What is a great starter drone?

Q: I am interested in getting a drone. Where should I begin?

A: You might consider buying a small multi-rotor to practice on. Some people like to get comfortable on one of these before trying to fly a more expensive model. While not necessary, if you are uncomfortable with the thought of flying a drone, this might be a fun option.  These little guys are loads of fun and are a nice addition to your fleet.

If you want to start out with a nice drone like the Phantom 4Pro or the Mavic, consider booking a training session with me. I’ll get you through the high risk period and build your skills so you don’t ruin your nice new drone.

Learn more about my training program here: Drone Training Programs

If your a newcomer, the Blade Inductrix FPV is a great choice for practice. Retailing for $199, the Inductrix FPV comes with a remote controller, monitor, charger and 1 battery.  This version has “FPV” which means that you can receive first person video, a live feed from the camera with the included monitor. At this price point you can experience real time flying without spending lots of cash. Just keep in mind that toy drones like these usually don’t take pictures. The video is just for your viewing pleasure. Extra batteries are available for $6-$7 bucks. Having 2 or more batteries means you can keep flying while charging up the drained one. I bought one of these to test and I was very impressed. This little guy is available in my online store at https://squareup.com/store/titletown-drones-llc

If you are serious about taking photos and video and want something with more features, I highly recommend the DJI Spark.  This is a durable little drone is loaded with features normally found on larger more expensive units. Its equipped with GPS, obstacle avoidance and a 1080p, 12 megapixel camera. In addition, the Spark introduced some new features like gesture control. You can impress your friends with your new Jedi powers, waving your hand around to control the Spark.  The Spark starts at $500 for the basic unit which includes 1 battery and is controlled via a Wifi connection to your smart phone. You must charge it via USB cable.  If your are looking for a few more features, the Spark Fly More combo is really the way to go.  It includes a remote controller, a second battery, charging hub, propeller guards, extra propellers and a soft carry case. The Fly More Combo retails for $699. If you bought these accessories separately it would cost you an extra $50-$75 so it really makes sense for you to get the Combo right away. I bought one to test, thinking I would sell it used. I liked it so much I decided to keep it!

The DJI Phantom 3 Advanced and Phantom 3 Pro are feature rich aircraft for the price but they are discontinued. They can be found used for $600-$700 these days but beware of buying a used drone. For more information about buying used drones, see my Tips for Buying Used Drones“. 

DJI introduced its outstanding “Lightbridge” video uplink with the Phantom 3 Pro. Once you see it you won’t go back to the old WiFi connections.  Stay away from the Phantom 3 Standard!  DJI tried to enter the budget market and unfortunately its just at the wrong price point. For $500 you get what looks like a Phantom 3 but its got a legacy WiFi uplink. If the camera is damaged in flight or gets borked during a firmware update, you may as well sell it on eBay. A new camera will cost you nearly $300. This is the Bic lighter of drones.

Once you have mastered flying one of these units without crashing, and you can hover for 30 seconds with the nose facing you, you are ready for a more expensive unit like the Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 Advanced or Phantom 4 Pro. The original P4 is a sweet machine buts its already discontinued. The P4 Pro and the Mavic are the current models.

Another great way to get started is the use of a flight simulator that connects to your computer.  It may seem like a lot of money but if building up your skills prevents a crash or an accident, its well worth the money.  Priced at $130, the Realflight Sim comes with a controller and the software needed to get you started.  Even experienced drone pilots can benefit from the sim to develop techniques and maneuvers to improve your aerial photography. If you crash, just set the reset button!                 

About Bill Bongle

Bill Bongle is a retired police captain with over 30 years experience in public safety. He owns and operates the only drone repair center in the State of Wisconsin and is the founder of the Green Bay Area Drone User Group.