Q: I am interested in getting a drone. Where should I begin?
A: Consider buying a small multi-rotor to practice on. Get comfortable on one of these before trying to fly a more expensive model. This will save you lots of money and heartache. Besides, 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:
You can find inexpensive multi-rotors (drones) on Amazon or your local hobby shop.
If your a newcomer, the Syma X5SW is a great choice. Retailing for less than $70 you can experience drone flight without spending lots of cash. This version has “FPV” which means that you can receive first person video, a live feed from the camera using your smart phone. 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. It’s flight characteristics are very good. The Syma is stable and will hover in place once your get it trimmed. The FPV camera works surprisingly well considering how inexpensive this unit is. I thought the video was blurry but was able to correct the problem by dissembling the camera and turning the lens to focus it. This may have been fluke but if you experience this problem there is a fix. Still, the Syma is fun to fly and is decent for the price.
Another great entry level drone is the Blade Glimpse, by Horizon Hobby. I’ve flown the Glimpse and its very stable. The most impressive feature was the the quality of the live video feed to my smart phone. Its one of the few high-def FPV drones in the under $200 price range. It is capable of taking photos and video. It’s small enough to safely fly indoors. It can be flown outdoors but I would recommend flying in winds under 5mph. This one is available at Camera Corner in Green Bay.
The DJI Phantom 3 Advanced is a feature rich aircraft for the price. They can be found for $600-$700 these days. The P3 Advanced uses DJI’s Lightbridge video uplink. 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 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 Phantom 4. The 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!
Blade Glimpse Syma X5 RealFlight Simulator