Buying a drone is like buying a car. Between alluring features and new tech advancements, it’s hard to separate the real from the marketing. In this guide, we will go through what you need to look out for and give you a few recommendations at various purchase points. Once you’ve read this, you'll be one step closer to becoming a drone buying expert.
What You Need to Consider
If you think drones are only available to professionals and the super-rich, think again. Entry-level drones with cameras start as low as $400.
Take your time to think about why you want a drone and what situations you’ll use it in. The filming requirements for sports and scenery are quite different. If you want to film landscapes, you can use an entry-level drone, but for filming adventure sports like skiing, you’ll need a faster drone capable of flying and filming at high speeds.
We love DJI drones because they are of such a high quality. Lesser brands take shortcuts in their production and their drones are much more likely to break.
Ease of Use
Usability is especially important if you are just starting out. Make sure the model you buy has features like GPS tracking which tracks your drones position as it flies, Return to Home, and Follow Me Mode which allows you to change the forward orientation of your drone organically.
Some drones have further developed with hand gesture controls, removing the need for a remote when taking selfies. Collision detection is another fantastic feature that saves many beginners from accidentally bumping into obstacles.
You are going to need to carry your drone to your shooting location. High grade drones are heavier and require a backpack, while smaller ones can fit in a pocket. If you are scaling a mountain, you might want to go with the latter.
Image and Video Stability
The keyword you need to look out for is "gimbal." A gimbal smooths out unwanted motion created by sharp movement or high wind speeds. There are two types, a two-axis and a three-axis, with the latter providing the most stability. Drone cameras typically start at a 720p resolution and move up to 4K. If you are shooting high-speed activities such as skiing, you'll want to choose a drone with a camera capable of 60 frames per second (fps) or higher to catch all the movements. For slow scenic shots, 30fps will be more than enough to capture serene detail.
Every drone flier will have one or two extra batteries on hand. Average flying time on one battery is around 16 minutes at the entry level and increases to 30 minutes on the higher end.
Transmission Distance and Live View
Transmission distance is the range of the drone. Beginner drones have a low range and start at 2 km. The higher the price point, the further the drone can fly. Live view is live footage from the drone camera sent to your phone or controller and is usually delayed by a few hundred milliseconds. With professional drones, the delay is very slight, allowing you to react to sudden obstacles or get the exact shot that you want in high speed situations.
We all love functions that make our lives easier and gesture features fit the bill. Drones with gesture functions can be controlled with your hands and follow you, snap a picture and take video. Other intelligent flight modes like Tripod mode smooth out your flying movement to effortlessly give you a stable video.