man flying a drone

GETTING YOUR HANDS ON YOUR FIRST DRONE

The popularity of these fully camera equipped quadcopters has exploded recently. Everyone is looking to get their hands on a drone and start taking aerial shots of their own. As the prices begin to tumble there has never been a better time to get your hands on one of these gadgets.

I became hooked on drones nearly two years ago when I forked out around AU$100 on a little Hubsan quadcopter with a fairly unimpressive camera packed in. I wasn’t particularly bothered about the filming side, I was more interested in flying it. I found it fairly straightforward to fly (although that didn’t stop me crashing it constantly) and it provided endless hours of entertainment right from the back garden. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt from buying drones myself and helping mates get set up with theirs.

CHEAPER DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN EASIER TO USE

Unlike toy helicopters, which become more sophisticated and more complex the more you pay, the more features the drone has, the easier it is to use. Some great beginner drones can be picked up for around 500 bucks, like the DJI Phantom 3 Standard, but they lack features like sensors to help it hover in place when filming. As a result, the more money you spend on a drone, the easier it will be to fly.

Features like a GPS lock which makes hovering in place while filming much easier and for a beginner pilot, will make flying much more accessible straight out the box.

NOT ALL DRONES COME READY TO FLY

Some drones come RTF (Ready to Fly) but there are also Bind-And-Fly (BNF) models which come without a controller. These are often compatible with controllers you already have or may use a smartphone or tablet as a controller once you download the app.

There are also Almost-ready-to-fly (ARF) kits available. These are essentially drone kits which provide the bare essentials but will require assembly. They often don’t come with a transmitter or receiver and can be missing some motor components or batteries which have to be bought separately. You will need to investigate what components are included and what aren’t when shopping around, especially if you don’t want to be messing about with assembling the thing.

THE INITIAL PRICE IS THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

The initial outlay of buying the drone is never the end of it. The average flight time in a drone is usually less than 20 minutes with toy drones barely breaking the 10-minute barrier. For this reason, you will want to invest in a couple of extra batteries to make sure you aren’t grounded for hours in between flights. Also, worth buying are a couple of extra propellers and prop guards, because nobody flies like Maverick and Goose straight from the start. For this reason, when you’re shopping around for drones, bear in mind how easy it will be to get spare parts. Everyone has heavy crashes when starting out and you will be back for more parts, without a doubt.

 


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Jake Taylor
jake.taylor@dinga.com.au

Jake is a global traveller who has recently called Australia his home again. If he's not travelling, he is writing about it and his experience.