Drones have become a great technology these days, there is no question about that. However, with a so growing market, purchasing the best drone for each hobbyist is getting a lot more complicated, let alone if you are a beginner in this world or want to use it for any commercial purpose.
This is why I decided to create this simple infographic and outline the process you should follow when buying a drone for you. It’s very easy to follow and you’ll find lots of value in making an informed decision. I promise you this will be your “best buy drone” decision.
1. In order to hit a “Best Buy Drone”, Start by Pre-defining a budget
Like in everything we start, there has to be a budget involved. It is always a good idea to estima
te an initial round number for your drone. Especially if you’re looking for the best drone for beginners or a your next step as a seasoned pilot, you need to have an amount in mind. Any other person will just come up with a round number, imagining that all that will be for the drone itself.
You however, are taking the time to read this post and make an educated investment. Thus, you’ll understand that there are additional expenses related to your drone, that you’ll have to consider within your budget.
It is true that if you have a big budget and can get a very expensive drone, you’ll get a great gadget, but let me tell you that drones, especially camera drones are a special thing, there is some sort of magic associated with these amazing devices, and some of the best cheap drones for sale in the market today are super affordable, and can be yours for less than what you think.
2. What do you want this Drone for? – Define your needs
Not all drones are created equal, and this is something that most starters don’t know, but about 80% of your decision to buy a drone will be based on the intended purpose you have for it.
It is true that having lots of features in your drone will enable you to do more things, but is important to define your intended purpose so you can save money and maximize your experience with it.
Not all applications require a drone with a camera, and even if you need a camera, not everyone needs to have a 4K definition one. Also, it is important to notice that commercial purposes and flying for fun are planets apart, and so should be your drone choice.
It is not the same to buy a drone that you want pretty much for flying in your living room than one for doing aerial photography. Requirements for each type of drone are very different, and that is why it’s important to be clear on your intention for your quadcopter. This will also help you avoid those bothering sellers that only want you to spend money without asking your opinion about it.
3. Learn and follow everything that Regulations in your county ask for
In some countries, the government regulates the use of drones. In the US, the general rule of thumb (for now) is that if your drone weights between 0.55 and 55 lbs, it must be registered.
This is one of those parts of the drone industry that is the way it is, period. There is a lot to say about this, and the topic can be very controversial. Lawmakers are debating the topic with intensity, but for now, the way it works is that drones for commercial purposes are required to be registered.
It is important to mention that if you’re a hobbyist wanting to fly for fun and recreational purposes, there is something called The Special Rule for Model Aircraft which I totally recommend you to read and understand, but in summary, it instructs you to fly safely, following a set of guidelines issued by the FAA.
The Special Rule for Model Aircraft does not require hobbyists to register their drone, nor to require permission from the government to fly a device. However, know that this topic is constantly being debated, and things could change in the future.
It’s important to learn about the regulations in your country, and fly accordingly.
4. Find the Best Drone with Camera
If your choice includes a camera, you’ll be glad to know that most drones have an embedded HD (720p) camera to either record or live stream images to mobile devices.
Let’s face it, cameras are among the top reasons why people love drones, however, these as well are the top reason why drones are so intensely discussed by lawmakers.
Also, the camera of a drone accounts for a lot of its price, and selecting the wrong one can take you a long way in your decision.
Some cameras are built-in, within the devices, some can be changed and others cannot. Other options come with what is called a gimbal, which is a structure attached to the drone itself, used to control the movement of the camera, directly from your remote control.
As you can imagine, the gimbal is there for mounting the camera on it, and this means that the camera may be sold separately, which will increase the price of the whole system. Some drones use a GoPro camera, while others use cameras exclusively developed from the company that manufactures the drone.
5. Consider the Flight Time as a crucial factor for your Best Drone choice
Typically, drones operate for 6 – 10 minutes in the air, and can take 80 to 150 minutes to recharge the battery. Some models can last up to 25 minutes of operation without increasing charging time.
This is due to the way batteries are made these days, and can be a total disappointment for new users who think that drones can fly for hours across very long distances.
Although efforts are being made to build batteries that last longer, the options currently in the market behave like that, and the good side of this, is that batteries are not that expensive.
It is important to note that you should not over discharge your battery or you’ll damage it. Thus, it is important to use your drone only during the period of time that the manufacturer specified, or you’ll end up damaging the battery.
A damaged battery may not recharge, ignite, or blow up, so it is crucial to not go beyond what the manufacturer states in the manual of the user.
When deciding to buy a drone, make sure you consider the flight time depending on your intended purpose. Pro tip: Whatever your choice is, buy extra batteries for longer flight times and non-stop fun or work.
6. Just face it, Crashes will occur…
Buy spare parts and develop the feel of flight with a low-cost drone. These are harder to fly, so you’ll develop a good skill for a more advanced (pricier) device.
This is one of those sections where you’ll have to consider your budget as well, because while you develop your pilot skills, crashes will occur. Thus, buying a set of spare parts is more than an intelligent move.
Also, if you happen to be a beginner drone pilot, even if you have the budget, it is best to start with a cheap drone so you can practice those first rough landings and those pats to the walls.
Something funny about these is that some flying devices tend to go to the ceiling when they are close to it. Also, when taking off, a bit of turbulence can be experienced due to the air produced by the propellers, bouncing from the floor up and altering a bit the stability of the device. This effect disappears once the ship goes higher, but again, for a beginner, these are small surprises that can make you lose control.
These and other effects are the reasons why starting with a low-cost drone, when you are a beginner, is always a great idea.
7. Do you want an RTF or ARF or BNF??? – What does these mean?
As you learn more of the RC world, you’ll see that some acronyms are very well established and people use them to communicate and share important information. This is the case when speaking about RTFs, ARFs, or BNFs.
These acronyms are used to describe the condition of the drone out of the box, and can represent a huge difference for someone who is not aware of its meaning.
RTF stands for Ready To Fly, meaning that these devices only require you to charge the battery and can start flying out of the box, without any assembly required.
ARF stands for Almost Ready to Fly. This is the case of those drones that require a bit of assembly prior operation. In this case, it is important to inquire if any tools are required to do the assembly, and, if these are sold separately or come inside the box of the drone.
BNF stands for Bind and Fly. If you’re getting a BNF device, the seller will assume you have a compatible transmitter to operate your drone. If you don’t and get a device with a BNF legend, you’ll be unable to operate the device and will have to purchase the transmitter separately.
There is no huge difference in price if you buy a device with the transmitter included or by separated, but if you buy a drone online (which I highly recommend), you may pay for shipping twice.
Also, note that some drones can be operated using your smartphone or tablet, so if your device doesn’t come with a transmitter included, but can be operated your mobile device, then you don’t need to buy anything else. Just make sure compatibility between your phone or tablet’s operative system, and the drone is not an issue and you’ll be fine.
8. This can’t be skipped – You must Read lots of Reviews
This is one of the main reasons why I recommend buying a drone online. When you’re buying, you have immediate access to hundreds if not thousands of reviews from real customers. Thus, you can make an informed purchase and get a device that people are having good experiences with.
I can’t stress this enough, but it is a must to read lots of reviews from real customers to ensure you’ll make a wise choice. In my experience, you can trust anything that has 4 out of 5 stars, which is an 80% of acceptation rate, or more.
Also, if you’re buying your drone from Amazon, you must know that whenever a new product is launched there, the sellers can ask other people to add “good” ratings for the products with the intention of start with the right foot, even if the product is not that good.
Thus, you want to also make sure that this 80% rating comes at least from 20 reviews. In the case of Amazon, they’re now including a legend before the review to say if this is a verified purchase or not, so take that into account also.
Of course, if you find a great item with hundreds or thousands of reviews with great rating, the budget is right and you like it, your call should be very straight forward, because chances are you’ll have a great experience with this drone.
9. Almost there – Finalize your Budget and Get the Best Drone for You!
Last but not least, we got to where we started. It’s time to check prices and compare options. Remember to consider budget to get extra batteries and spare parts. If your intended purpose is for a commercial application, then you should include registration fees and if that is the case, even drone insurance in your budget.
Make sure your vendor offers refunds or replacements in case you receive a defective or broken drone, and once you have considered all these steps, it’s time to make your call and hit the “buy now” button.
My final comments about buying the best drone for you!
Please know that I’ve outlined these steps from my own experience buying drones and using them. I tried to make the process as simple but as valuable as possible, hoping that you will get the most out of it. I have no problem in recommending this process because I’ve used it myself many times, and I think if you use it to, you’ll hit a “best buy drone” every time you decide to get a new device.
If you are ready to make your call, and want to see some great options, check a list with my recommendations for the best drones with camera in the market right now.
Now I’d like to turn it onto you, tell me what you think about this process in the comments section, also, if you are an avid hobbyist, what steps or checklists do you follow when buying a drone? Share your experience with others and enrich the conversation, I think in the end we’ll all benefit from it.
Till the next time!