The Best Beginner Drones
Drone technology is advancing down the path of affordability and accessibility, opening the skies to a wide variety of potential pilots. From RC hobbyists, to photographers and videographers looking for an aerial perspective, to forward-thinking business owners, all sorts of people are recognizing the amazing possibilities UAVs bring to our modern airspace. Whatever your reason for getting into drones, you’ll have to start somewhere, and piloting your own UAV is the best way to gain and understanding and appreciation for the machine. Getting into the drone world can be overwhelming as you get a grasp on where to buy your first drone, much your first drone will cost, and what you’ll need from your first drone to be successful in your hobby or business. We’ll be going over what sort of features to look for in all beginner drones and get you up and hovering into the sky in no time.
There are several drone models out there, but you’ll want to stick with a quadcopter for your beginner drone. Quadcopters are drones with a square, X or H-shaped frame to accommodate four motors and four accompanying propellers. Two propellers spin clockwise while the other two spin counterclockwise, allowing for quadcopters to hover in place without spinning out of control. Whenever you use the transmitter to execute a control (pitch, yaw, roll), an accelerometer or gyroscope is sending power to a particular set of motors and individually maintaining each propeller’s speed. Quadcopters are the best type of model for a beginner drone not only because of their reliability and stability during flight, but because the recent progress in drone technology has made them cheap, small, durable, and readily available for beginners to purchase and fly right out of the box.
Now that we’ve narrowed the search down to quadcopters, we’ll move onto how much you’ll want to spend. Cost is always going to be relative, but it’s best to keep your beginner drone cheap. As you start out in flying your UAV, crashing your investment is inevitably going to happen. The less cash you shell out for your first drone, the less stress you’re going to feel when you’re learning to fly and making a few mistakes along the way. Higher end drones easily cost $1000 or more, which is a lot of money to smash into the ground. There are cheap beginner quadcopters out there for under $150 that will still have enough features to get the hang of the controls and hone your piloting skills. Beginner drones in this price range are also going to be ready to fly (RTF) within minutes of taking them out of the box, so you’ll be saving time in addition to money by not needing to worry about assembly. Building your own UAV is an option, but sticking to an RTF model is going to be the most cost-effective and accessible way to go about purchasing your first beginner drone.
In addition to keeping the cost down, you’ll want to think small for your beginner drone’s size. Beginner drones also tend to be smaller and lightweight, measuring as small as a couple of inches across and weighing less than an ounce. Higher end drones weigh more with faster spinning propellers, meaning a crash is going to be all that more disastrous. Keeping your beginner drone small is safer overall, making crashes less likely to damage your drone or whatever you end up flying into. If you’re planning on learning indoors, a small and lightweight beginner drone is the way to go to minimize damage. A UAV can still cause injury no matter what the size, so make sure you’re still flying your beginner drone responsibly.
Since you will be taking more than one trip into the ground as you learn how to fly, durability is another hallmark feature of a good beginner drone. Being able to take a crash and continue functioning for the next lift-off is key in drone pilot training, so drone manufacturers tend to take durability into consideration when choosing what materials they use when making a beginner drone. Drones built using high-density foam are going to be particularly durable and easier on whatever they end running into, like your walls and furniture if you decide to train indoors. Bumpers around your beginner drone’s rotors can add some extra durability, since propellers are one of the easiest parts to break in a crash and absolutely necessary to get you off the ground again.
A camera is another consideration to take into account as you look into buying a beginner drone. If you’re mainly interested in buying a UAV for flying and stunts, you’re probably better off without a camera. A camera is going to add some cost along with weight, which will impact the drone’s performance in the air. The additional weight and power needed for the camera is also going to drain the battery more, limiting your flying time. However, if you are interested in aerial photography or videography or first-person view (FPV) drone racing, there are plenty of inexpensive beginner drones that do come with a camera. The camera on beginner drones isn’t going to have amazing quality, but the camera will still give you practice in using one while you fly. Most beginner drones with a camera will be for the purpose of snapping aerial shots, but just make sure the camera is mounted on the bottom. There are beginner drones with additional features geared toward aerial photography and videography, so keep an eye out for features like an adjustable camera or transmitter-controlled video. Beginner drones for FPV drone racing are going to be more limited, but there are a few options out there with an FPV camera mounted to the front to get an initial feel for the racing experience.
Overall, the less features on your beginner drone, the better for learning how to pilot and gain an appreciation for the machine itself. Higher end UAVs are typically going to be doing a lot of the piloting for you with features like GPS, auto takeoff and landing, return-home functions, and other advanced functions. These features can be a big help once you’re comfortable flying and have other drone purposes to focus on, but you should be able to master these basic skills if you’re really going to get into the world of drones. The features on beginner drones may look short, but the bells and whistles are only going to be a distraction as you learn the basics of UAVs.
Even though most beginner drones have a short list of features, there are some additional specs worth noting that can give you more bang for your buck when buying your first UAV. Battery life can be one of the most limiting factors when flying a beginner drone, so keeping an eye out for any package deal including an extra battery is going to double your flying time and give you more chances to practice. One of the most useful features being included in many beginner drones is the ability to switch between multiple modes of flight. These modes typically control control sensitivity and the drone’s maneuverability, allowing you to ease into and become more comfortable with greater difficulty levels in flying.
Beginner Drones Conclusion
There may be a lot to consider when delving into UAVs for the first time, but you can’t go wrong as long as you stick to the buying attributes of cheap, durable, and small commonly found in most RTF quadcopters when shopping around for a beginner drone.