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Drone Decisions: Help for the Beginner

By
Howie Jones
 - 
Dec 13, 2021

Drone flying is a thrilling new frontier for amateurs, pilots, aviators, and photographers. With drones, the sky is literally the limit.

Drones range in price from under $100 to over $500. Choosing a new one is a challenge.

There are many design and performance characteristics to consider. In addition, there are many companies to choose from. This guide helps to explain the fundamental differences between drone types and much of what you need to know before flying one.

Drone Purchasing Fundamentals

Drones are multi-rotor flying devices controlled by remote. They provide new perspectives on the environment by taking images and movies from various angles.

Many modern RC drones have real-time first-person viewing (FPV). This puts users in the driver's seat for a thrilling joyride. There they explore the air from the perspective of a pilot.

Some Things to Consider Before Purchasing

Choose a low-cost toy drone to learn the basics before investing in a higher-quality gadget. This is a smart way to save money. Most of today's drones fall into one of two pricing categories, namely less than $100 or more than $500.

Models with simple functions and controls are cheaper. Those with higher prices have high-definition camera equipment. In addition, they have autonomous flight modes. Battery life is a limiting factor for all sorts of drones. When possible, use a simulator to obtain a better understanding of the drone before taking it for a flight.

For Beginners

Toy drones, such as the Parrot Mambo and the Hobbico Dromidia Kodo, are at the lower end of the spectrum. These simple and affordable drones cost approximately $100. In addition, they are designed for fun rather than function.

Their controls are simple and quick to understand. They are accessed by a smartphone app or a remote control included with the product.

Beginner drones and those for kids have shorter flying periods. They usually last less than 10 minutes. However, a low-cost model is an excellent method to learn to fly.

The camera quality may be lower, but it's a good first step before upgrading to a more expensive model. Similarly, in the case of a crash, they won't cost a fortune to repair or replace.

Camera Drones

DJI Mavic Mini, Parrot Bebop 2, and GDU Byrd are intended particularly to capture photographs. They cost between $500 and $1,500. These advanced flying machines are more focused on recording high-quality video and still photographs. Video drones must be registered with the FAA since they are larger and heavier.

Gimbals are used to pan and tilt the camera. In addition, they cushion it from the motors' vibrations and hold the lens steady. They are usually included with video drones.

Features and Parts

Larger drones use larger batteries. Therefore, you have longer flight periods. A fully charged battery should last about 20 minutes on a video drone. In addition, they can be swapped out for a spare to extend the flight time.

Parts are also reasonably priced, with replacement rotor blades from Mavic Air costing approximately $20. While the movies generated by lesser models like the Bebop 2 will do for the majority of applications, it's worth investing in the more advanced DJI drones when quality is a priority.

Other Uses for Drones

People use drones for an ever-expanding range of reasons. They are used from filming special occasions to inspecting construction sites. Not only that, but some of the most advanced models, such as the Mavic Air, have built-in autonomous flight technology. This allows them to travel on their own.

These more advanced ones let users experiment with autonomy. It allows them to navigate a predefined course using GPS on their own.

However, autonomous flight is subject to certain limitations. The FAA requires that you register these devices. In addition, they must remain inside the pilot's line of sight at all times. At any time, the pilot must be able to regain control of the drone.

Racing Drones

With the rise of these devices comes the rise of related sports. Racing drones are often smaller and constructed with speed and agility in mind. Users wear first-person-view headsets to see through the camera's lens while navigating a course and trying to beat other pilots.

The majority of racing models are hand-adjusted to save weight or boost motor power. Models with a lower price tag, such as the Aerix Black Talon 2.0, start at approximately $115. On the top end of the scale, ready-to-fly drones such as the Uvify Draco can cost up to $700.

Flight Safety

Regulations established by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are the guiding concept for safe unmanned aircraft flying.

These devices are a lot of fun...and a lot of money. However, when you fly, do so responsibly. Even a little toy drone can cause injury if it collides with someone. In addition, fingers hit by the rotor blades are subject to injury.

The Law and Drones

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented registration rules for anyone operating one of these devices. This includes those that weigh more than 250 grams for recreational purposes. Most toy drones require no registration. However, those developed for filming, racing, or autonomous flight almost certainly need to.

Registration is available on the FAA website, and professional drone pilots must meet strict regulations. The registration number must be posted on the device once it has been registered.

These devices are not permitted to fly above 400 feet. They must stay out of restricted airspaces and away from emergency situations. They are not allowed to fly into national parks. In addition, they must notify air traffic controllers if they fly within 5 miles of an airport.

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