Best Drones: For Different Types of Flying and Budgets

Technology has made many breakthroughs in the recent past. Till yesterday, the thought of a flying object capturing pictures was unthinkable, but today it is a reality. Drones have made a splashing entry into the market and they are no longer used only by the paparazzi media or for film making alone. Although drones are being used cautiously due to many factors (especially security related), there’s no doubt that they’re one of the most popular gadgets with photographers & videographers.

Things to Know Before You Buy and Fly

There are different types of drones. A simple beginners drone cost anything around $100 whereas the camera drones cost around a few hundred dollars.

The world of drones may not be perfect today, but they can be used for several activities that provide lot of benefits.

Given below are details of drones and its various features:

DJI Camera Drone

Legal Requirements for flying a drone

Drones are relatively a new area and there are still many things that have not been put down in black and white by the legal and local authorities and governing bodies, however it is important that you follow the rules before you fly a drone.

Although there is no need for a license for recreational use of a drone, you need to check with your local authorities as to what sort of permissions are required to fly a drone.

In general, you need to be careful about these.

Drone Controls: How Does it Work?

Controlling a drone is not complicated. If you know how to use the xbox or playstation controls, you can use the drone controls too. Most drones use a remote control with two joysticks:

  • One stick is for controlling the altitude of the quadcopter, which also includes the roll (tilting left and right) and pitch (tilting up and down)
  • The other stick controls the throttle and the rotation of the quadcopter.

Your remote control should sit comfortably and fit well in your hands. You should ideally be able to use the stick comfortably and smoothly. It should be responsive and easy to move with just your thumb.

Nowadays there are so many variants of the remote control available. Some even skip the remote control all together and instead provide an option of an app that you can use on your smartphone with wifi. However, when it comes to precision, a remote control is preferable because that gives you more control. An app can cause the drone to crash, in case your finger slips accidentally.

Construction and Repair

The fact is that drones do crash. Drone advertisements and commercials may tell you otherwise but you can expect sudden unplanned descends or a crash to happen. When that happens however, if your drone is good, the frame will not be damaged and there will be shields provided to protect the rotors and electronics from harm.

For any reason, if parts are damaged, which also is a possibility, if you have a good brand, they will offer ready supply of cheap parts and batteries.

But like most things in life, “Prevention is always better than care”.

Batteries for Your Drone

In most entry-level drones, the batteries will usually be in-built and those cannot be replaced. However, for the more expensive variety of drones, you can buy spare batteries for around more than $100. The general battery life is around 10-20 minutes after a full charge, but a swapped battery can give you more time.

Top Factors to Consider when Buying a Drone

  • Wingspan / Size of the drone: To fly indoors go for small wingspan (around 100 mm). To fly outdoors and to capture footage, go for drone with a wingspan of more than 300mm.
  • Skill level: First time buyers should ideally opt for drones made for newbies (rather than buy a DJI Phantom as your first drone)
  • Controller (transmitter): This is the joystick used to control your drone. Controllers come equipped with several buttons, some used for doing cool tricks and flips.
  • Flight time: How long can the quadcopter stay in the air before being charged. Flight time is determined by several factors, including flying maneuvers, battery efficiency, size and weight. You may buy an extra battery that can make your drone last longer in air.
  • Sensors: Usually found on the high-end models. For example GPS is also a sensor (You can set your drone to follow pre-definite paths in the air). Most advanced copters also come with the ‘return-home’ feature (ensures your drone doesn’t get lost).
  • Top drone makers include 3DRobotics, AEE, AirDog, Cheerson, DJI, EHang, Holy Stone, Hubsan, NightHawk, Syma, Yuneec

Camera on a Drone

These days, you find many photographers or videographers using drones to capture beautiful aerial views. You can either buy drones with the camera or add it separately. The budget drones usually use cameras that are a cheaper equivalent of a low resolution webcam.

The high end drones offer HD video options or HD action camera such as a GoPro. You have many additional add on features that the drone offers such as a first-person view (FPV), sending a pilot’s-eye view from the drone itself to a phone or tablet or even video goggles for the ultimate pilot-seat flying experience.

Review of the best drones that you can use for aerial photography.

UDI U818A (Best Drone for Beginners)

The fun in learning to fly a drone is that it may crash sometimes, but that’s ok because that’s the only way to learn, right? Now, that is ok to say as long as you have a drone that is tough, and also cheap enough , so that losing it in a tree or river won’t pinch you to despair.

The UDI U818A is one such drone that has all the great features for reasonable price. For instance, the large rotors in the drone are protected by four-loop style frame during a crash. Now, even if there is any damage to the rotors, they are cheap (under $3 a set) and therefore easy to replace if need be. Some other features of the UDI U818A includes a video camera. The camera can capture 640 x 480-pixel video, albeit with a bit of a shake since drone vibrate when they move. All said and done, the UDI U818A is a great drone to start off with for a beginner and is a great package to beat.

Blade Nano QX RTF (Best Drone for the Money)

Once you have crossed the beginner’s stage and learnt how to fly a drone, you may want to graduate to a drone that offers more in which case, the Blade Nano QX is the one for you. It is a great combination of good features and less price. Its prices starts somewhere under $100 for the basic model -Blade Nano QX RTF l, and if you have the budget to go over $300, you can get the Nano QX FPV RTF model. The Nano QX FPV RTF model includes features like a first-person-view headset that shows you the drone’s perspective of the world.

The cheaper version, Blade QX is much faster and maneuverable than cheaper models and incase it hits a tree or a wall once in a while atleast you can be assured that it won’t pinch your pocket much.

DJI Phantom 3 Advanced Quadcopter Drone (Best Camera Drone)

There are some drones that are equipped to take pictures on the go such as the DJI Phantom 3. The Phantom 3 costs around $1,000. It is an impressive ready-to-fly quadcopter drone with 14-megapixel camera having 1080p 30 fps or 720p 60 fps HD video capture. The camera can tilt independently and also track an object while flying over it. It has a quadcopter body, a remote control, it also allows you to see what is being recorded by sending video back to your smartphone or tablet with a separate Wi-Fi connection and the Phantom 3 has easily swap-able battery that offers a company-claimed 20 minutes of flight time, much more than what is offered by most drones.

In case the control connection fails, you have the Vision 2+ that will automatically try to return to where it took off.

Air Hogs RC Helix X4 Stunt (Best Miniature Drone)

The Air Hogs RC Helix X4 Stunt works well for both a novice and a experienced drone flier. It is cheap yet strong. It has ducted fans and a foam-rubber coating which prevents damage to things incase you fly into them. Having said that, certain amount of caution is still required while flying them incase you knock down some precious objects while doing so. It is best described as a miniature drone that can fly indoors or in a small yard. Weather conditions are not a restraint either, you can still practice your flying in bad weather conditions.

The best part is that considering the small size of the drone, it allows you to fly it even under restrictive space constraints.

3D Robotics Iris+ (Best Drone for Pros)

If you are a pro at drone flying and want to have a bit more freedom with the drone, you can try the 3D Robotics Iris+ . You can reprogram it to automatically track your dog on a walk or for that matter you can make it do anything you want. It is not easy on the pocket, but it does give you more freedom with the drone along with some great features.

3D Robotics is easy to assemble and fly. It includes features such as a USB computer interface and open-source software for creating GPS-guided flight plans. With the Iris+ you can control many things such as you can keep the optional GoPro camera pointed at a specific object, control the external lights and other devices etc. In other words, if you are a do-it-yourself kind of a drone flier, Iris+ is the perfect drone for you.

Top Drone Brands

Useful Links

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