Buying Beginner Drones
Drones are simply awesome. Although they have been around for a few years, they are still a kind of novelty for many people, especially for those who have never owned them before. They come in a broad variety of sizes and specifications so if you are planning to plunk a little cash into a new drone, you need to know what you will be spending your money on.
Where should you begin when purchasing a new drone? There are numerous types in the market each with its strengths and weaknesses. The costs also vary considerably ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars. As a beginner, go for a cheap drone that will not hurt the pockets if it crashes. It all depends on the amount of features it can pack and the amount functionality that it delivers. Some drones can only fly for a few minutes within your backyard while the more powerful drones can offer you several hours of flight and performance.
Apart from the distinction between the budget drone market and the premium drone markets, you also have to consider the flying experience of the end user. If you are a beginner, you will need a beginner drone that can offer you relatively stable flight and which is not too costly. You should also be looking for a drone that is very responsive to the controls to allow you easily control the drone. Once you have honed your drone flying skill, you can proceed to more serious premium drones with greater capabilities and which tend to cost more.
The Main Types of Drones
The cheap versus premium drone classification is a bit sketched. A more common drone categorisation is one that is based on the following abbreviations:-
RTF simply means ready to fly. This simply means that drone is fully equipped to fly. You only need to open the package and launch the drone to flight once the batteries have been charged.
The ARF drone simply means Almost Ready to Fly. If you are a hobbyist or DIY-er who likes assembling things, then you will love the ARF drone. These drones come in pieces and require that you carry out extensive assembly before the drone is ready to fly.
The abbreviation BNF stands for Bind-N-Fly. These drone packages include everything except for the drone transmitter. The BNF drones allow you to choose and purchase a preferred drone transmitter and then bind this to the receiver. The receiver comes with the model.
If you are beginner planning to buy a drone, you will be better off with an RTF which is ready to fly and does not require any assembly. If you are a beginner and a hobbyist, you can go with the ARF or even buy parts and build your drone.
The Main Specifications for Drones
There is a myriad of specifications that you have to look at when buying a drone such as the cost considerations, the size of the drone, whether it can handle a camera and gimbal on board or not among others. The easiest way to filter through the maze is by understanding the types of specifications for the drones that you are planning to purchase. Here is a look at the main drain drone specifications that you can put into consideration:-
Flight Time: This is a critical factor in the performance of any drone. The flight time simply refers to the amount of time that the drone can fly before the battery dies. Depending on what you are planning to do with your drone, you should factor in this into your decision when purchasing a drone. While drones with a shorter flight time are cheaper, they are quite an inconvenience as you have to recharge them frequently if you are planning to fly your drone for an extended duration of time. This is not only frustrating but it is also quite an inconvenience. Drones with longer flight times will undoubtedly cost you more but they allow you to enjoy flight for longer before the battery dies and thus provide an excellent experience to flyers.
The flight time varies anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes based on the type of the aircraft and the capacity of the battery that it is using. Beginner drones are generally advantageous because the battery can be swapped easily and the replacement cost is also lower. To have an almost uninterrupted flight, make sure you have at least three spare batteries. Bigger drones are expensive and the accessories they use are also expensive. To double your airtime, simply acquire more spare batteries.
In tandem with the flight time is the charging time and this is for an obvious reason: flight time is directly correlated to the charging capacity of the battery in the drone and to an extent, to the charging time. However, with the advances in battery technologies, the charging time is not always correlated to the battery capacity. Generally, you should always go for shorter charging times which allow you to recharge your battery fast and put your drone back in flight. That is a key to a quality flying experience.
Type of Motors: The dilemma on the type of motor to choose is already solved at the manufacturing stage. If you are beginner buying a new drone, you will be presented with the overall specifications of the drones based on factors such as flight times, load and speed which should give you an idea on the kind of motor your drone is using.
To clarify further, there are two main types of drone motors namely, brushed DC motors and brushless motors. The brushed DC motors are cheaper but less powerful and also have a shorter lifespan. The brushless motors are more powerful but also costlier. If you are fussy about the performance of your drone, you can go further and inquire about the type of motor that it uses.
GPS Stabilisation: If you will be putting your drone to uses such as aerial photography, you will need a drone with a GPS stabilisation feature which allows the device to hover about without the need to touch the controls and maintain it in that position.
The Range of the drone: This is another important performance feature that you should keep in mind when purchasing drone. The range of the drone refers to the distance your drone can travel before you lose contact or view. Cheaper drones can have a range of about 100m while more powerful premium drones such as the DJI Phantom 4 can have a range of up to 5km or more. The drone range is dependent on a number of factors such as its fuel capacity, signal interference, equipment and the signal range.
Camera: If you are planning to use your drone for photography, you will need to factor in the quality of the drone footage. There are various cameras standards to put into consideration ranging from VGA to the 4K cameras. The high end drones will also come with a camera gimbal that provides extra stabilization.
Protection and parts: For a beginner, you would need a drone that has sufficient protection against crashes. You also need to look at the cost of spare parts as you will need to make lots of replacements as your drone crashes and parts get damaged during the learning phase.
Return Home Function: The Return Home Function does exactly what the name suggests. When you press the home button, the drone will get back to its starting point. This is an important function for beginners who might not be good at managing the controls and might lose the drone out of view. Higher end drones also provide a similar function but based on a sophisticated GPS technology.
An Overview of the Best Drones for Beginners
Here is a look at some of the best drones for beginners:-
Hubsan X4 (H107L) 4 Channel 2.4GHz RC Quadcopter
To start it off, we take a look at the Hubsan X4 H107L which is a palm-sized drone and one of the best beginner drones in the market that is priced below $100. If you are just starting out on a drone hobby and need a drone that you can use to test the waters and learn how to control and manipulate your drone. The Hubsan X4 is not equipped with a gimbal or camera but that is expected giving that this is a cheap and smaller drone. You can simply use it master the basics of drone flying.
It is a relatively tiny and compact drone that easily fits in the palms of the hands. The bottom of the drone has LED lighting which can serve as an indicator showing the back and the front of the drone.
As would be expected of a drone of this size and quality, the Hubsan X4 has a very short flight time of roughly of 7 to 8 minutes. The charging time is also relatively shorter, typically 30 to 45 minutes although many users generally buy multiple batteries to enjoy continuous flight times with short downtimes. The Hubsan X4 also has a fairly short flying range of only 100m. This is still short but it is a superior range if you compare it to that of drones of other sizes.
The Hubsan X4 drones offer you two flying modes namely the Normal Mode and the Expert Mode. You can pick a flying mode based on your level of experience. As a beginner, you can start off with the Normal mode before graduating over to the Expert Mode once you have honed your drone flying skills.
Also, important for a beginner, the drone offers very responsive flying controls allowing you to fly the drone easily, execute tricks and maneuvers such as flips and the barrel rolls. The Hubsan X4 is also incredibly fun to fly around.
In terms of the technical specs, the drone is built with a coreless brushless motor which is more durable and offers a superior performance; it has a stunt mode and a high capacity LiPO battery that can power the drone for up to 8 minutes.
The six-axis flight control system of the drone is highly stable and has adjustable sensitivity. The drone can be charged easily with a USB charge with a charging time of between 30 minutes and 45 minutes.
Here is a brief of overview of the features of the Hubsan X4:-
- It is designed with a high capacity LiPO battery
- It comes ready to fly (RTF)
- Has a 2.4Ghz control with 4 channels
- Has an adjustable precision 6-axis gyro sensitivity
- Has a durable and compact main frame
In summary, the Hubsan X4 is a small and compact drone suitable for someone learning basic flying skills.
The Syma X5 is one of the newest drones in the marketplace. It is a small and compact drone with very light weight. Perfect for a beginner still trying to figure their way out with the controls and can therefore take a quite beating before you need to make a replacement.
It comes with plenty of appealing features including a detachable camera that is one of the best in its class. You can use to take high quality and clear shots. The drone is also built with a headless mode and a Hover mode, a fairly new addition to the drone model.
With the Hover Mode, you can release the controls once the drone hits a certain altitude and the drone will maintain the altitude and position until you take the control again and move the drone about. The hover mode is a like a rudimentary drone “autopilot”.
The Syma X5HC however has a shorter range of only 30 to 50m and a flight time of about 7 to 9 minutes. You are unlikely to enjoy serious flight time with this drone but it is good for learning the basics of drone flying over short distances. The on board drone camera also allows you to take clear shots so you can use it to capture some cool drone photography as you learn to fly which can be quite fun for a beginner.
For the features and a price tag of less than $100, this drone provides good value for money for anyone getting inducted into the drone-world.
Here is a brief overview of the features of the Syma X5HC:-
- It is equipped with a detachable high-definition camera. You can enjoy manipulating the aircraft using your controls while capturing clear video and photo footage of your surrounding.
- Enjoy precision hovering in the sky thanks to the drone’s Hover Mode. The 6-axis gyroscope has undergone some improvements and offers stable and precise hover motion at an altitude in the sky.
- The 6-axis gyro stabilization of the drone offers you greater stability and flexibility.
- Buy the new 2016 SYMA model and enjoy the powerful hovering height adjustment function.
- Get a 360-degree and three-dimensional function including special drone functions.
Perfect drone for a beginner; enjoy smooth and stable flight on your drone and capture clear footage. However, the shorter range and shorter flight times can be a disadvantage for someone looking for an extended flight.
Blade Nano QX
As the name suggests, the Blade Nano QX is a tiny and agile quad-copter drone that you can fly in a host of settings, whether indoor or outdoor drone flying. With its tiny size, you can even fly it within the confines of an office cubicle. The SAFE system in the drone will aid your flying and allow you to fly it more successfully in various settings.
The Blade Nano QX is built with the Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope (SAFE) technology based on sophisticated flight control software which gives it a stable hover when you put it in the stability mode. In case your drone flight is running into trouble, you can simply let go and it will revert into a stable hover flight with the help of the SAFE technology.
The drone has a stability mode and an agility mode. The stability mode is suited for new users as it activates features that aid smooth flying. By activating the stability mode, you can always have your drone in control and flying in an upright fashion. If you are new to the flying, this mode will put you at ease and you will be able to fly the drone almost like pro within a short period of time. These stability and control features make for a successful flight even for someone who has never flown a quad-copter before.
After you have honed your skills in flying the drone, you can switch on the SAFE technology to the agility mode which allows you to fly the drone at faster speeds and also gives you greater manoeuvrability. The Blade Nano QX utilises brushed motors that can provide you with a powerful lift. However, you should take care not to over-task these are they tend to burn out easily.
Here is a summary of the features of the Blade Nano QX:-
- It is built with the advanced SAFE technology system which features the agility and stability modes.
- The frame is small, compact, tough and lightweight
- It is a tiny drone that can fly even in the smallest of spaces
- Utilises brushed motors for powerful and smooth lift
Holy Stone F181
Here is another impressive beginner quadcopter. If you are looking for low cost drone with excellent performance and which also has a camera for some quality drone photography, this aircraft will be ideal for you.
Its performance features and specifications are pretty much in line with other drones in its class and within its price range. The range of the drone is about 200m and it also has a flight time about 7 to 9 minutes. The main drawback would be the charging time of the drone battery which is approximately 80 minutes. You can work your way around that by buying several batteries so as to cut down on the downtimes during which you would be charging your drones. The on board camera has relatively good specs for the price at about 2MP.
- The drone has an Altitude Hold Function: You can release the controls and the drone will continue hovering at an altitude. This is an important feature if you are planning to use the Holy Stone F181 to shoot quality images.
- It comes with a bonus battery. This is an important feature for a drone that takes about 80 minutes to recharge. Once a battery is used up, you can simply add the bonus battery and continue flying your drone for a few more minutes.
- The drone has a range of between 50m and 100m.
- The drone battery has a run time of 7 to 9 minutes and there is a bonus battery n the package that you can use to enjoy longer flight times
- The drone (battery) has a charging time of 80 minutes
- You can execute special functions such as a continuous roll for fun performance thanks to its 360 degrees four-way flip.
- The drone is suited for all levels of players
- Comes with an HD camera that you can use to capture perfect shots
UDI 818a HD+ Drone with HD Camera and Headless Mode
Here is another impressive beginner quadcopter drone with responsive controls and ease of control. The UDI 818a HD+ is also equipped with a 2MP camera that you can use to capture clear and sharp images. If you are a beginner, you will also appreciate the drone’s headless mode that makes your learning process a lot easier
Another useful feature in this drone which is important for a beginner learning to fly is the “Return Home” feature of the drone. If you lose sight of the drone and are unsure on how to control the drone fly it back, simply press the Return Home button to get it back to you.
The quadcopter also packs in a lot of powerful features for a low cost beginner drone. It contains a 4GB SD-card pack and an SD-card reader. The package also comes with four extra propellers so in case the regular propellers are damaged, you can replace them easily with the bonus ones at no extra cost. As a beginner, expect to get a little beating on your drone so this is a convenient and cost saving addition.
With unit also packs in two batteries that can give you a 7 to 9 minute flight time. The charging time is slightly longer at about 90 minutes to 120 minutes. Some of the beginner drones that we have reviewed have a charging time of 30 to 45 minutes with the same flight time so this is an issue that you might want to keep in mind when planning to purchase this drone.
However, the drone package comes with a free 2200mAh power bank that you can use to recharge your drone while on the go. The power bank can charge both drone batteries simultaneously so this removes the inconvenience of having to go back to a charging port in order to charge your batteries for close to two hours. The drone has two speed modes so you can choose the speed that will suit your riding level-whether aggressive or a more scaled down drone riding.
Here is a summary of the features of the UDI 818a HD+ drone:-
- Comes with a high-resolution HD camera that you can use to take photos and videos during flight. It is a 2MP camera which comes with a 4GB Micro SD.
- The drone has a Headless Mode of operation which makes for ideal operation by beginners. In the mode, the drone will fly in the same direction as the transmitter so there will be no need for you to distinguish its direction. This simplifies flying the drone.
- The drone is designed with a 6-axis gyro stability: this features allows for incredible stability when flying the drone. It also makes the drone immune to interference as it will have a stronger wind resistance and you will be able to maneuver it easily and execute stunts.
- It utilises the reliable LiPO batteries that can power the drone for long and allow you to have more fun time.
- The package comes with an extra battery that you can use to increase your flight time.
- With its good performance features and stability, you can use the UDI 818a HD+ drone to perform various maneuvers and stunts including the difficult 360-degree flips.
DJI Spark Mini Quadcopter
The DJI Spark mini drone is one of the newest drones in the market. It is a fairly tiny drone but it still delivers a good flight performance and stability. You can even pack this small and compact drone in your pockets.
If you are looking for a reliable selfie drone, the DJI will be a great option. Once you enter the “Gesture Mode” in the drone, you can take to flight and shoot selfies or videos based on a pre-defined flight path. The paths can range from cycling to filming and following.
The drone is fairly user-friendly. It has features such as an obstacle avoidance technology and a gesture recognition feature. You can also use the drone to fly over long distances by utilising a smartphone app that lets you control it over long distances. You can also use the drone remote control to fly it over slightly longer distances. With a remote control, you can fly it up to a distance of 1.2 miles. The DJI Spark also has the Intelligent Flight Modes which is also found in the more professional DJI drones.
The DJI drone also has a tiny FHD camera with a two-axis stabilizer that allows you to take smoother aerial photo shoots. While many would be comfortable with better stabilization, the 2-axis stabilizer still delivers incredible footage for end users.
In terms of its specifications, the DJI Spark pares well with many of the models in its class and other similarly priced drones. It has a good range of 2km if you will be steering it using its dedicated controller. The drone also has a good flight time of 15 minutes which is almost twice as good as that of the other drones in its class. You can get enough time to take aerial photo and video footage. Its range and good flight time makes it one of the best starter drones in the market.
The DJI Spark drone also has a new QuickShot mode. This feature will create a ten-second video from the footage that the drone has captured during flight. With this feature, you don’t have to go through the tedious process of creating a good final footage from the best drone shots after you have captured the raw footage with the drone. With this feature, you don’t have to go through the long process of editing and downloading your raw footage after the drone flight.
The DJI Spark box contains the following:-
- The Focus FPV Drone
- A 4GB Micro SD
- A USB Battery Charger
- Four bonus propellers
- An instruction manual
- A 2.4Ghz controller
- Two 3.7V and 500mAh LiPO Batteries
- A tiny screwdriver
Below is a summary of the features of the DJI Spark drone:-
- It is designed with a 2-axis gimbal that still delivers good footage stabilization when capturing the best shots with your drone.
- The drone has a transmission distance of approximately 1.2 miles
- The flight time or the battery life of the drone is approximately 16 minutes.
- The drone also has a VPS range of 98 feet
- It has a high speed of up to 31mph
- The drone also has the Intelligent Flight Modes
- The drone is fitted with a high performance camera so you can take high quality and stabilized images. It utilises mechanical gimbal stabilization functionality.
- It has the QuickShot Videos feature that can create a final 10-second video footage.
- It has powerful and high precision propulsion and speed control.
Focus FPV Drone with HD Camera
The Focus FPV drone is one of the best equipped beginner drones and comes with a spare propeller and an extra battery. The drone is also equipped with a 4GB Micro SD Card. It is an affordable beginner drone that you can also use for your FPV racing needs.
The domain is well equipped with a host of drone features that you will definitely like for your beginner drone. These include the following:-
- HD Camera: One of the best qualities of the Focus FPV Drone is that it is equipped with a 720HD camera that you can use to capture footage during the entire flight. The camera has a fish eye lens and a wide angle view for high quality footage.
- LED Lights: With the LED lights on the drone, you will be able to carry out acrobatic tricks even during the night.
- Durability: The protective rotor guards on the Focus FPV drone along with its soft landing pads provide extra protection and safety for the drone when it encounters rough terrain or comes into impact with another object.
- It has FPV and a Live Video Feed: You can get an uninterrupted and highly precise flight by running the drone on 2.4Ghz wavelength. The First Person View (FPV) video can be transmitted on a higher 5.8Ghz frequency wavelength that will stream high quality video feeds. The drone can also be paired with various accessories but it is important to verify the compatibility of these with the Focus FVP drone before you make a purchase.
- It has a Headless Mode: The drone’s Headless Mode will adjust the position of the aircraft when you push the throttle irrespective of the direction the front of the drone will be facing. This can help shorten the learning curve for you.
There is the low down of some of the best beginner drones in the market. They vary widely based on all the important metrics for a good drone such as the flight time, range, size, maneuverability and even the price range. We hope that you will find something here that will suit your needs.