What began as a pocket-sized, flying electronic gadget, the drone now plays an integral role in the worlds of surveillance, photography, and delivery.
With all the different makes and models available today, it’s important for consumers to find the right drone for their specific needs. Some consumer-level drones are ready to fly straight out of the box, while others require additional pilot training and/or official registration.
Common uses for drones include recreational flight, or hobby drones, aerial photography, and surveillance. An important factor to consider before purchasing is a drone's indoor/outdoor rating. Some smaller models are not designed to fly in outdoor conditions, while others could be too large to fly safely indoors.
A drone’s range is largely determined by its battery life. Naturally, you don’t want to send your drone to a remote location without the ability to fly it back to home base. Some drone models indicate when they’ve reached a low level of power, but this feature isn’t universal.
Communication between a drone’s remote control and its onboard transceiver also makes a difference when it comes to range. Many drones create their own WiFi hotspots, which connect to a smartphone piloting app or a hand-held remote control.
An important consideration for first-time users in particular is ease of use. Many drones sold for recreational flying require some calibration before the owner can take it out for a spin. These drones are usually labeled Ready To Fly, or RTF.
Other drones are not designed with beginners in mind. These may require some advanced calibration and assembly before they’re flight-ready. The controls are not quite as intuitive as those found on RTF models, so pilots should plan on receiving additional instruction and certification before taking the controls.
Drones cost anywhere from $100 for a basic, beginner’s drone to $1,500 for a professional drone with all the bells and whistles.