Along with those increasingly popular “hoverboards,” drones seem to be the hottest thing right now. Their popularity has grown so much, in fact, that even those who haven’t played with remote controlled gadgetry before suddenly want their very own miniature helicopters for Christmas. This despite the fact that the word “drone” can conjure up images of those flying things that the military use for reconnaissance and combat missions.
The “drones” that are available to the public however, are much smaller, more portable, and lesser powered than their military counterparts. Though similar in concept, these RC drones are more akin to high tech toys. They’re also marketed as quadcopters and multi-rotored mini helicopters.
Who Buys Drones?
Aside from anyone with a deep interest in remote controlled devices, one would think that the market for these things would be close to nil. But of course, we know that this has not been the case. Drones have managed to find their way into the fields of architecture, land surveying, construction, and other industries. They’re also quite popular among photographers and videographers, who appreciate the creative possibilities that they offer for camera work. There are also groups who manage to make a sport of drone racing, so if you’re of a competitive bent, you might want to check these kinds of communities out.
DIY or Ready-to-Fly?
For beginners, it’s recommended to start off with pre-built quadcopters. You won’t have to trouble yourself with assembling them, and you can learn to start flying right away.
Of course, once you’ve gotten the hang of things, then you can go down the DIY route. While you won’t actually save a lot of money when you go DIY (compared to buying a pre-made model), the unparalleled joy that you get from assembling your own drone is a great experience. You’ll be soldering, calibrating, and coding everything under the hood, so be prepared to ask for help from the manufacturer and other people in the RC community should you get confused.
Other Factors to Consider
First of all, consider the size of the drone that you’ll be buying. Smaller drones are cheaper, more portable and can be maneuvered in small spaces, yet they might not stand strong gusts of wind outdoors. Larger drones are more stable, yet they are also more expensive to buy and maintain.
If you want to take aerial shots/videos, then be prepared to buy a drone in the mid to high end range of the drone pricing spectrum. Cheap drones often do not have cameras on board, while the fancier ones with gyro-stabilized mounts can cost a pretty penny. Do take note that if you want decent quality video footage, you need to invest in a camera that can record at least 720p. Anything lower than that would be grainy and blurry on the screen.
Drone enthusiasts should also factor in the cost of extra batteries when buying. Drones usually have a flight time from anywhere between five to twenty minutes (depending on the model and manufacturer) and this might not be enough for some people, especially when charging batteries can take up to an hour.