The Ultimate Guide to Drone Buying: Hobby, Photography, and Racing
The Best Drone For You
Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) are widely used for recreation and to take stunning aerial photographs and videos. It's no wonder they have become incredibly popular in recent years. It's easier than ever to take to the sky as quadcopters have become a cinch to pilot. Which one of the varied uses you want to use it for will determine which drone is best for you. So if you're new, we've listed major types of drones and the best models in its class.
With a drone, you may want to:
- get skilled at precision piloting and race
- take aerial photos or makes movies
- survey your crops
- get a better view of your campsite and trails
- conduct search and rescue
- deliver a parcel to a neighbor
Consider what you'll use the Drone For First
That may sound obvious, but these versatile flying machines have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for hobbyists with fast drones that can go 50mph or faster and racing them competitively is quickly becoming a competitive sport. You and your friends can race with other drone enthusiasts.
This document simplifies the process and discusses three main categories of drones: Beginner Drones, Hobby Drones, and Camera / Professional Drones. Each has different capabilities and is best suited for different purposes.
all drones in this article are beginner friendly
Beginner drones are affordable and easy to fly, with shorter ranges and flight times for kids mostly. They've become so easy to fly, more expensive drones with anti-crash features are suitable for beginners with no experience. They are also built more durably to easily endure minor crashes, and spare parts are readily available for low prices.
Hobby Drones are also affordable and durable but often have advanced features that are targeted toward users with more experience. They may have specialized cameras, longer ranges, or other features that make them ideal for recreational use. This is the DJI Avata a new FPV drone. Instead of a traditional remote, there are more intuitive one-handed controls and flight goggles.
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Controllers are changing: These are FPV (first-person view) goggles (Keep this in mind)
Camera / Professional Drones are more moving toward FPV controls.
Expensive pro drones have additional advanced features that allow for incredible footage and photos to be taken. They’re equipped with higher-quality cameras and often use GPS tracking, which allows for a better “return home” feature and makes them easy to find when lost.
Racing Drones are built for speed, with the most advanced ones going up to 70 MPH or even 100 MPH in a dive. They use a first-person camera (FPV controllers) to allow you to fly the drone as though you’re inside of it and are flown competitively in races like [this one in Milwaukee](https://www.tmj4.com/news/local-news/drone-racing-returns-to-pettit-national-ice-center).
Types of Drones
The first step in buying a drone is deciding on the type that best suits your needs. For simplicity, the most common types of consumer drones available:
These drones are specifically designed for photography and videography. They typically have high-quality cameras that can capture both photos and videos and often come with advanced features like obstacle avoidance and follow-me modes. DJI has several drones in this category. These can range from 4K drones to a full 8K cinema drone, the DJI Inspire 3 is used by major filmmakers.
Drone photography refers to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones to capture images and videos from an elevated perspective. The use of drones for photography has revolutionized the way we view and capture images, providing a unique angle that was previously impossible.
Drones have become increasingly popular among photographers due to their ability to fly at different altitudes, capturing stunning panoramic views, landscapes, cityscapes, architecture, and wildlife from above. They can also be used for real estate photography, event coverage like weddings and outdoor concerts as well as sports events such as races.
One of the significant advantages of using drones for photography is their flexibility in terms of maneuverability. Drones can easily navigate through narrow spaces or fly over obstacles that traditional cameras wouldn't reach. This makes them ideal tools for capturing images in hard-to-reach locations such as mountaintops or remote islands.
Another advantage is how easy it is to operate these devices with modern technology making controls more user-friendly than ever before. It takes less time than conventional methods since once you set up your drone in place; you can control it remotely using your phone app without having to move around too much.
However, there are some restrictions on drone usage depending on specific countries' regulations due to privacy concerns and safety issues since they could cause accidents if not operated safely. If the drone is 250 grams or less, the FAA does not require a license or special permit to use it. However, check the laws in your state and city, or the job location.
Overall, drone photography has brought innovation into the world of professional photography by creating stunning visual experiences that couldn't have been possible previously while opening new opportunities for creativity within various industries like tourism marketing campaigns or business presentations.
If you're interested in drone racing, you'll want to look for a racing drone. These drones are lightweight, fast, and maneuverable, with powerful motors and a first-person view (FPV) camera that lets you see what the drone sees in real-time. The DJI FPV is our choice for beginning racers. Unlike the DJI Avata (recreational/photography drone), this has the traditional two handed controller for racing control and fine maneuverability.
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Toy drones are perfect for beginners or anyone who just wants to fly a drone for fun. They're affordable, easy to fly, and often come with simple controls and basic features like altitude hold and headless mode. The Altair 818 is an excellent drone for younger flyers who want advanced control features like maintain-altitude or follow-home with GPS. It is built to endure minor collisions.
This is one of the best less expensive models, the DJI Avata is FPV but not built for racing like another model built for beginning racers (DJI FPV below).
Its compact and intuitive controls make it easy to fly.
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• Professional drones:
Professional drones are designed for commercial use, such as surveying, mapping, and inspection. They're typically more expensive than other types of drones and come with advanced features like thermal imaging and precision landing. The Mavic 3 is one of the best drones in all classes. We review it here.
What Are the Best Drones in Each Category?
Best Camera Drones
1 DJI Mavic Air 2:
This drone is great for hobbyists and photographers alike. It has a 4K camera, 48MP photos, and a 3-axis gimbal for steady footage. It also has a long battery life of up to 34 minutes and can fly up to 6.2 miles away from the controller. It has an impressive 8K camera.
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2 Autel Robotics EVO II Pro:
The EVO II is another great option for photographers and videographers. It has an 8K camera with a 1/2-inch CMOS sensor, allowing for high-quality footage. It also has a long battery life of up to 40 minutes and can fly up to 5.5 miles away from the controller.
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3 DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0:
This drone is great for professional photographers and filmmakers. It is, hands-down one of the most popular and well-recommended drones for photography. It has a 4K camera with a 1-inch CMOS sensor, allowing for high-quality footage even in low-light conditions. It also has a 3-axis gimbal for steady footage and a long battery life of up to 30 minutes.
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4 Skydio 2:
The Skydio 2 is great for drone enthusiasts who want to capture footage while on the move. It has a 4K camera and can track subjects while avoiding obstacles. It also has a long battery life of up to 23 minutes and can fly up to 3.5 miles away from the controller.
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5 DJI Mini 2:
This drone is great for beginners or those on a budget. It has a 4K camera and a 3-axis gimbal for steady footage. It's also lightweight and compact, making it easy to take with you on your adventures. Plus, it has a long battery life of up to 31 minutes.
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Overall, these drones all have high-quality cameras, long battery lives, and various features that make them great for different purposes.
Another Key Feature to Consider: Water takeoff and landing
The best drone available for use in or near water or the ocean is the PowereggZ. It can take off and land in water! This is clearly not meant for traditional racing but if you film alot over mixed terrain and open water, this may be the choice for you.
Once you've decided on the type of drone you want, it's important to consider the key features that will make your flying experience enjoyable and successful. Here are some features to look for:
- Camera quality: If you're buying a camera drone, the quality of the camera is obviously of primary importance. Look for a drone with at least a 4K camera, many have cameras exceeding 4K these days, and a stabilizing gimbal to ensure smooth and clear footage.
- Flight time: The flight time of a drone is the length of time it can stay in the air on a single battery charge. Look for a drone with a flight time of at least 20 minutes, especially if you plan to use it for photography or videography.
- Range: The range of a drone refers to the maximum distance it can fly from the controller before losing connection. Look for a drone with a range of at least 1km, especially if you plan to fly it in open spaces or long distances.
- GPS and obstacle avoidance: These features are important for safety and ease of use. GPS allows the drone to navigate accurately and return home if it loses connection or runs out of battery. Obstacle avoidance sensors can detect and avoid obstacles like trees and buildings, preventing crashes and damage.
- Flight Modes: Some drones have features like hovering in place, following home automatically by GPS, and anti-crash modes to be used as desired. Check to see if the feature is an added benefit for the type of flying you plan to do or if it's not necessary, you may want to look further.
Accessories to Consider
In addition to the drone itself, there are several accessories including spare parts that come with it. You can enhance your flying experience and protect your investment with bundles. These have extra batteries or spare parts which are costly when ordered separately and you may be grounded until you receive them.
Here are some accessories to consider:
- Extra batteries: Having extra batteries is crucial if you want to fly your drone for an extended period of time without having to stop and recharge.
- Propeller guards: Propeller guards can protect your drone from damage if you accidentally bump into something
- Carrying case: A carrying case can protect your drone during transport and make it easier to take with you on your adventures.
- ND filters: If you're using a camera drone for photography, ND (neutral density) filters can help you achieve more cinematic footage by reducing the amount of light that enters the camera lens.
- Amazon typically makes "fly-longer" bundles with the drones available there that enhance the basic model. The image of the Autel II above is a fly-longer bundle.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Buying a drone can be exciting, but it's important to avoid common mistakes that could lead to disappointment or even accidents. Here are some mistakes to avoid:
1 Not researching regulations: Before you fly your drone, make sure you understand the local regulations regarding where and when you can fly. Failure to follow regulations could result in fines or even legal trouble.
2 Buying a cheap drone: While it may be tempting to save money by buying a cheap drone, you'll likely end up with poor-quality footage and limited features. Invest in a quality drone that will give you the results you want. Some are designed for kids and one can hardly tell the difference. It doesn't have to be expensive to fly well. Go with reputable names for serious purchases.
3 Ignoring the weather: Drones are affected by weather conditions like wind, rain, and extreme temperatures. Make sure you check the weather forecast before flying and avoid flying in unsafe conditions. Wind especially even light like 15mph can make unstabilized drones very hard to fly.
4 Not practicing enough: Flying a drone takes practice, and it's important to practice in a safe and controlled environment before taking it out for a real flight.
Q: Do I need a license to fly a drone?
A: It depends on where you live and how you plan to use your drone. In many countries, you need to register your drone and obtain a license or permit before flying. FAA regulations state that drones weighing 250 grams or less do not require a license. Check your state and local regulations to be sure.
Q: Can I fly my drone anywhere?
A: No. Many countries have regulations regarding where and when you can fly a drone. For example, you may not be allowed to fly near airports or other restricted areas. Make sure you understand the regulations in your area before flying.
Q: How do I know if a drone is right for me?
A: Consider your needs and interests. If you're primarily interested in photography or videography, a camera drone may be the best option. If you want to hobby or meet new people, racing with other drone enthusiasts, a racing drone may be more suitable. Think about what you want to do with your drone and choose accordingly.
Buying a drone can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it's important to do your research and choose the right drone for your needs. Consider the type of drone, key features, and accessories that will make your flying experience enjoyable and successful. And remember to avoid common mistakes like ignoring regulations, buying a cheap drone, and not practicing enough.
With the right drone and some practice, you can capture stunning aerial footage and explore the world from a whole new perspective.