Drone buying guide:
When purchasing a drone, there are several things to consider including the size, features, allocated budget, type (fixed wing or quadcopter) and the purpose of the drone. This particular drone buying guide is for beginners. During the last few years, we have seen a huge advancement in drone technology. Drones have become real affordable and this is probably the best time for some who is interested in this field to buy a drone. The general public, on the other hand, is still not educated enough about the usage of this emerging technology. The amount of information available on the internet is overwhelming and causes more confusion and chaos. Also, writing an exhaustive drone buying guide is impractical. The important considerations are however outlined here which could assist you to make an informed buying decision.
1. 3 main reasons to buy a drone:
- Just for fun
- For commercial or non-commercial aerial photography
- For commercial purposes other than photography.
2. Size of the drone (Licensing is related to the size!)
Size of the drone is the decision we should make at a very early stage. This is due to the fact that the licensing requirements mainly depend on the size of the drone. If you dont want to go for licensing, then you should stick to the maximum size of drone you can fly without having a license.
3. Fixed wing or multirotor systems
These are two main types of drones in the market, fixed wing and multirotor. Both have their pros and cons. Generally speaking, if you are a newbie, you should stick with quad copters. Quad copters are much more stable and easy to fly than fixed wing drones. You can fly these rotary type of drones easily in narrow spaces. Fixed wing on the other hand, are efficient if you intend to fly in open areas. Therefore, if you are planning a business for agriculture or mining, then fixed wing could offer you a better solution. Similarly, if high-resolution imagery is required, then rotary systems would be better than the fixed wing. Rotary system offer less flight time than the fixed wing and hence their coverage area is usually less than the fixed wing for similar sized drones. Also, if the landing space is small, you should chose a quad copter because they can land vertically in very small place. If there would be a lot of wind, then fixed wing drones will perform better. So you have to analyze all these things while making a buying decision.
4. Photography drones
Drones can capture some amazing pictures from some breathtaking vantage points. However, the quality of the picture will depend on the quality of the camera it has. There are a lot of different types of cameras are available in the market but you can not install the camera of your choice on all drones. Some drones allow more than one cameras but many don’t. So this would be one of the critical information if you are looking for a photography business such as real estate photography or industrial inspection.
5. Image processing software
If you are thinking about a business like using your drone in agriculture, then you won’t be able to use the images directly. Instead, you would be doing some image processing in order to extract the useful information hidden in those images. In this case, the critical decision would be to select a software which is fit for the purpose. There will be a list of other factors requiring some serious considerations. For details, you can read the article “Drones in agriculture”.
Everyone has a limited budget for buying a drone but more important is the fact that you don’t want to buy the top end drone straight away. It is likely that you might crash your first drone, buying a state-of-the-art drone is not a good option in the beginning. So it would be better to buy a cheap sturdy drone. Some of the option we have listed below in this drone buying guide which you might consider before buying your first drone:
6.a Drones under $100
6.b Drones under $200
1. Parrot Bebop Quadcopter Drone. Read review on this page.
2. Blade 200QX BNF Vehicle with Safe Technology
6.c Drones under $500
1. DJI Phantom P3-STANDARD Quadcopter
3. EHang GHOST DRONE 2.0 Read review of EHang Ghost Drone 2
6.d Drones under $1000
1. DJI Mavic Pro
2. DJI Phantom 3 Professional Parent
3. Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone. See the review of this drone.
4. Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon Quadcopter
6.e Drones under $1500
1. PARENT – DJI Phantom 4
2. Typhoon H 4k Collision Avoidance Hexacopter
6.f Drones under $2000
1. DJI Phantom 4 Professional+
6.g Top of the range drones which cost between $2000 to $5000
1. DJI Inspire 2 Quadcopter. See Short Review of Inspire 2 on this page.
2. DJI Inspire 1 V2.0
7. Drone configuration
Multirotor drones come in many frame configurations. Quadcopters have 2 sets of propellers (4 propellers) while hexacopters have six propellers (3 sets). These different layouts have advantages and disadvantages. As you increase the number of motors, you will get more thrust and more load carrying capacity, but the efficiency and flight time will be reduced. However more set of propellers means redundancy. This redundancy is an important consideration where your payload is expensive such as expensive cameras for video making or cinematography type of commercial applications.
8. The availability of a particular attribute
Sometime it would be critical for you to have a particular attribute available in the drone. This attribute will be dictated by the purpose for which you are buying the drone. The detailed discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this drone buying guide. However just to give you few example, this attribute could be for example:
- The ability to carry a certain amount of payload.
- Dual battery for any unforeseen circumstances when there is highly expensive equipment is onboard.
- The ability to for example to cover a certain amount of area in a certain time.
- The speed requirement for racing or follow-me type of applications
- Most modern drones have a “return to home” feature but some don’t, so you should keep an eye on this “drone-saving” feature.