Drones have become very popular devices these days, and with very good reasons. Drones started like fancy hobby gadgets, but now, they are revolutionizing the way we see and understand the world.
Lots of industries are taking advantage of the use and versatility of drones. People in agriculture or oceanic exploration are changing the way they do things to adapt this technology to their standard operating procedures.
Along with the booming of the drones industry, jobs as well are being created around the world, and many professional and certified pilots are being employed to surveillance of cattle, plot properties for agriculture, inspect pipes, and oversee buildings constructions.
Also, there are those who use drones for recreational purposes. These hobby lovers as well find useful applications for what essentially is a flying camera.
Whatever your purpose for a drone is, one thing remains true, and that is the fact that selecting a drone today has become very difficult for the beginner and enthusiast pilot.
The question is How To Buy a Drone?
The options today can be counted by the hundreds, and there could be a couple dozens of questions to answer before pulling the trigger and making the order.
This is the paradox in the drones industry. When drones started, there were only a handful of options, but the budget and applications were not that flexible. Today, budgets and applications have been expanded, but exactly this produces all the doubts and questions about how to select the best drone for you.
However, we are presenting a proven and easy-to-follow 9-step process to overcome the difficulties of selecting a drone.
9 steps to find the best drone for you
This process was developed taking into consideration my personal experience when purchasing drones, as well as the opinions and comments from other industry experts.
This is why I consider this to be a top-notch guide.
1. Start by Predefining a budget
We’ll start by thinking about an amount of dollars we are willing to spend on a drone.
This needs to be a round number, and even when it could be a little more or a little less, during this process we’ll learn the details to consider and fine tune the final budget.
$100 USD is a great number for some of the best drones for beginners, since you don’t want to invest in a fancy drone if you’ve never flown a basic device before.
It is true that most advanced (and expensive) drones are easier to fly than most basic models, because of all the sensors and electronics they have, but that is precisely what will develop your piloting skills.
2. Time to Define your Needs
This will determine 80% of your selection. The drone you get needs to be suitable for your intended purpose with it.
Most people think that a drone is just a flying camera, but the reality is far away from that.
Truth is that these devices can do more than just carry a camera, they can live-stream video, capture images, transport food, water, and medicine, to name a few.
Many industries take advantage of this ability and have attached special cameras to trace maps of land, detect the fertile soil of an area, and some of the wildest applications dream with using drones to build a chain of supplies for areas that are hard to access.
Depending on what you want to do with your drone, your choice will be made.
If you want to make it into the filming industry, then you want a drone with a great camera, which will be a different type of drone if your intent is to race.
3. Read and Learn about Regulations
Depending on your country of residence, drones may or may not be regulated.
This is because the use of drones started in the armies, being used for surveillance and attacks, and thus, governments around the world are concerned that commercial drones could be misused.
In the case of the US, all drones used for professional and non-professional purposes need to be registered under the Federal Aviation Administration, and since regulations tend to change with time, instead of describing what the current regulation is, the best way to learn about this topic in the US is via this link.
If you live outside the US, make sure to learn about any applying regulation to the flight of unmanned aerial vehicles, since this will avoid you fines and issues with legal departments.
4. The Camera is very Important
Without a doubt, the camera attached to the drone plays a huge role in the operation of a UAV. The camera type also is a huge step in the selection of your drone. Even the most affordable drones for beginners today offer an HD camera (720p) attached to it.
The camera in some cases only records video but not audio, which is actually a good thing, since the noise of the air produced by the propellers make it impossible to capture the sound of other things in the air.
Some of the most advanced drones today have 4K cameras attached to it, and some others can carry more sophisticated cameras to get even greater shots. Also, they come with an extra piece of equipment called, gimbal, which is a must if you want to do professional aerial photography.
The gimbal pretty much moves and stabilizes the camera independently from the movement of the drone.
For now, and if you are a beginner, the default unit attached to the drone from the factory should suffice to give you an idea of how a camera behaves on a drone.
5. Have to consider the Flight Time
This is a very important aspect to consider when buying a drone. Most commercial drones can stand in normal operation for about 5 to 10 minutes, after this, the battery will need anything between 60 to 180 minutes in some cases to recharge.
This is a bit surprising for most people, since nobody seems to know that this is a great issue with the technology of the batteries.
However, in most cases, batteries can be swapped and the flight fun continues.
For most models, batteries are not that expensive, so it is a good idea to buy extra units in case are needed.
This should be considered as part of your budget as well.
A good thing to know is that most drone manufacturers recommend to wait up to ten minutes between flights, to cool down the parts of the rotors.
The most advanced models give up to 25 to 30 minutes of flight time and battery packs require about 90 to 120 minutes to fly again.
6. You have to Know that Crashes will occur
Most beginners have to deal with crashes. This seems obvious, but what almost nobody realizes is that when these units crash, some parts get damaged.
Only after a crash they go to a hobby store or check online for spare parts availability, and it is terrible to discover that the manufacturer does not provide spare parts, only complete units.
This is a bad investment, because in order to fly your drone again, a whole new unit is needed.
That is why I recommend to newcomers to check for spare parts availability when purchasing a drone, and in fact, buy them, they are sold separately and come in sets, because the manufacturer has made a good engineering work and knows which parts get damaged more often, and thus helps the users by offering those as well.
Make sure you check this while looking for your drone, and count this in your budget as well.
7. What type you want to get? – RTF or ARF or BNF
Most drone models can be classified in three main types: RTF, ARF, or BNF.
RTF means Ready To Fly:
which refers to a device that can be operated as soon as it is out of the box and the battery is charged. These are the most common ones, and the best for beginners since no assembly is required for their operation.
ARF are Almost Ready to Fly devices
and these are the ones requiring a bit of assembly prior operation. These devices will required some ability from the pilot to fit the parts in the right place, or the drone will not operate properly.
BNF is the acronym for Bind and Fly
and this type of drones are the most tricky ones for beginners, since they don’t come with a transmitter (remote control) because these versions are sold to be paired with a current transmitter you have.
Many drones can be flown using a mobile device, so make sure you check this when getting your UAV.
8. Read lots of Reviews
At this point is very likely that you have a good idea of what type of drone you want to get. It is time to check the models you are considering and put them to test by reading lots of reviews from real customers.
My best suggestion is to visit big online retailers where people leave reviews and rate the devices. I would say that to get a high quality drone, you should look at items with 80% acceptance rate or more, coming from at least 20 reviews.
This step is the final cut and should help you know if your drone selection is the right one or not. At the same time, you’ll learn a lot of details about a specific drone by reading the comments from people who already own it.
9. Finalize your Budget and Make your Choice
It is time to compare models and check prices. This step is designed to consider the price of the drone, count the cost of spare parts and extra batteries.
Depending on the type of drone you’re considering to get, some additional gear such as carrying cases, landing pads, additional cameras or lenses, and the cost of registration is to be included here.
Fine tune your number and finalize your budget!
What to do now?
It is time to follow these steps and start looking for the best drone for you, also, if you have any question or comment, feel free to drop a line or two here to get in touch and receive answers.
What do you think about this step by step process? Do you have anything to add to it? Let us know your comments and feedback you have.
Last but not least, push the social buttons on this page to share this content on your social channels and let other people know about this process.
That is not all… Bonus step!
Since we really believe in this 9-step process, and it was crafted with great care and taking into consideration other experts in the industry, it made great sense to put it in a simple and easy to read form of content, so you can grab this in the form of an infographic, print it, and use it as a checklist
About the author
Jose Lozano is the owner and chief editor at rchobbiesonair.com. He enjoys learning and sharing insight about RC gadgets to help others make informed decision when buying drones, RC helicopters and RC airplanes.