Top 5 Things to Know Before Buying a Drone
Buying and flying your own drone is an exciting proposition for drone enthusiasts while creative people like filmmakers, photographers, etc. can capture those coveted aerial shots conveniently and more beautifully. Before you buy your first drone, these are the 5 most important things to know.
1. Understand the Acronyms
Some of the common acronyms relating to drones are:
RTF (Ready to Fly) – The RTF drones are assembled and ready to go except for basic preparations such as attaching the propeller and charging the battery.
BNF (Bind and Fly) – The BNF drones are sold without controllers. You should either buy a compatible controller or if you already own one that works with your new product, you can use it.
ARF (Almost Ready to Fly) – The ARF models fall in between RTF and BNF models as they usually require some assembly and additional components such as flight controller or battery which are to be purchased separately.
2. Start Low and Fly Safe
When you are a newbie, it is better to start with cheaper drones as most newcomers tend to crash their drones several times during the learning period. However, the $1000+ drones have more features and sensors such as DJI drones that are easier to fly. But, always fly them low to avoid damages to the drone if it crashes accidentally.
3. Register Your Drone
Registering your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is a good practice to follow. You should also make sure that you don’t fly your model over restricted private properties, over people or in the airport zone for safety reasons and as per governmental regulations.
4. Stick to the Guidelines
The FAA has a couple of important guidelines which were issued way back in 1981 and is still relevant for most drone operators as a safety measure for themselves, their drones and the people around.
5. Check if Your Smartphone is Compatible
Some users may not have upgraded their smartphones in years. It is advisable to check if your iOS or Android phone is compatible with the drone’s latest updates so that you can use it out of the box.
What are the Different Types of Drones and Which One Should You Buy?
Before you start shopping for your favorite drone, here is an overview of the various drones available in the market. Understanding how each one works is important for you to buy the one that best suits your needs.
Multirotor – Multirotor drones are popular both for hobbyists and professional drone users. They have a small camera that is used to capture photos or videos easily. This type is ideal for aerial photograph enthusiasts, people who do surveillance and similar applications.
Fixed Wing – Fixed wing drones provide long hours of air time, even up to 15 hours and are capable of covering a large area but to handle it one has to learn the various techniques and practice well before flying it. This will take some time for newcomers to grasp. These drones are not too easy to control and require landing space similar to how real airplanes work.
Single Rotor Helicopter – Single rotor helicopters are more efficient when it comes to handling heavy payloads. The large blades are useful for carrying loads but they pose a risk when these blades rotate at high speed and should be handled with care.
Fixed Wing Hybrids – Fixed wing hybrids are small airplanes with takeoff rotors that make them easier to take off and also cover long distances as fixed-wing drones do. The hybrids are limited in numbers but are expected to become more popular in the near future because they are easier to control, is capable of longer flying hours and safe to use.
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DJI Mavic Air
The DJI Mavic Air is capable of impressing even the most demanding drone lover because it is compact, easy to use and most of all, can easily capture videos at 4K resolution. The drone carries the name ‘Air’ because it is lightweight and much smaller in size compared to other DJI models.
The model also has a three-axis gimbal to ensure the best image stabilization. It is compact enough to actually slip the drone into your bag or coat pocket easily without any special packing involved. The Mavic Air can capture 4K videos at up to 100Mbps and take impressive HDR stills.
The drone is powered by an improved obstacle avoidance sensor system and has smooth gesture controls. In terms of features, the DJI Mavic Air is capable of tracking up to 6 subjects within the same frame and has a transmission range of 2.5 miles/4 kilometers. The gimbal makes both your photos and videos more stable. The Advanced Pilot Assistance System used by DJI allows the drone to change route when it comes across an obstacle rather than trying to immediately halt its movement.
- 4K Camera supported by a stable gimbal.
- Very compact in size and easy to carry.
- The Obstacle Avoidance System is a bit shaky yet better than the older version.
- Except for cinematic mode, the camera controls are not accurate in other modes.
- Battery life is not great.
Who Should Buy This?
The DJI Mavic Air is an excellent all-rounder with an ultra-compact build, a slew of modes to capture video, 4K camera, with the integrated gimbal. Its $700 pricing makes it an ideal fit for enthusiasts, hobbyists, and even video enthusiasts because of its great camera capabilities and easy to use design.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
The first edition of this model has been a huge learning curve for DJI and they returned with improved features that should satisfy even the most demanding drone lover. The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is equipped with one of the best cameras in the world, designed by Hasselblad and in order to make images and videos more stable, it is also equipped with a gimbal that stabilizes shots as you capture them.
The manufacturer has always been at their best when it comes to providing options of different photo-shoot modes that you could choose from. The Mavic 2 Pro is no different, as it is equipped with brand-new modes including the ‘hyperlapse’. If you are planning to use your drone for capturing multiple aerial shots for documentary or movie shots, this mode will come in quite handy.
In terms of specifications, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is equipped with a 20-megapixel camera which also has a 1-inch CMOS sensor. It allows users to capture videos and images with plenty of details when compared to the previous model. The manufacturer has also upgraded the design so that it is now easy to fold and carry. The camera quality is excellent but it still cannot push 4K videos to 60 frames per second which is not ideal for those who seek that specific feature.
- New video modes help capture content in crisp quality.
- Hasselblad camera and its 1-inch CMOS sensor improve output.
- Easy to fold and carry.
- Expensive price tag.
- Unable to shoot 4K videos at 60 frames per second.
Who Should Buy This?
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is a professional-grade drone with a powerful Hasselblad camera. The slew of newly added features makes capturing videos and photos fun especially when you can see significant improvement in picture quality. While the pricing is on the higher side, it is an ideal choice for professional videographers and anyone who needs the best camera albeit the lack of true 4K capabilities.
DJI MAVIC 2 ZOOM
The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is pretty much similar to what the Mavic 2 Pro offers but as its title suggests, the drone excels at providing an insanely large zoom capability. For users who require to take aerial shots with close up coverage or similar applications, this product will ideally fit in that category. It is powered by a 12-megapixel camera that has 2x optical zoom capability but the battery life is rather limited to just 30 minutes.
Compared to the Mavic 2 Pro, the Zoom is similar in many things including design and weight but it differs in the type of camera used in it. The zoom capability not only provides closer shots when compared to the Pro version but also retains image/video quality without any compromise, with the help of software and good camera quality.
If you are looking for a really compact drone with a camera, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is not a recommended product. Instead, it is heavier and can be carried around only with some effort. The product has 8GB of built-in storage which you can expand up to 128GB using the micro SD card slot. It works seamlessly with the DJI Go mobile app, has a USB Type-C port and also includes a controller.
- The zoom capability is simply off the roof in this amazing DJI drone.
- It easily folds into a backpack even though it’s heavier than some DJI compact drones.
- The battery life is impressive.
- Exceptional zoom capability and the type of camera used in the drone takes a hit on its video image quality which is something you should be aware of.
Who Should Buy This?
The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is an easy suggestion for anyone who likes to take large aerial shots but at the same time would need the best zoom capabilities to cover a zone from multiple angles. It also has a great battery life which means that you can take it out for trekking or shooting videos, films without having to worry about recharging it multiple times during a shoot.
The camera range and coverage area are the first things that will catch your attention in the Parrot ANAFI. The brand has built a name for themselves through excellent products over the years and they have some great additions including this model. It features a lightweight design making it easy to carry around and also fly when you are ready to take some fantastic shots.
While most other drones focus on aerial shots and improved picture clarity, the ANAFI stands apart with its capability to capture images in 180 degrees vertical angle. The image quality stays intact when you use the 2.8x zoom feature provided which is another feat achieved by the manufacturer. For people who might enjoy taking lots of group photos or selfies, this Parrot drone fits right into their milieu.
Some of the useful modes provided by the company include Tornado, Boomerang, and Orbit which will come in handy when you want the drone to fly in a specific arc or angle. It does all of this automatically making it easy to use especially if you are in an open area without any obstacles. The product is not equipped with obstacle detection sensors and will work better with people who have experience using drones.
- The drone’s capability to handle 180 degrees vertical photos and videos.
- A lightweight product that you can carry around easily.
- Its capability to capture 4K videos at 60 fps.
- Beginners might find this drone a bit challenging to control.
- Lack of object avoidance sensor.
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Who Should Buy This?
The Parrot ANAFI is an all-rounder drone designed for people who love taking videos or pictures within a specific area from multiple angles. It can cover a wide range, has some excellent flying modes and also capable of capturing 4K videos. If space is of no constraint and you are a selfie lover or like to shoot videos with user-friendly modes, the ANAFI is a great choice.
Though the selfie craze abounds throughout the world, not everyone would actually buy a drone to take selfies. But, if you are among the niche lot who really loves to make your selfies matter on Instagram or Facebook, the DJI Spark is one of the best picks around. The drone is exceptionally compact in size and easy to carry around. You can also comfortably use it without a controller and it costs only around $500 which is not too expensive for enthusiasts.
Flying the DJI Spark is quite easy which is why it is recommended for beginners and anyone who wants a hassle-free experience. The drone has lots of useful and creative flying modes including new additions like Circle, Helix, Dronie, and Rocket. Once you activate the mode, the drone will move in a particular style and you can also control it with just your gestures instead of using a smartphone as most entry-level drones do.
The drone is equipped with an obstacle recognizing system, has GPS stabilization and can also automatically return home, which is the starting point of the flight. There are some slight drawbacks such as it supports only 1080p videos, has only about 12 minutes of flight time, etc. But considering how inexpensive it is, you shouldn’t be too worried about professional features such as 4K recording or a powerful remote control being bundled with it for easy operation.
- Quite affordable for most.
- Designed for selfie lovers.
- Professional features like obstacle avoidance and GPS make flying easy.
- Short flight time.
- Lack of high-resolution 4K camera.
Who Should Buy This?
- The DJI Spark costs $500 and is ideal for selfie lovers. The smartphone app might receive future updates making it easier to use. The drone features several amazing flight and photo/video shoot modes making it value for money for beginners and casual users.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
DJI continues to offer drones of all sizes and sturdiness that buyers have lots of options to choose from. While the Spark is one of the smallest and most compact drones in their line-up, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro is the successor to the Phantom 4 which is rather large. The model borrows some of the design elements from the DJI Phantom 3 professional but at the same time, it has increased weight and has a sturdy finish to it so that you can use it for professional applications.
Being bigger in size and weight allows you to fly the drone at top speed to record 4K content. The added benefit is that it has a gimbal which ensures the videos or pictures that you capture has no shake in it, leading to assured, quality outputs for professional applications. It has a reliable obstacle avoidance that focuses on all five directions and the camera quality is excellent.
The Phantom 4 Pro also offers several flight modes to choose from and the battery life on this drone is quite impressive than we expected for a drone of this size. It has great range control. The smartphone app is user-friendly and you will mostly get used to it in a couple of hours. Once you are familiar with the video modes available, it is easy to explore which one suits your application best and use it.
- The gimbal setup makes 4K footage look crisp and impressive.
- Excellent smartphone app.
- Very sturdy build quality.
- The touchscreen controller is quite expensively priced at $300 and not suitable for everyone to make
such an investment.
Who Should Buy This?
- The DJI Phantom 4 Pro excels at providing great camera quality, build and also has excellent
coverage so that you can cover a large area easily. It is easy to use and offers best value for
Parrot Bebop 2
Shopping for a new drone could be a mixed experience for most newcomers because they will come across lots of expensive choices with some amazing features. However, those are not for everyone, which is why the Parrot Bebop 2 exists in the mid-range sector. It strikes a fine balance between cost and features so that you can get to explore some of the high-end features without spending a small fortune on your first drone.
The video quality of this Parrot product is impressive because it utilizes multiple technologies to get blur-free video output. Instead of using manual gimbals, the drone’s camera is integrated with software-based stabilization and the chassis is equipped with rubber on the sides so as to reduce the vibration. All these, when combined, lead to better video quality.
In order to make the most out of it, you should consider purchasing the flight controller and FPV headset. You will be able to view your drone’s view from the first-person perspective that makes it easier to fly it and also understand the exact angle in which the footage is being captured. While there are some great advantages for this particular model from Parrot, it still misses out by being an expensive product. You may have to buy an additional battery pack and also purchase features like ‘Follow Me’ mode by paying additionally, which might be disappointing to some buyers.
- Sturdy build quality with rubber infused chassis for additional stability.
- Unique accessories that allow you to precisely capture videos.
- The controller and headset are the best in the market.
- Additional battery cells and modes cost extra.
- The battery life is below par.
Who Should Buy This?
- If you are a fan of innovative ideas and would like to directly view what your drone sees from a first-person perspective, this Parrot Bebop2 is an excellent choice. The additional accessories are great to use and it also has all the amazing features, but, only if you are willing to spend more to buy them all.
DJI Inspire 2
The arduous search for the best-ever drone in the market finally comes to an end if you have shortlisted the DJI Inspire 2 as your choice of product. Once you have the necessary budget and the requirement to go for the Inspire 2, you will most probably overcome all the identified issues such as battery life, build quality or image quality found in other less expensive products. DJI leaves no stone unturned to make this product a success and it remains a surprise as to how they managed to beat the Inspire 1, their best drone on the top spot.
The Inspire 2 has one of the best collision detection sensors in it that it manages to skip and avoid even a small scrap or bumping accidentally during flight. The drone is equipped with dual batteries allowing it 25 minutes of continuous flight time thereby making it more reliable when you want to take videos or photos that need time to get the best angles. The camera also supports lenses so that professionals can swap them to match their requirements.
While newbies may have to spend time learning the tricks, seasoned drone users will find the smartphone app very intuitive and easy to use. Inspire 2 has all the sensors that allow you to easily get it on air and take professional photographs or videos. It is also compatible with a wide range of accessories which allows professionals to customize it based on their individual requirements.
- The build quality is excellent.
- Battery life is reasonably long to reliably capture content without being in a hurry.
- Supports third-party accessories.
- It falls on the expensive side and is meant for only those who are willing to invest.
Who Should Buy This?
- A product truly designed for professionals with demanding requirements and even though it falls on the expensive side, the DJI Inspire 2 justifies the pricing with excellent features, build quality and compatibility for a wide range of usage scenario.
DJI Inspire 1
The DJI Inspire 1 was the mother ship of them all before the Inspire 2 came into being and became one of the most popular drones among professionals. At first look, the Inspire 1 will easily resemble one of the menacing robots you might have seen in Hollywood movies, but, don’t let the looks fool you because it is packed to the brim with features. The product specifications are top notch as it is equipped with a 12.76 MP camera resolution and has a dedicated controller along with the bundle.
In order to navigate the flight easily, you should consider using your smartphone or tablet as the display by making use of the app. Another advantage of going with a DJI product is that the company makes the best mobile app that is intuitive, easy to use and gets all the updates it needs to work efficiently. The range of the drone is quite impressive as it can manage flights up to 2 kilometers radius that is more than enough for capturing most aerial shots as well as long-range operations.
The large body combined with the sturdy build allows your Inspire 1 drone to withstand windy conditions and other climate changes. The drone is also equipped with all the popular features including collision detection and multiple modes that usually make the DJI products a class apart when compared to other drones in the market. The large 5700 mAh battery is reliable yet it can go only up to 20 minutes of flight because of the drone’s size.
- Robust build quality and design.
- Capable of being operated in different conditions.
- 2KM flight range.
- Limited on-air time because of size.
- Very expensive.
Who Should Buy This?
- Purely designed for professionals and enthusiasts who don’t mind spending over a thousand dollars on their drone, the DJI Inspire 1 is the best drone experience that you could get in terms of build quality, features, mode, and beautiful drone control.
Parrot Mambo FPV
The Parrot Mambo FPV is the most affordable drone in the list and you should also take into consideration that this is more of an entry-level model for kids or beginners who are really interested to see how drones work. Priced at just $129, the Mambo FPV is an ultra-compact drone with a flight time of just 8 minutes on a full charge. However, it provides the initial nudge you need into the world of drones and is compatible with lots of accessories.
One of the coolest features that make the Mambo FPV a popular choice among beginners is the down-facing camera. Similar to how pilots can view what’s under them during a flight, you can use the drone to get a first-hand view from an aerial perspective and it easily works with all smartphones using the app. Your smartphone or tablet will act as the display as it does for most drones.
The Mambo drone is quite impressive for its affordable price tag because it can retain its position both indoors and outdoors. Such features are usually found only in expensive models and it also makes use of software-based stabilization. It ensures you get the freedom to capture videos in HD quality without any blurring or shakes. The drone is fully compatible with Parrot’s SDK and allows young kids or beginners to understand the concept of programming. When successfully executed, the programs allow the drone to flip or do cool tricks.
- Easy to use – especially for beginners or kids who love drone technology.
- Quite affordable.
- Compatible with programming languages and Parrot SDK.
- Not suited for professional applications.
- The camera quality is below par.
Who Should Buy This?
- Designed for kids and beginners who simply want to see how a drone would fly, how it captures images and see its aerial view, the Parrot Mambo FPV is the perfect kit that you could buy for just a little over $100 making it the ultimate entry into an exciting world.
Uses of Drone and Tips on How to Effectively Use a Drone
Let us say, after going through the internet and tons of videos, you have purchased your first professional drone. Here comes the most important part, because following the rules will let you understand how to effectively use a drone.
- Make it a habit to start practicing by flying your drone at low heights and in open space.
- Take your time to understand how your drone works, because it is not an overnight process.
- Stack up on drone accessories and spares as they come in handy.
- Consider purchasing a safety backpack so that you can carry your drone from one place to another safely.
- Unless you have a really small drone, register it with FAA for safety and regulation purposes and to avoid any legal action in case something goes wrong.
- Check for local signs that say ‘No drones’, to avoid legal action.
- Safety should be your utmost concern. So, don’t fly your drone near animals, people or birds as it could hurt them or yourself.
- Never try to push the limits of your drone by flying it too far as you could easily lose control of the drone. It might get lost if you are flying it over water or at height.
- Don’t try to fly the drone while you are in a moving automobile.
Most Common Uses of Drones
The technological world continues to evolve with virtual reality, augmented reality and drones. There are so many practical uses for a drone apart from military purposes. They are:
- Surveillance of areas and surveyor photography.
- Exploring archaeological sites safely.
- Delivering products (Amazon is experimenting with drone-based delivery).
- Law enforcement (the UK uses drones as a way to monitor people and places).
- For monitoring agriculture and wildlife in places like the African continent.
- Filming, photography and other creative tasks.
Choose the right drone from DJI, Parrot or other brands that match your requirements and budget. You should always stick to the guidelines for your own safety and the safety of others while enjoying a great drone flying experience.