Drones are rapidly becoming the must-have accessory for tech enthusiasts, and they’re likely to fly (pun intended!) off the shelves this holiday season. After hitting the scene in 2012-2013, drones are gaining popularity due in part to the fact that they are a bit easier to fly than traditional remote-controlled devices.
Using a drone, even a novice operator can capture amazing images. A quick visit to YouTube reveals some of the awesome ways drone owners have used their high-flying machines; from capturing fireworks shows to providing stellar view of city skylines, these drone videos give us a new perspective on life.
So, what are the features you should look for when purchasing your new drone? Here are some factors you should consider when deciding what drone is right for you.
- Camera: what are you taking pictures of? The higher-end drones come with built-in cameras, image stabilization, and the ability to take slow-mo video. Lower end quadcopters (fancy lingo for a flyer with four rotors) come without the AV equipment.
- Range: how far are you going to fly it? Mid-range drones, such as Parrot’s AR Drone 2.0, which operates based on a Wi-Fi connection, can fly about 165 feet from the controller. The $1,100 DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ can reach up to 2,625 feet, as long as line-of-sight is maintained.
- Flight time: how long are you flying for? a 1,500 mAh battery equals about 18 minutes of flight time. For scale, a mid-high range cell phone comes with a 2-3,000 mAh battery. If you want to fly for longer periods of time, come with a backup battery or be prepared to pay for a higher-end machine.
We’ve selected a few drones that you can get without breaking the bank.
- Parrot AR.Drone 2.0: $300 – the Parrot drone is one of the most popular drones on the market. With Android and iPhone apps and a built-in camera, the Parrot is an all-in-one starter drone for anyone looking to get off the ground. It comes with a number of cool features, including the ability to capture still images and stream video in real-time.
- Hubsan H107L X4 Mini Drone: $50 – this model is a typical beginner model/micro drone. It’s a durable remote-controlled device, without a built-in camera. It will survive a crash or two, and flies for just about 10 minutes on a full charge.
- WL Toys V262 Cyclone UFO: $60 – very similar to the Hubsan listed above in terms of capabilities, but looks a bit more like the Parrot than the Hubsan. It’s another solid, affordable beginner drone.
- Blade 350 QX RTF Quadcopter: $350 – This mid-range flyer comes with a port for a GoPro, but it does NOT include the camera! Other than that, it comes with a cool agility mode, which allows for aerial maneuvers such as rolls and flips. It can also be recalled home automatically with the press of a button.
- Build one! – The neat thing about the drone community is how DIY-focused many drone enthusiasts are. DIY Drones, http://diydrones.com/, is an actively maintained site dedicated to helping members build their own UAVs.
Keep in mind that the drone landscape is super dynamic, so new models are hitting the market everyday. Be sure to check around and find the devices that’s perfect for you before clicking “buy”. Also, make sure to take your experience level into account when buying. The last thing you want to do is fly your new device into your face.