The drone’s rise to stardom as the ultimate gadget has meant they’re incredibly easy to buy and the choices are almost limitless. However, this level of variety means it can be overwhelming to know where to start if you’re a drone novice.
Considering a few things before diving in will (hopefully) help narrow the choice down. The best drone for you isn’t necessarily solely dependent on what you want to use it for – budget, your experience, and your environment also play a role. Not to mention all the drone rules and regulations to familiarise yourself with before even taking off. That’s why we’ve put together everything you need to consider before making your drone investment.
1. Drone flying rules and regulations
Before you even start shopping around for a drone, educate yourself on the airspace regulations of the UK – you don’t want to be the person on the news for crashing their drone into a commercial flight! The rules and regulations are changing in the UK this year so there are a few things you need to know, as well as general safety tips to familiarise yourself with…
Flying your drone for personal use:
- If your drone weights more than 250g, it must be registered. You must complete a competency test to show you understand UK safety, security and privacy laws.
- You can’t fly above 120 metres in altitude or 500 metres away from you.
- Ensure your drone is always in sight.
- Always keep away from aircraft, helicopters, airports, airfields and prisons.
If you intend on buying a camera drone:
- You must not fly within 50 metres of people, vehicles, buildings or vessels.
- Your drone mustn’t be flown within 150 metres of a congested area or any large group of people such as a concert or sporting event.
- If you intend to record in an area where people are, you must inform them before you start.
If you’re buying a drone for commercial purposes:
- You need to register with the CAA. You might think this doesn’t apply to you, but it even applies if you’re monetising your YouTube channel or personal blog.
2. Your level of experience
If you’re an inexperienced pilot, picking out a drone can be tricky. On one hand, you want to practise on an inexpensive drone that won’t cost much to repair or replace but, at the same time, cheap drones typically lack features that make operation easy.
So, we recommend erring on the side of caution by looking for a drone that has auto take-off and landing features as well as a headless mode option which, when activated, means the onboard flight computer always aligns the drone movements to be relative to the controller.
If you’re new to the drone game, it’s also a good idea to buy a ready to fly (RTF) drone, rather than one that requires assembly (DIY). RTF drones will cost slightly more, but this will save you a lot of trouble. DIY drones mean diagnosing and fixing problems yourself, so you’ll be missing out on precious flying time!
3. The purpose of the drone
The drone’s breakthrough into the mainstream has resulted in different types being designed for different purposes. For some, a drone isn’t a drone unless it can capture awe-inspiring footage from the skies, while others desire a UAV for surveillance, racing, or even acrobatics!
It’s important to establish what you want to use your drone for before you even start to scour the market, as each purpose will require different features. If aerial photography is your calling, you’ll want a HD camera. Racing or acrobatics your thing? A light and nimble drone is likely your best bet!
4. Environment and conditions
Next, you need to ask yourself where you’re planning on flying your drone. If you want to use it outdoors (which is more than likely), going for a larger – and therefore more stable – device will ensure your drone remains steady when faced with outdoor conditions. On the other hand, smaller drones are best for use indoors as they don’t tend to agree with the wind!
However, even the sturdiest UAV will struggle in really poor conditions and you could risk losing or damaging it. Once you’ve brought your drone, hold out for a clear day with little breeze – this will keep it out of danger and make for some beautiful footage/photographs!
As much as we’d rather it wasn’t, budget plays a significant role when investing in just about anything. Luckily, the drone market has such a range in price that there’ll be one out there that falls into your price point.
Recreational drones are usually very affordable, but you should be wary of very cheap devices – especially if they’re made of very low-quality plastic. Long term, the cost of repair will increase your total investment and they’re very hard to control so a crash is likely. The best thing to do is look for a drone whose affordability and quality are balanced.
Once you’ve considering everything on our list and have it all figured out, it’s time for the fun part – choosing out your new gadget! What features do you look for in a drone? Let us know in the comments below…