The rise in drone deployment increased exponentially in the last decade as a result of the introduction of multi-copters.
Commercial uses include surveillance of national parks to ward off poachers and gather information on wildlife ecology as well as the delivery of urgent parcels. However, with the price of drones becoming more affordable, the drone demographic is leaning heavily toward the consumer and have become a recreational gadget like the RC racecar. There are even drone racing events which allow the pilots to put their custom builds head to, head.
So with all the different forms of drones out there, what elevates a drone to the top of its league? Well to answer that we have to look what a drone might be used for.
The most common is in the hands of a hobbyist and used for a fun way to spend Sunday afternoon zipping up and down in an open area. For this type of leisure, all that’s needed is a well-equipped flight controller allowing the pilot to focus on avoiding bystanders. A camera is a bonus, and long battery life is a must.
[Image Source: Parrot]
Parrot drones are always a contender for someone with little experience in flying a drone. The Parrot Airborne Cargo is a mini drone with exceptional flight stability. The Cargo is controlled via a smartphone which lowers the price of the product as a controller isn’t required. It has preprogrammed acrobatics which can be triggered with a tap of the finger and comes equipped with a low-res downward facing camera for overhead snaps. What lets the Cargo down is the short range of only 20 m and a meagre 10 minutes of flight time. However, this drone is under $80 making it a top contender for a first timer.
[Image Source: Parrot] [Image Source: Parrot]
For a step up, try the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 at $149. But for more high-end fun, the Parrot BEBOP 2 has a 25 minute flight time and a range of 1.24 miles. The BEBOP shoots in full HD 1080p video quality and has a range of accessories for a full immersion into the flight experience. Though the price tag is a bit hefty for beginners at $499.
Often drones come equipped with cameras which range from webcam quality to DSLR. Some are used to get a quick overhead selfie, but others are used in the film industry to get those high-res cinematic views. For these type of drones, there are two main factors: stability and video quality. You can have a high-definition 4k video downlink, but if your drone is not stabilized, you will get sub optimal results.
[Image Source: 3DR]
The 3D Robotics Solo is a functional camera drone that uses a GoPro mounted on a gimbal. The drone can set waypoints and follow a designated route. The price of the 3DR Solo is about $999 as it is perfect for surveillance or mapping of an area.
[Image Source: DJI]
A top of the range consumer based HD camera drone is the DJI Phantom 4 pro. The Phantom shoots video at 4k and has 5-direction obstacle sensing, allowing the pilot to focus on what’s important. The controller can be used up to 4.3 miles away with a total flight time of 30 minutes.
[Image Source: YUNEEC]
The Yuneec Typhoon H, relatively unknown compared to the DJI range, fairs rather well against the Phantom 4 pro. The Yuneec has a 360-degree rotating camera and retractable landing gear. Also, it has 6 rotors which should keep it flying even if one fails. The Yuneec has obstacle avoidance and comes in at a similar price range to the Phantom.
[Image Source: DJI]
A more professional approach takes on the form of the DJI Aspire 2. The camera records at up to 5.2k in CinemaDNG RAW. It has a maximum flight time of 27 minutes and a 360-degree rotating gimbal allowing the drone to capture panoramic shots. This drone sells for $2999.
Drone racing involves freestyle, fast-paced flying for extended periods. It’s a high-intensity sport that requires a robust, lightweight speed machine. These drones need to alter their direction on a hairsbreadth in order to keep up with the intensity of the sport.
[Image Source: GETFPV]
A racing drone needs to light and nimble, much like the TBS Vendetta. Designed for first-person view (FPV) and speeds of 70 mph, this little drone will hurl you to the front line before you know it. This drone retails for about $500 but excludes battery and controller.
[Image Source: IMMERSIONRC]
The ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro is a great little speed racer which is heaver than its competitors, but it comes with two blade propellors which are slightly more efficient. Unlike the Vendetta, the Vortex is not a modular design so crashes can be expensive.
[Image Source: BANGGOOG]
The Eachine Racer 250 is designed for FPV and freestyle flying just like the vendetta. This drone is also fully upgradable as one often likes to personalize one’s drone. This drone comes with everything you need to start flying (batteries, FPV, charger, controller) and sells for $359.99. However, the equipped components may not be competition ready, so it may land up costing you more in the long run.
First came the selfie, then the selfie stick and now the selfie drone. The selfie drone lets you take pictures from a distance using a drone. The drone is often controlled via a smartphone and has image stabilization for the best quality pictures of you and your friends.
[Image Source: Kickstarter]
The Air Selfie is a portable flying camera, controlled via a smartphone. It gives you reach beyond the conventional selfie stick. This tiny device fits into a phone cover where it recharges. The Air Selfie is equipped with a lightweight aluminum frame and tiny brushless DC motors allowing the drone to fly for 3 minutes at a time. Air Selfie sells for $190 when backing it on Kickstarter.
[Image Source: GetHover]
Hover Drone is another quadcopter that has the advantage of portability and aerial photography. The Hover Drone weighs 223 grams and is foldable. It features face and body tracking making sure you are always in the frame. It has 8 minutes flying time and a front facing camera that can snap 13-megapixel stills and 4k video. Also, it has a downward facing 3-megapixel camera for overhead shots and sells for $549.
[Image Source: Lily]
The Lily is another drone with the follow-me functionality. This drone is geared towards filming the user in HD. The drone is also waterproof and floats so you can use it to record all your extreme sports. This drone is slightly larger than other selfie drones but its 20 minute flight time, and full HD camera makes up for it. The Lily uses a tracking device worn on the user’s wrist preventing fly-aways and is currently selling for $899.
Whether you are flying to get a bird’s eye view of your house or racing across your neighbor’s yard, drone flying promises to be hours of fun and loads of tinkering. If you are lucky, you might even get a good selfie out of it.