you if you use our links, we really appreciate it!
So, did you just decide to invest in a drone? Regardless of whether you’re upgrading your drone or you’re looking forward to buy your first drone ever, this drone buying guide will get off to a flying start.
Drones are popular flying devices that allow you to survey your surrounding areas from a certain height and take excellent photos and videos.
We’ll outline the various types of drones in the market, the key features to keep in mind, their range of prices and what to pay. Read on for more details.
When it comes to buying drones, you needn’t consider too many makes and models as you do while buying a new fitness tracker or a smartphone.
Here are the main types of drones to choose from.
If you’re a rookie, you should opt for the palm-sized toy drones as they are designed with extreme flexibility but the only drawback is that they can cover short distances.
Quadcopters have 4 rotors and they’re called mini drones as they weigh less than 100 grams with a width of not more than 15 cms.
You can fly them inside apartments for entertainment purposes.
The Altair Aerial AA108 drone needs special mention here.
If there are drones that have reached the zenith of success with the help of technology, they’re the professional drones.
These drones are armed with a wide range of functionalities and are made of premium quality materials which help them stay in the air for a longer period of time.
You can use these drones for recording high quality videos. They can shoot in a 4K resolution thereby being favorites among professional videographers.
DJI Phantom 4 is one of the most famous professional drones.
Flying drones is gradually turning out to be a popular type of entertainment and hobby.
For drone enthusiasts who use it for hobby purposes are mid-sized devices with wide frames and big propellers.
Majority of these models are supported with a camera but you can’t anticipate getting high quality video and pictures with the hobby drones.
The newer models of hobby drones include flight mode, altitude hold and landing buttons.
The Altair Aerial Black Hawk is a noteworthy model in this category.
Drones for taking selfies are those that often come with a follow-me feature. Such camera drones are capable of clicking selfies and recording videos while listening to the advice of the pilot.
These drones follow a control panel through a smartphones and there are also drones like DJI Phantom4 which can fly without being tied with a smartphone or a console.
Experts recommend DJI Spark camera drone for clicking selfie photos.
These are quadcopters with smaller dimensions with an aim of high-speed track transmission.
A first-person view is required to control racing drones which consist of a video transmitter, a camera and a receiver that is capable of converting the signal to a video.
Hence, you can check what is happening and control it by checking the video of the camera.
Walkera F210 drone is a popular choice among racing drones that are currently available in the market.
The price of the drone won’t be a proper indicator of the quality of the machine though it will give you an approximate evaluation of which drones are better than others.
To make an informed decision, you have to be aware of the specs. Here are few features to watch out for.
Just as a smartphone runs out of battery, a drone will also run out of juice. If you choose the best models, the maximum flight time in between charges hardly exceed 30 minutes.
While you can always carry extra batteries, don’t forget to factor in the cost of spare batteries when calculating the total cost.
The range of flight usually ranges from 30 metres/100 feet to one kilometer or even more.
The quadcopters that are meant for beginners usually come with a short range and it perfectly suits the novices who just wish to use it inside an apartment or an enclosed place.
Majority of the models come with a flight time that ranges between 10-15 minutes - though there are a few expensive versions that can fly for 25 minutes or more - after which you require either replacing your batteries or recharging them.
So battery life is one feature that you may want to keep a close eye on as you may have to charge the battery for over an hour or thereabouts.
The costlier models may offer over 15 minutes of flight time. In case you have a requirement of longer flying time, for say aerial photography, you may want to go in for a more expensive camera drone and/or buy a additional battery.
In the features of a quadcopter, it is most unlikely that you’ll get maximum speed of flight but in case you can settle with light-weight models that don’t have too many accessories.
They can accelerate more smoothly than the heavier ones.
Hence, you have to choose between speed and added equipments.
The most user-friendly and the most popular ones are those models which come with 4 blades but you can even get models with 2, 3, 6 and also 8 blades.
Decide the power that you would need so that you can choose the number of blades.
Meanwhile, you can’t forget that the more powerful your drone is, the sooner its battery will get discharged.
All drones don’t come with gyroscopes that are sensors that let the drone fly effortlessly.
In a stormy weather, a drone with a gyroscope will stay put while one without a gyroscope may fall and crash.
Are you buying a drone for your children? If yes, get them a mini drone or one of the toy drones.
For beginners or amateur shooters, medium sized devices will be perfect. In case of professional purpose, get a larger drone.
All drones don’t come with a camera. In case you want to purchase a drone as a flying machine, you won’t need a camera.
But if you intend to shoot photos or videos, a drone with camera is a must. However, depending on your requirement, do check the camera quality before you buy one of the camera drones.
While you go through the list, you will definitely come across the term brushless motors.
Though the brushless motors are slightly more expensive than the brushed ones yet they offer a longer lifespan which means the owner doesn’t require replacing the motors too often.
For beginners, it might be tricky to fly a drone initially. Therefore there are few models that offer the headless mode.
In this mode, as you press the controller stick in a definite direction, the drone will fly in that direction and not to the direction where the joystick points.
When you choose from the premium drones, you’ll come across models with integrated that allows the machines to stay informed about the geographical location of the drone.
Thanks to this upgrade, your drone will find its way to home and hence this feature is named RTH (return-to-home).
There are few GPS enabled drones that offer the follow-me-mode that allows the owner to track the device across the ocean or ground.
So, if you’re off to a trek or mountain biking, you can let your drone fly above you and record some of the best videos of your adventure.
Have you seen a drone with integrated gimbal?
Thanks to this feature that your drone can remain steady while it is flying through high altitudes and high winds.
Drones that are flown indoors don’t really need this feature but if you’re buying a drone for outdoor, ensure having a gimbal feature.
One more necessary feature of the premium drones is obstacle avoidance.
Although this feature can add to the cost of the device but it’s worth the cost as it can prevent the device from crashing into a tree.
Don’t forget to go through the reviews to check whether or not this feature works as advertised.
Drones can break and hence you have to check whether or not the spare parts are available before choosing a drone.
Here's a ballpark comparison table of the features you can expect from drones at different price ranges.
Flight time: Between 7-10 minutes. Drones with premium cameras usually have shorter flight times.
Control Range: Around 70-100 metres.
Features: Follow Me, Live Video and the capability of performing tricks. Obstacle avoidance is yet another feature to watch out for.
Camera Quality: In-built HD 720p cameras which can produce good quality image and videos.
Flight time: Around 12-18 minutes.
Control Range: Around 200-500 metres.
Features: Waypoint Flight, GPS, Orbit Mode, Follow Me mode, Auto Return, Headless Mode, Low Battery Alarm, LED lights, Altitude Hold, Obstacle avoidance.
Camera Quality: Include high-quality image and live video transmission. Some carry a Go Pro cam.
Flight time: Around 20-30 minutes.
Control Range: From 2 km – 7 km
Features: Besides the features mentioned above, autonomous functions like orbit, GPS integrated flight, Point of Interest, optical flow sensors.
Camera Quality: 4K and HD cameras. Cameras can record crystal clear footage for film projects or vlogs.
For someone who’s new into the market, buying a drone can be a daunting task.
Once you visit the online e-commerce sites, you’ll be bombarded with jargons and technical terms that you won’t know of.
Here are the few things that you should be familiar with before purchasing a drone.
There are several acronyms that you’ll come across while buying a drone and you have to know what they mean.
RTF is the full form of ready-to-fly and in these cases, you will have to tie the controller, install the propeller to make the drone ready to fly.
BNF means bind-to-fly drones which are totally assembled and they come without controllers.
ARF means almost-ready-to-fly and this is when you buy a drone kit. They have receivers and transmitters. Many even come without flight controllers, motors, batteries and electronic speed controls.
FPV means First-Person Video and these drones can stream footage from the perspective of a person.
Did you know that the FAA or the Federal Aviation Administration deems drones as UAS or Unmanned Aircraft Systems and demands all UAVs weighing above 0.55 pounds to be registered?
The cost attached to registration is $5 per aircraft and this remains valid for 3 long years.
The Unique Identification Number that you receive post registration has to be attached to your drone. The minimum age for owning a drone is 13 years.
There are several drones that are controlled with the help of smartphone devices instead of controllers.
Unless you own an outdated mobile, this is certainly a better option.
The software of drone will usually work with new smartphones with the latest OS.
Hence you need to check the specifications of the drone before buying it. You may choose to upgrade your phone in case it is necessary.
The manufacturers usually claim that their drones can be flown easily but their claims are sometimes too good to be true.
Whether or not the flight of the drone will be smooth will depend on the internal mechanism and the flight controller.
Those that are designed for precise flying will demand manual controls and these aren’t good for beginners.
The ones that promise maximum stability are better for beginners as they can stay put in the air without too many controls from your end.
Don’t get too cocky while flying your drone as there are certain poor weather or flight conditions which can cause harm to your drone or even make you lose it.
Clear sunny sky with no breeze is usually considered a perfect condition for flying drones. A gush of wind can make you lose control.
In the year 1981, the FAA rolled out few guidelines for running such a drone aircraft.
As the advice was given ages ago, these rules can still be enforced.
Ensure that you can have a view of your drone all time and stay clear of the position of the drone and don’t fly above unprotected people or vehicles.
Get in touch with the control tower before you fly the drone within 5 miles of a heliport or an airport.
Don’t fly in tough weather conditions and don’t fly it when you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you choose to fly your drone in urban or other residential areas, this needs to be done with extreme caution.
There are several laypersons who are overly concerned about the privacy implications of drones and hence they might end up creating a fuss about it.
So, when you operate your drone, stick to open fields, avoid places where there are houses, schools, churches, stadiums, prisons, power stations or busy roads.
Fields and public parks are undoubtedly the best option for flying your UAV.
Though you may have gathered enough knowledge on flying drones, yet if you may happen to be a beginner, you have to be extra watchful. Check out some tips:
So as we see that drones are literally everywhere, in the skies performing aerial aerobatics or stalking you from a pre-set distance, you too have to follow the herd.
However, take into account the abovementioned tips and advices in order to settle with the best drone in the market.
We trust you found this guide helpful enough to guide your purchase. We'll be happy to hear any feedback from you in the comments section below. Happy flying!