As we hear more and more talk about drones or UAV’s (Unmanned Arial Vehicule), with an increase in usage, it is not as simple as it seems to purchase such a piece of equipment. Many aspects have to be taken in consideration. the market of drones is planned to reach a value of 13 billion $ on the short term and a considerable variety of models are rendered available on the market.
Here are the main criterias to evaluate before buying a drone :
DIY or not ?
Do you want to build your own or buy an existing model on the market. Many enthusiasts prefer to purchase the parts and assemble themselves as it provides the advantage of choosing high quality components. Nonetheless, this guide will focus on the purchase of existing models as it is only recommended for the experienced drone owners to opt for the DIY route.
When starting to look for a drone, the inexperienced might have to invest a lot of time and practice to learn to operate such a vehicule. It is important to look for a drone that possess certain sensors such as a stabilizer to help maintain balance during flight. Other sensors include a system that prevents the drone from crashing as it will maintain the drone in a steady flight position above the ground. Usually, the more expensive the drone, the less difficult it will be to fly as the more sensors it will provide.
If you wish to program certain missions to cover a space where you want to take pictures or videos and have some extra functionalities such as a “Follow Me” feature, you might want to ensure your drone has a GPS module. Also, if you loose sight of the equipment, a neat functionality also available on certain drones consists of a function to bring back the drone home, based on it’s original position if you loose sight of it. Based on this functionality, the drone also requires a GPS system integrated in order to memorize positions to go to.
Camera or not ?
Many will consider this option an obligation. Although many drones are assembled with a built-in camera, it is important to know if the camera is removable or not. If it is, can you replace it with an upgraded model or why not a GoPro ? Can you also take arial photos with the camera ? how about filming ? what is the resolution of the camera ? Do you whish to see a live feed directly on the remote ? it is usually not worth having a camera if you cannot see properly what you are filming or the pictures you want to take with it. If it possesses an integrated camera, you want to ensure is has a good anti-vibration or stabilizer so the images or video taken remains crisp while the drone is in movement.
Good batteries in drones can provide between 15 to 30 minutes of flight time. When shopping for a drone, the flight time between charges is usually indicated. It is also important to obtain the charging time for the battery. You could be deceived if charging time is 4 hours for a flight time of 15 minutes, unless you purchase additional batteries.
Certain drones require a smartphone to use as the remote control or transmitter and others require the purchase of a transmitter. The model you use to control with a smartphone usually connects to the drone using either Wifi or Bluetooth connectivity, wish can limit the range between the controller and the drone itself. It is usually best to use a remote to provide longer communication range to enable to drone to go further.
If using a camera, you may also want to look for a viewing monitor. They can sometimes be integrated to the transmitter or else purchased separately. If it is integrated, ensure you have a relatively large display and crisp enough to properly see what the camera is pointing at. If the display is not provided, then you can opt for a proper size display and the type of display can vary from a monitor to a pair of FPV goggles. Of course, the price level can significantly increase.
When first learning to fly a drone, the possibilities of crashing are significantly higher than an experienced pilot. The chassis of the drone can certainly get damaged if you use it in an area that has numerous obstacles. It is important to ensure that replacement parts are easily available when you need to repair it or send it for repairs. Many recommend bying a model with propeller guards as the blades tend to be the most often the first parts that break on a drone. It might be good to keep some spare parts such as blades.
It is always good to start with a more entry-level drone and as you gain experience to pilot it you can work your way up to a more expensive and equipped one. Also be aware and fully informed of the laws and regulations regarding the usage of drones. In the United States, the FAA is responsible for these regulations and until 2015, the commercial use of drones is forbidden. Because drones are fairly new, laws and regulations vary in different parts of the world. Simply ensure you are aware of your country’s airspace regulations and you will be good to fly and have fun !