This holiday season, flying remote controlled helicopters or drones are sure to be bestsellers.
Many companies have been releasing drones for Christmas, and there are a few things you should know before you buy. Keep in mind that most of the inexpensive drones do not have stabilized cameras, so you’re not going to get GoPro-like footage. While they are are a blast to fly, remember you get what you pay for, you will not get quality video out of them.
Have you ever wondered why drones are priced the way the are? DJI is far and above the leader in this market. Why? Well because they make flying convenient and easy, they have the most stable platforms around. They are the Toyota of drones. The best places to purchase your drone are:
Amazon, RMUS or Multicopter Warehouse.
Don’t be a crash test dummy! Most new drone pilots, crash in the first 3 hours according to our statistical analysis of students that come to Drone U. So once you read my recommendations on which drone to buy, don’t forget the tips below on flying.
So here we go…here are the best drones on the market for beginners, to advanced pilots.
New to flying? Then this is your drone. You can crash it over and over. The drone isn’t stabilized like a phantom or any DJI drone. So it is more difficult to fly than your average consumer drone. But, as I said before you can crash over and over without negative consequences. You can fly it inside, learn basic controls and still even do some recording. For less than $75 on Amazon, you get extra batteries, charger and props. This is a good first drone for your kids to prove their aptness, then later upgrade.
Prop Guards to protect your hair
Easy to learn on
Crash it over and over again
Great for newbies to drones.
Limited flight time
Bottom line: A great beginner drone. Great for family vacation, an occasional crash and ready to travel anywhere.
This drone is an absolutely breeze to fly. Its compact and you can take it anywhere, even fit it in your camera backpack. I currently carry one with me everywhere. I can fit my Sony camera, Z cameras, an Osmo camera, 2 GoPros and a drone in one backpack. This little drone packs a serious punch for its size. I actually believe this is the most technologically advanced drone on the market. It has many autonomous features and can actually get pro-level quality video with great piloting skills.
Camera: 1/ 2/3’rs sensor 4k video (downsampled) 12mp stills
Shoots Adobe DNG raw photos
Includes: 2 sets of Propellers, 1 battery and charger.
Remote displays battery information if your phone dies.
Take it anywhere
Amazing Flight Controller
Tripod in the Sky
camera quality less than perfect (still better than anything remotely close in pricerange. ($200-1300) ,
limited flight capacity (due to wind)
Difficult to see in the air.
Travel tip: when you fly with your drone do not check the battery in your luggage. Its illegal. Instead use a lipo bag and carry it on. The lipo bag ensures it doesn’t catch fire. Find them here.
The bottom line: A great mid-size or photographer’s drone.
This is the perfect drone to give to a budding photographer. The drone has multiple points of redundancy, including 5-way obstacle avoidance, and has a camera sensor from DSLR cameras. Photographers can capture beautiful landscape photos with incredible detail during the day or night. Yes, this drone is like a tripod in the sky and can take beautiful long exposure photos. The video out of this drone is actually better than most prosumer models. The drone shoots 4k video at 60 frames per second. So you can slow the footage down to get smoother movements and speed ramps. I would recommend this drone to anyone who already had a drone and wants to shoot for fun. I would also recommend this drone as a great entry-level commercial platform. This is also the first drone that charges your phone when you use it to see the camera feed from the drone.
Camera: 20.1mp 1” CMOS censor
4k 60p video
4k 30p 100mbs video
Adobe DNG raw stills
Without screen (you can use your phone or tablet)$1799 with Crystal Sky Screen
Highest Image Quality
5 way obstacle avoidance
Easy to Fly
Autonomous flight features
Tripod in the sky
4k 60p video (most drones are only 4k 30)
This is actually really difficult to come up with cons on this drone. I would just warn people that obstacle avoidance is not your safety net. There are many things that can go wrong… and mostly it happens when pilots are distracted or uneducated.
Pro tip: this drone is currently backordered. But if you don’t order the screen or an extra battery, you can get the drone before Christmas
The bottom line: A great choice for the professional drone aviator.
The new DJI Inspire 2 is really the quintessential commercial drone. This drone is the second generation of the Inspire series which revolutionized flying cameras. This setup offers a 20.1mp sensor that articulates independently of the drone. This drone actually has two cameras because it can be flown by two pilots. One pilot controls the drone, the other controls the camera. This drone is the mac daddy of flying cameras. You’ll notice this drone is in an H shape because the landing gear articulate over the drone so the props do not get in the shot when flying advanced maneuvers. It offers dual batteries for redundancy to eliminate battery crashes. There are multiple choices for cameras, but there isn’t currently a zoom camera. It is the fastest consumer based quadcopter on the market. This is the Ferrari of drones. Don’t give the Ferrari to the 16 year old on his Birthday…ya dig?
Cost: $2999 (Bundle)
Without screen (you can use your phone or tablet)$1799 with Crystal Sky Screen
Dual Operator Setup.
Articulating Landing Gear
360 degree independent camera setup for buttery smooth footage
The ultimate commercial platform
Fly in winds up to 30mph
Redundancy of Batteries
Redundancy of crucial flight components.
Difficult to travel with unless you like toting around a 50lb pelican case (Yes I do this almost every weekend.)
Extremely advanced and not for a beginner
Can’t upgrade equipment from Inspire 1 to Inspire 2 (camera’s don’t work together
The bottom-line: Personally, I haven’t flown the Inspire 2 yet, but I can’t wait to test one and fly it. The multiple forms of redundancy excite me, the camera quality is superb and all around is the nicest cinematic setup. But, it is still in preorder at this point. I wouldn’t recommend this drone to half of my friends out there. It is too powerful and sensitive. If you have the experience and advanced flight maneuvers to fly, go ahead and buy the Inspire 2. Personally, I’m holding out until the zoom camera comes out with a 20mp sensor.
I had to add this next one in there because everyone asks me on my podcast, (Ask DroneU) which drone is the best for Search and Rescue.
I recommend the DJI Inspire 1 because there is not currently a zoom camera for the Inspire 2. You can get the Inspire 1 up and flying in 90 seconds. Where every minute is precious, this drone is proven to fly thousands of hours without a problem. The drone offers zoom capability if you buy the Z3 camera. Its up to an 80mm equivalent. I’ve trained half a dozen fire departments across the country (including the Anaheim FD, who watches over Disneyland) using this drone because it’s easy, convenient and solves the problem. It is also massively flexible. The Inspire 1 also offers the ability to use the XT camera. This is the mac daddy of thermal cameras, you can change the settings from the ground, you can digitally zoom, and its stabilized.
I have used a cheaper solution to offer thermal and visual with the Inspire 1. There is a thermal “backpack” for the inspire offered by RMUS. This is a great solution for departments that are low on money. I also recommend the Inspire 1 for public service because the accessories will be cheaper than an Inspire 2. You can buy a case for the drone from GPC cases that will hold all of the accessories and will keep the drone safe.
Easy of use, convenience
Ability to fly in many weather conditions
Articulating landing gear
Doesn’t have the camera
The bottom-line:Whether you’re using the Inspire for a reliable videography platform to handle the weather or searching for missing hikers in the San Bernardino mountains, the I1 is the proven workhorse. It handles weather conditions that the Phantom can’t handle. The Inspire 1 is the reliable tool for public safety officers and pilots who need to fly in windy conditions without spending a fortune. The I1 is still my go to bird for commercial videography work. The zoom camera offers more flexibility in cinematic shots, example the vertigo move from the air!
If you’re a beginner…buy cheap!
If you’re a beginner, buy a cheap drone you can crash over and over again. Focus on learning in’s and out’s of the operation.
Know the start-up procedures
Whenever you buy a drone there are startup procedures you have to do to ensure you don’t loose the drone. Yes, they do fly away, and it might even go to China if you’re not careful. I’ve seen countless people encounter fly-aways because they didn’t take the time to do the proper pre-flight checks or calibrations.
Be sure to calibrate your drone
When you buy the drone, go home, power up the drone (without props on) and make sure to put the drone on a flat level surface. Commence the IMU calibration. It will take about 3 minutes. Make sure you fully charge your batteries before you go flying.
When in doubt, get more education
Just remember, if you don’t know how to properly calibrate the drone, avoid interference, and know how to do emergency flight maneuvers… You may want to educate yourself before you start seriously flying. I would HIGHLY recommend Drone U or check out the book Livin’ the Drone life to get the details on flying for fun or for profit.
Do’s and Don’t’s for every drone user
Here are a few tips to read once you decide to buy a drone. These tips can save you from a crash, but I can’t recommend enough the importance of getting educated before, during and while you’re learning to fly. DroneU is only $47 a month to learn.
Remember you’re probably flying for fun. The second you want to trade a photo for a product/service, do someone a favor with a photo or sell a photo, you’re in commercial territory. Which means if you take money without a drone license, you’re subject to Federal Fines. If you want to get a commercial drone license, Drone U has a class for that too.
But keep these in mind, no matter your skill level:
Fly in an open space.
Don’t fly within 5 miles of an airport (checkapp.airmap.io) to find out.
Don’t EVER FLY OVER PEOPLE!
Don’t take money for your work or trade a photo or video.. that’s commercial.
Don’t fly near animals or wildlife.
Try to fly in a big open space as Kerry Garrison (Owner of Multicopter Warehouse) says: “Don’t fly near stuff.”
Know Your Orientation
First point where people crash: Reverse orientation.
We all learn to fly where the drone is facing the same direction we are. But once you turn the drone around, the controls are inverted or reversed. There are practice drills in Livin the Drone Life that help you overcome these problems.
If the battery becomes damaged, do not fly on it. If you drop it, puncture it or anything of the sort… don’t fly.
Make sure when you do fly that you’re landing around 35% of power left. There is a better indicator to showcase how much flight time is left. You can learn the advanced techniques in the DroneU Community, where you get all of our classes for one low monthly cost.
Make sure you never leave the batteries charging when you go to sleep.
Never leave the batteries when charging
Try to charge on a fireproof surface
Never take the battery off the charger until it is fully charged.This is how you ruin the battery.
Traveling with your Drone
If you travel with your drone, please understand your batteries are like firecrackers waiting to go off. In the United States, it is against Federal law to check any bag with a Lithium battery. That’s your power plant inside the drone. So make sure when you do travel, you do a few things:
Check the drone, carry on the batteries
Never leave a battery in the drone.
Never leave a battery in the drone even if you carry it on the plane.
Make sure to buy a case or lipo bag to protect the battery leads from touching anything. These bags and cases are actually meant to help prevent fires.
If you do not follow these rules, very bad things happen.
EXAMPLE: recently on a flight a passenger had a new drone in a case that he had carried on. The drone began to catch fire over his head. What happened? The battery leads began to rub against the drone, sparked and caught fire.
Something to understand, the battery fire burns over 1000 degrees. There is a very small temperature difference between the heat of the fire and the melting point of the aircraft metal.
I hope this helps you in understanding how complex these machines are, how much can go wrong, but with good information and education… you can have a blast!
Flying is truly an emotional experience that let’s you perceive the world from a new undiscovered perspective. We love it, and hope you do too.
If you ever want to know more or ask a question, please visit AskDroneU.com and we’ll answer your questions on the show.
Paul Alexander Aitken
Need personalized help with your drone business? Accounting, registration, marketing and just about anything else, we can help you go and grow.