Drones have been hitting the skies more and more over the past decade, and they’re here to stay for a while. For many, drones are great for hobbyists and for aerial fans. For photographers and videographers, drones can actually increase your skillset and allows them to take stunning images and photos that not everyone is offering. Whether you are interested in buying a drone as a new hobby or want to include it into your business model you want to keep in mind these 10 things to know before buying a drone.
What to Know Before You Buy a Drone
1. Register Your Drone
Whether you are using your drone just for fun or using it for photography or videography your drone needs to be registered. You can register your drone here. Keep in mind that if your drone weighs over 55 pounds or you are using it for commercial purposes you will need to take additional steps to register your drone.
2. Know Where to Fly
Before you take to the skies you need to know some basic guidelines as to where you can fly your drone:
- You cannot fly your drone within five miles of any airport.
- You must fly your drone under 400 feet.
- Drones cannot be flown over government facilities or national parks.
- It is always polite to have permission to fly your drone over other people before doing so. It is just common courtesy.
3. Type of Drones
When deciding on the type of drone to purchase you will need to understand some of the common terminology used to describe the drone you will end up with.
- RTF = Ready-to-fly. These are almost ready to fly straight from the box. You will need to attach the propellers and charge the batteries before using though.
- BNF= Bind-to-fly. These ones don’t come with controllers so you have to buy them separately or install a specific app on your smartphone. These drones do, however, come completely assembled.
- ARF = Almost-ready-to-fly. These are drone kits. They don’t have transmitters, receivers, most do not have motors, speed controllers, flight controllers, or batteries. While you have almost everything to build your own drone you will need to make many additional purchases to actually be able to fly it. On the plus side, you can customize these drones to your specific flying needs.
- FPV = First-person-video. These drones are able to capture footage and transmit this footage to a smartphone, virtual reality headset, or other compatible devices. Many photographers use these types of drones to capture landscapes and more.
4. Cost of Drone
If you are looking to add your drone to your photography or video production gear list you will want to think carefully about how much you are going to spend on the drone. Most drones that are in the lower level of the price range tend to be less stable and are more difficult to control. This will result in low-quality images. You can find a drone with a variety of special features that will help it remain more stable and fly smoother while taking images or video but, these can run into the thousands of dollars price range. Know what your budget is and what you can do without in terms of special features.
5. Weather Conditions
Keep in mind the weather conditions in your area. If you live where there is plenty of wind you will want to find a drone that will be able to handle the wind gusts. Many drones can only handle up to 20 mph wind speeds.
You want to ensure that your drone is water and/or weatherproof so that your drone will function properly. Keep in mind that, the best time to fly your drone is when the skies are clear and there is little to no breeze.
6. Drone Stability
One of the most important factors you will want to wake into consideration when purchasing a drone you intend on using for photography or videography is the stability factor. important for taking photographs and videos. How still does the drone hover? If your drone does not hover in a stable position you won’t be able to capture crisp and clear images. To ensure that your drown is nice and steady while shooting, buy one with a gimbal.
7. Flight Time
Most drone can only fly for about 30 minutes. This doesn’t seem like a great deal of time if you are trying to take some aerial photography. The longer flight time will cost you more. Instead of worrying about how long your drones will fly for you want to be sure you carefully plan out how to use the time you will have. You can most likely save yourself money go with a shorter flight time and taking the time to properly plan your drone flights so that you don’t waste your flight time.
Many drones come equipped with a camera which makes it easier for you to take your images and videos. Some drones will be able to support a small camera. Whether you are attaching a camera or using the one equipped on the drone you want to keep in mind the image quality. When considering a drone camera look at these specifications:
- 1080 or 4k
- Raw/DNG format
- 24fps, 30fps, or 60 fps.
- Optical zoom
- Mechanical shutter
- Dual operator control
Keep in mind, many of these additional features that will significantly improve image quality is going to add to your budget.
9. Range of the Drone
If you are using your drone for commercial purposes you want to ensure that you will be able to fly your drone high enough to capture those stunning aerials you expect. Many miniature drones are unable to go above 50 meters. The FAA requires drones to be flown under 400 meters. You can obtain a special permit, however, if you are using your drone for commercial purposes that may allow you to fly above the 400 meters.
10. Proper Etiquette
Keep in mind whether you are using your drone for photography or just for pleasure many of your neighbors or those in your area most likely are as enthusiastic about your drone as you are. When you are flying your drone keep in mind that others will have privacy concerns. Try to fly your drone only in open areas away from public spaces.