How To Choose The Best Drone
Drones and quadcopters are the latest craze among children and adults alike. However, choosing one is quite a complicated issue, as there are hundreds of models with prices that many vary from tens to hundreds of pounds.
It can be hard to assess and compare so many options, so you may find yourself puzzled by the wide range of features and prices. This article intends to be your guide among all these models of drones, its purpose being to ease your work and help you make the best choice. We cover the best tips for buying a drone, as well as reviews of the best quadcopters, multi-rotor helicopters and other drone models in all price categories.
Drones have multiple names such as quadcopters, multi-rotor craft, mini-quads and multi-rotor helicopters among many others. The most common type features four rotors, the differences being in size, features and price.
You can buy an entry-level mini-quad for as little as £10. These basic models don’t feature a camera. If you want it, you should budget at least £50. In addition, if you are willing to spend £100, you can hope to get first-person view live video directly on your smartphone. If you fancy this option, you should download and install a free app. If you prefer, you can get a drone with a colour screen embedded in the remote control.
To give you only one example, the Revell X-Spy features a smartphone mount on the remote control and you can find it for around £80.
The more money you are willing to spend, the more you can get. You can get a drone that’s able to fly for longer times, while also featuring superior on-board processing to control the flight. For instance, Parrot AR Drone and DJI Phantom 2 are both able to hover in one spot without any problems, while cheaper models require a lot of adjustments in order to remain airborne.
The camera isn’t a must-have, as you should always see your drone while controlling it. This is why cheaper ones don’t even come with a camera. Besides, even if they did, they should have a feature called FPV in order to allow you to control them without line-of-sight.
The cheaper ones have basic cameras that provide VGA video. It would be a good idea to try to get one that has at least 720p, otherwise your videos are going to be of very low quality. Always make sure you check all features before you buy your drone, as not all 720p cameras are alike. Some shoot good quality videos while others offer an image quality similar to the old CCTV cameras from 30 years ago.
Nonetheless, you should also be aware that great quality footage can only be obtained if your drone has a gimbal. If it doesn’t, the quality of the camera doesn’t even matter, as images are going to be bad anyway. The gimbal is a gyro-stabilized mount that holds the camera steady while the drone is moving around. If you want a gimbal, you need to be ready to pay the rice, as they aren’t exactly cheap.
Brief Quadcopter Buying Guide
There are cameras that record directly to a microSD card and others that can record directly to a smartphone. You should go for the direct recording, as that’s usually better in terms of reliability and image quality.
The next features you have to consider are the flying time and the charging time. The most common drones can fly between 5 and 15 minutes and they need about one hour to charge completely. Too bad most manufacturers don’t supply spare batteries, as they would surely be very useful. Anyway, just make sure you budget for several sets of rechargeable AA batteries, as you are going to need them for the controller. Most controllers take four such batteries and if you get one that has a live screen included, your batteries are going to last for less than one hour.
The flying range in also important. You should know that you won’t be able to fly your drone inside your house, regardless the size of your rooms. No room is big enough for flying a quadcopter. Besides, you might frighten your pets and your children. If you insist to fly your drone inside the house, you should get a tiny model such as the Hubsan X4 and Revell X-Spy.
Even your garden may not be big enough for a proper flight. You can easily lose control of your drone and crash it into your neighbor’s courtyard. Besides, if you haven’t seen exactly where it landed, you are going to have a hard time finding it. It’s a good idea to stick a label with your contact details on your drone, just in case someone finds it and wishes to return it to you.
The best place to practice is a park, a field or any other such open space where you can fly your drone until you learn how to master it properly. You should also avoid trees, as your craft could get caught in them. Wind is also your enemy, so try to fly your quadcopter only when the weather is calm.
Drones are quite fragile so you can expect to break a few rotors and other tiny parts every now and then. This is why you have to make sure you can get some spares. As a matter of fact, most drones come with a set of spare rotors, but they don’t all rotate in the same direction, so you won’t be able to use any of them in any position.
This is why you have to choose a drone that has a good offer of spare parts. If you can’t easily buy them in your area of residence, you aren’t going to enjoy your gadget for a very long time.
Last but not least, you should know that cheaper models have brushed motors that have a relatively shorter lifespan. If you want a toy to last for longer, go for a brushless motor one, even though they are a bit more expensive.