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April 08, 2019 5 min read

So you’ve decided to buy a drone.

You only need to do the tiniest bit of research to realise that there are a multitude of drone brands and models at prices from about $50 AUD up to almost the skies the limit….. well over $50,000. Where do you start? I read a few articles a while ago that suggested you buy cheap for your first drone. The logic was that if you break it while learning you haven’t lost much money. Initially I agreed with this but I decided to test the idea.

The drone I tested only cost just over $60 at Southern Sun Drones (previously Southern Sun Adventure Photographics).

Well! The testing didn’t take all that long. The drone came with a controller, micro SD card and reader, as well as a couple of spare props and other small spares. The first issue was that the instructions were in Chinese and very halting English. Interpreting the instructions was problematic to say the least. With Drone knowledge already, I was able to get past this and get to a test flight. We got the drone into the sky but it immediately started to drift left, a condition I have yet to cure despite leaning heavily on the trim buttons. Another issue was flight time. No more than about 5 minutes! Just when you get some semblance of stability the battery dries up. I obtained some extra batteries, but they didn’t fix the first problem of continual drift. Ah! The penny dropped. No GPS. You can fly this thing but you really have to fly itto stay on the straight and narrow……hard work! To top things off, on one occasion, the drone got out range very quickly and decided to go for a jaunt all by itself. We managed to retrieve it after it dropped out of the sky. This drone has since been dropped from the offerings at our shop.

Following this I decided to go to the other end of the scale in the consumer drones; DJI Phantom 4 Pro v2.0.

 

 

The Aussie term “like chalk and cheese” comes to mind when comparing this technological marvel with the $60 cheapie. The DJI Phantom 4 Pro v2.0, a top end Consumer DJI drone, is not a cheap device. However, the numerous advanced features of this drone make the money seem insignificant. A friend has a saying about buying quality. It goes something like this, “the pleasure of using a quality product remains long after the price is forgotten”. This certainly holds true for the DJI range of products.

It takes a little while to initialise this quality Drone but you really feel like your are flying in the big league with check lists of settings that have to be right before it will even fly. However, the first flight made the price and the setup time pale into the past. This drone is so easy to fly, as are all of the DJI range.They just stay where you place them, hovering smoothly! They respond well to all stick and App commands. Trim buttons? What are they? This thing is just stabilised out of the box. If you really want to fly a raw, unmanaged drone though, you can do that too by switching modes. Oh, and did I mention the gimbal and camera. The photographic and videographic possibilities are out of this world.
Ok where am I going with this. I thought I’d make a brief list of features that you should look for in your first drone. These are the basic features for a fun and positive drone experience;

  • A GPS or Optical positioning system– to stabilise position
  • Barometer - to stabilise height
  • A good quality controller/transmitter and/or a good iOS/Android App for your Smartphone - for precise control.
  • Flight control distance of at least 100 metres so you don't have to follow the drone around to stay in control.
  • Flight time longer than about 15 minutes per battery OR multiple batteries available – to allow good flight practice.
  • Resilient body and peripheral parts – just in case you have a minor mishap.
  • Availability of Spare Parts – to repair minor mishaps.
  • Availablity of Accessories – to add to or enhance your experience.

The higher priced drones come with many extra features such as wifi to view what the camera sees, obstacle avoidance, follow me mode, circle mode, map mode where you can plot a course on a map that the drone follows, and many more features that really enhance your flight experience. However, you don’t necessarily need these features to have a pleasant, fun experience.

Buy a cheaper drone without most of the basic features and you will be frustrated from the outset, and may even consider flying drones is not for you. Buy a good quality drone that includes the basic features and you will be flying in no time, ready to explore the things you can do with a drone. These include;

  • Photography
  • Movie Making
  • Fishing
  • Survey work
  • Inspection work
  • Search and Rescue
  • Safety Management
  • Racing
  • Trick Flying .....and
  • Just plain having FUN!
  • They are even using drones to map lava tube caves in Iceland as a prelude to exploring the Moon and Mars with drones! See article

The real answer to buying your first drone is to figure out what you really want to do with it. Ensure you buy one with the necessary basic features so that safe and stable flying becomes secondary to the intended use. Of course, just flying might be your thing. Then look at the features that meet the needs of your intended use.

For example, if you are not into photography as such but just want to take unusual selfies or family shots etc. then a drone like the DJI Spark with great, but not top end, camera specs will do the job. Need to do long survey work then get a drone with long flight times and high speed to get where you are going fast.

Like to fish, and actually catch fish? Buy a drone like the Swellpro Splashdrone 3+, with an excellent waterproof camera available, and payload release to carry your bait out, upto 1.4 Km, and drop it right on the fish. This drone can land on the water; have a look under the surface with its waterproof camera and then place your bait exactly where the fish are. Pretty amazing really! 

In summary, I have to emphasize the need for those fundamental basic features in any drone that you purchase. The advanced features are not worth much at all if you can’t fly the aircraft easily and smoothly. You don’t have to spend thousands, unless you want or need the extra advanced features.

One drone thats great for Kids,and the young at heart, to learn with is the RyzeTello powered by DJI. This is the best little drone around for the money.It also has great Educational features like being able to be programmed using graphical programming languages such as Scratch or Droneblocks.

 It has tech built in that other drones in this price bracket just don't match. Tellois very easy to fly!

Happy Flying and Live Life Creatively
Mick

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