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Hobbyist-friendly quadcopters have been buzzing over parks, races, beaches, and other open-sky areas a lot in the recent years. Their popularity continues to grow every year along with their uses. Hobby shops both online and local are now carrying dozens of different models but do not often state which ones are the best for your demographics. People who are interested may want to know which type when they buy a drone.
Drones can be dangerous, so adult supervision should always be present when young children are flying them. If you are an adult and looking for one for your own needs you may want an inexpensive model, but it should be sturdy, you will also need to check that it has blade guards. There are other hazards to prevent against so you should know what to look for when heading out to make your drone purchase. These are 13 things you should be aware of when buying a drone.
1. Drones Designed As Toys
The Hubsan X4 along with the Syma X5C are both inexpensive, and you will be able to find replacement parts and batteries for them easily. These two models are both lightweight and small but still make it possible for you to keep track of them when flying outside. These drones have cameras on them, although they are toy ones.
Other great toys to look at when you buy a drone are the Parrot’s Minidrone and Air Hog’s Millennium Falcon and can be found in different styles and prices. These are indoor recommended drones and are controlled by your tablet or smartphone. They have sensors built-in to help them hover in place unassisted and are easy to navigate around your home. The Hubsan and Syma can also be flown inside, but the Parrot and Falcon are easier to maneuver.
2. Drones Designed For Racing
When setting out to buy a drone, you should stick to the RTF (ready to fly) models unless you know how to use a soldering iron. Serious drone racing fanatics will create their own machines, but beginners to the racing scene should start out with a purchased model. Walkera is a great brand of racing drones and has recently introduced two new models; the Furious 320 and F210. If you want to take a try at building your own model, there are sites out there to purchase kits from that will make sure you get all the pieces needed. Check out Team Blacksheep or GetFPV.com if you would like to buy a kit and make a racing drone on your own.
3. Cheaper Drones Means Fewer Features
If you buy a drone that is cheaper, you will get a model without a lot of features the high-end drones have. One of the best features they will lack is the sensors to help them hover in place. Another important attribute they will lack is a GPS lock. This lock is an invaluable piece of equipment if you are looking to fly your drone outside and it will also stabilize the machine for taking photos and video. A GPS will generally not be included with a toy version and may make your flying a frustrating experience.
4. People Associate Them With Spying When They Buy a Drone
If you are planning on taking your drone out into the public, or even plan to fly it over the neighbor’s yard, you can expect people to assume you are spying on them. The general public doesn’t know the radius of your camera’s capabilities, so you must be prepared to answer a lot of questions from those suspicious of your flight plans. Hobbyists who enjoy flying their drones have even been approached about their intent when flying in a 20-acre open field.
5. Flying Areas May Be Difficult To Locate
If you live in a large city, you may find it difficult to find a place to fly your drone. You have to find places where it is legal and safe and realize they are illegal in all U.S. National Parks, as well as some state parks. Check your county and city parks as they all have different rules and regulations regarding RC aircraft. Before you buy a drone, even if you are considering a toy version, check out AirMap or Mapbox to look where the ‘no fly zones’ are located, so you do not put yourself at risk for a violation.
6. FAA Registration Is Needed For Any RC Aircraft
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires anyone flying an unmanned aerial system weighing between .55 pounds and 55 pounds for either a hobby or recreation has to register with their agency. There are severe fines attached to those who do not register and you could even face criminal penalties. These regulations are in place to assure the FAA that you have read and are aware of the safety guidelines. That includes the ones stating you must stay more than five miles away from airports and below 400 feet.
7. Know The Lingo And Abbreviations
If you’re interested to buy a drone, the hobby is like any other and comes with its own lingo all users should know. These are some of the most common:
- ARTF or ARF- ‘Almost ready to fly’ are drones requiring some small assembly and may also require additional equipment to finish construction.
- FPV- ‘First Person View’ is the video feed that comes directly from the camera and can be used for taking photos or videos or to pilot your drone.
- Gimbal- This refers to the mechanical camera stabilization system. With this system, you will achieve smooth video and sharper photos.
- Follow Me- This feature will allow your drone to automatically follow a subject normally from a GPS signal within your mobile device.
- Brushless Motor- Brushless motors are more efficient and have a longer lifespan. The brushless motor is also quieter.
- RTF-‘Ready to Fly’ are drones that require little or no assembly and are ready for your use right out of the box.
- BNF- ‘Bind-N-Fly’ are models which are considered RTF drones with a receiver. These models do not come with a radio controller as you are required to buy it separately.
- RTH- ‘Return to Home’ is a safety feature built-in the drone that allows it to automatically return to your location or starting point.
- Headless Mode- This is a lingo intended for beginner pilots and means the drone will go forward, backward, right or left as the remote’s stick directs it. This direction is accomplished regardless of the way in which the drone is pointed.
8. Drones Can Be Dangerous
You can become the safest pilot, but the fact remains that most people look at drones as something dangerous. Baseballs actually can cause more damage than a flying drone, but onlookers will feel threatened when you fly your machine around them. It may be difficult, but it will be up to you to ensure their safety and make them feel safe around you and your drone.
9. Battery Lives Are Short
The longest flying time is recorded at 28 minutes. This record is with the DJ1 model, Phantom 4, but in general battery life is short with drones. The models with cameras average a 20 minute flight time and toy drones typically fly for seven minutes. Technologies have to advance on this feature so you can adjust your battery life by flying slower. You can also add less weight to the machine, or beware of winds when flying and avoid them.
10. Drones With Cameras
The leader in flying drones with built-in cameras is the DJ1’s model, Phantom 3. These quadcopters are excellent for aerial video or photos. The more money you are prepared to spend, the better features you will get. If you don’t want to invest a lot of money in a drone with an attached camera, some models allow for the camera to be removed and used with a handgrip so you can shoot gimbal-stabilized photos and video in the sky as well as on the ground.
11. Affordable And Fun Entry-Level Drones
Entry-level drones generally require little or no assembly and can come with built-in cameras. The cameras are typically fixed in place, facing forward, and the machine will fly for about 15 minutes. The Parrot’s, Behop drone will give you quality camcorder files to document and explore your daily adventures.
12. Higher Quality With Longer Flight Times
Moving from the entry-level drone to one with higher quality appeals to the serious hobbyist flyers. These models will give clear benefits for the professional pilots and offer full HD or 4K cameras. One of the recommended drones with this quality is the Yuneec Thyphoon Q500 4K. It is a light, durable drone that can fly up to 44 mph and is easy to maneuver. The Thyphoon Q500 has a larger battery to give you up to 20 more minutes, if you decide to buy a drone.
13. Drones With Fixed Wings
Airplane-style fixed wing drones are also entering the airways. Quadcopters are not the only way to explore the skies, if you plan to buy a drone. The Parrot Disco can swoop, soar, and perform aerobatic maneuvers for a fantastic pilot experience. You will need to make sure you have proper space to launch and land a fixed wing model.
Drones are available in all shapes and sizes. They are also out there in a wide variety of prices and features so choosing one will not be easy. This information should make your drone choice easier as you will know the different features to look for. Even though choosing the right drone can be a challenge, it will easily bring you the best experiences.