Basics of First Drone Purchase

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You know you want to own and operate a drone, but you don’t know all that much about drones. You don’t need to be an expert at this point, but it would be nice to have a starting point. If this sounds like you, read on! Even if you already own a drone, you may find the following point interesting.

Note that this is not a review post, and we are not trying to tout one brand, or even specific technologies. For example, there are many ways to stabilize a drone. This post will not be about comparing and contrasting these methods, rather, it will focus on why you need stabilization in the first place. We discuss several features in their order of importance.

We start with the most important, yet often overlooked fact about you and your drone. You need to be able to locate your drone after each and every flight. Remember, unlike your car and even your phone, your drone will not be right with you or in your hand or where you parked it during use. Your drone will be in the air, in the wind, maybe even in the snow or blizzard or… you get the idea. You just don’t know what your drone will encounter. When the sudden gust of wind takes your drone away from the lovely field where you are standing and deposits it somewhere over there in that industrial park, you are going to want a GPS enabled drone! In our opinion, this is the most important feature of any drone. Remember, you and your drone will be linked via the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) registration, so if your drone just smashed into someone’s windshield, you can’t just pretend it wasn’t yours. The more likely use of the GPS feature is simply to protect your investment so you can find it in challenging terrain – urban or rural. A return to home feature is a bonus for many GPS enabled drones.

Flight stabilization features are very important, especially in two cases. For your first drone, you simply have to have it. Flying a drone has a learning curve, and a flight stabilized drone will allow you to learn while A. keeping your drone intact and B. keeping you sanity intact. Also, if you intend to use a camera mounted on your drone, stabilization will make sure that your pictures and videos remain sharp, focused, and not blurry no matter how fast your drone is flying.

Long battery life is desirable in all battery operated devices. How inconvenient is it when your phone, tablet, or laptop runs out of juice? We all hate that. However, none of these things will plummet to earth from a high altitude when the battery dies. Your drone will do exactly that. Given that you are choosing between drones that have GPS and flight stabilization, battery life should be your next criteria. Make sure that the battery is easy to change and to charge, and buy two or more extra batteries. Remember, no one ever regrets having too much charge available for their device.

DJI Phantom with Extra Battery

DJI Phantom with Extra Battery. The Phantom uses GPS to remember the takeoff location, and will return with the press of a button. Flight time is about 25 minutes with one battery.

Camera features are important if you are capturing images with your drone. Remember that your “subjects” will not be particularly close to your camera, so it is important that you have a large sensor in your drone camera. Also, a high shutter speed is essential as your drone is moving while capturing images for you. A bonus would be to be able to really remotely control the camera, and an extra bonus would be the capability to save the images and movies directly to your phone or tablet. Remember if you do elect to save the images and movies directly to your mobile device, you will need extra storage on hand.

Your first drone simply must have GPS capabilities, and really should have flight stabilization. Like all battery operated devices, you want long battery life. Remember that the consequences of a drained battery are more severe for your drone than your phone! And if you are going to be using a camera, make sure the sensor is large and the shutter speed is high.

Enjoy shopping for your drone!

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