Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Drone
A drone is the hot new “it” piece of technology for those who like to stay abreast of current trends. It is easy to see why so many people are captivated by the idea of having their own small personal aircraft with which they can surveil, patrol and capture images of nearly any area they wish. However, we are in the very early stages of utilizing this technology properly, so many people are purchasing their first drone without much guidance as to which features to look for, limits of its use as well as how to best implement the basic functions of these incredible machines. Before you take the plunge into personal drone ownership, do some research while considering some of the follow bits of advice.
Not All Drones Are User-Friendly
A common misconception among those who are new to drone usage is that they are simple to use, a sort of plug-and-play high-tech toy for grownups. The truth is, anything that is airborne is actually fairly difficult to control. Drones usually have an internal computer that is loaded with flight control software that focuses on maintaining the machine’s integrity in the air by controlling stability and maneuverability. Typically, drones that have more sensors and features to increase the ease of flying are costlier than a bare-bones model, meaning that an inexperienced beginner in the world of drone flying may want to consider shelling out a little more for a machine that is easier to use. If you are serious about becoming a dedicated drone pilot, it won’t do you any good to buy a cheaper model that is too difficult to fly – or even worse – that you end up crashing because you can’t control properly.
You’ll Get What You Pay For
Personal technology has become so very user-friendly that most people are used to directing advanced applications and complex devices by either voice-control or a simple swipe of their finger. Drones, as a fledgling technology, are not always ready to fly straight out of the box. When you’re shopping for a drone, take the time to familiarize yourself with the following terms so that you will know what level of readiness for usage each model you are considering purchasing possesses:
- Ready to Fly (RTF) – The easiest and usually most expensive drone to purchase for immediate usability, RTF models require little to no assembly. You’ll need to charge the battery before use and you may have to attach the propellers. You’ll also need to link the controller to the actual machine so that your commands are correctly communicated during flights.
- Bind and Fly (BNF) – These drones usually are fully assembled, much like RTF models. However, the major difference is that they come without a controller. This may make them cheaper, but you’ll either have to use a controller you already have or purchase a compatible model. In drone jargon, binding refers to the process of setting up communications between the controller and the flight machine. This can be complicated for beginners due to the many issues of finding compatible channels and protocols.
- Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) – These are definitely a project for the tech-savvy, as ARFs come as a kit that you must assemble. Kits vary from model to model, with some not including motors, batteries, controllers or other vital components. Although these are often the lowest price option, so much assembly is required that they’re not an advisable option for a new drone user.
Remember, it’s better to invest in a model that you can conceivably use instead of choosing the lowest price option with too much complexity. As your expertise with drones increases, you may want to consider an ARF model as a way to fully customize your machine.
With literally thousands of varieties of drone makes and models from which to choose, shopping online makes the process easy, quick and convenient. Another important factor that you should consider is the reviews of consumers who have previously purchased your prospective model. Take into consideration their concerns and problems with the drone they have purchased and decide if it is something that you are prepared to deal with as well.
Consider Possible Upgrades
You may want to consider investing in higher quality components than the factory outfitted features your drone comes equipped with, such as a better camera, longer-life battery, more powerful charger or a better controller. A higher quality camera means you’ll enjoy higher resolution pictures that are achievable from a greater distance. Longer batteries provide enhanced flight time and can power higher-quality cameras, while an advanced charger will juice your battery more quickly and efficiently. Finally, a better controller will stay technologically relevant for longer while leaving room for potential upgrades in the future. Also look at new features such a drones that follow you.
Stay Informed Upon Laws, Regulations and Legislation
As far as drone regulations go, we’re still in the Wild West of legislation. Due to a stellar safety record concerning the flight of model airplanes, recent FAA legislation didn’t restrict or impede upon the private flying of drones. Instead, it called for a murkily defined safe integration of these small aircraft, which has left a large grey area in terms of appropriate and safe usage.
With hundreds of thousands of small, private aircraft expected to become airborne over the next few years, many concerns have been raised regarding:
- Privacy – Concerns over peeping and other invasive surveillance have been voiced.
- National Security – – Concerns over photography and video recording of sensitive sites, such as nuclear power plants, have become relevant.
- Airplane Safety – Flying drones too closely to commercial aircraft or invading reserved airspace poses major risks and hazards.
Most drone users are unaware that the FAA stipulates safe usage regulations for model aircraft flight, which drone flyers are obligated to observe. These rules include restrictions on how high the drone may ascend, barring flight over crowds as well as restricting entrance into airport and other sensitive airspace.
The FAA has hinted that they are hoping to initiate a licensing program for drone owners, similar to that required of general aviation participants. This program may require regular inspection and subsequent certification of the drone. Considering the dare-devilish and voyeuristic tendencies of some drone users, these regulations may help to curb arrogant and unconcerned owners, increasing the legitimacy and safety of the hobby.
Consider Joining a Drone Community
Whether online or in person, joining a group of enthusiasts will help you to learn and grow as a pilot. This is an ideal way to expand your knowledge base concerning upgrades, repairs and techniques. You’ll also have greater access to general knowledge about laws and restrictions. As you become more familiar with the field of drone flight, you can contribute to the responsible growth and usage of these remarkable personal flight devices.