How to Buy a Drone 101


Photo Credit: Juan Diego Cortol

Nowadays, drones are everywhere, and their prevalence is partly due to their extreme convenience and usefulness despite the risks innate in operating an Unmanned Aerial System. From social media to major televised events, we're surrounded by what drones can do, and they can do a lot. Maybe that's why you're considering buying one for yourself. With vast options available, there are a lot of things to consider before you make what could be a large investment. If you're not sure where to start, here's how to buy a drone.

Photo Credit: Wix Stock Library

Decide What You Want to Do with Your Drone First things first, what do you want to use your drone for? Drones are made in different styles, with different functions and possible features. Possibly the most popular mainstream drone is a quadcopter that specializes in high quality photos and video. However, a drone outfitted for photography might not be the best choice if you’re interested in racing, just like a high-powered drone that can reach amazing altitudes would be an unnecessary choice if you just want to fly around your home. If this will be your first time piloting a UAV, consider starting with a toy drone or a beginner drone. Toy drones are an inexpensive way to test the waters, and beginner drones are typically at a lower price point for high-end brands and may be easier to pilot.

Research the Kind of Drone You Want After you’ve decided on the kind of drone you’re interested in, research those types of drones and get an idea of what characteristics are essential for your drone to have. Important factors to look for are key features (e.g. cameras and sensors) and necessary specifications (e.g. picture resolution). Decide from where you want to buy your drone: from a retailer like Amazon or Best Buy or a brand store like DJI. Look into warranties and service options offered by the store.

Create a price range to narrow down your options and compare the prices of drones with similar specs and features. The quality of the features you want will affect the price of the drones. Try to find multiple drones to compare in type and price and try to find coupons or sales to get a good deal. If you're shopping online, compare the price after tax and shipping, so you’ll know the actual cost of purchasing from a certain vendor. Also, remember to look at each drone’s ratings and reviews to make sure you’re getting a quality product.

Photo Credit: Wix Stock Library

Consider Buying Accessories Depending on what you want to do, you may also need a few accessories to go along with your drone. Battery life for drones is notoriously short with high-end drones having flight times of around 30 minutes. If you're going to be traveling with your drone and flying for extended periods of time, you're going to need a carrying case and some extra batteries. If you buy extra batteries, you may want to purchase a battery hub to save charging time. People interested in aerial photography should consider lenses and SD cards. If you're buying a drone to get into FPV drone racing, you're going to need FPV goggles. In general, there are some accessories you may want to have on hand in case they get damaged as you get used to flying like backup propellers Be aware that not all quadcopters come ready-to-fly, so ensure you possess everything you need to set your system up to fly.

Bonus: Take Care of Your Paperwork After you buy a drone, there are a few things you might need to take care of. Purchase a protection plan, warranty, or insurance to save money in the long run in case your drone gets damaged. If you’re going to be flying outside, you may want to invest in some liability insurance just in case you crash into something or somebody, and it may be necessary to purchase commercial drone insurance for your business. If you're buying a drone for business reasons, you'll need a commercial pilot’s license first, and it may help to do some online training to prepare for certification.

Depending on the size of your UAV, you may have to register the drone with the FAA. Per the new regulations, your registration number needs to be clearly visible on the outside surface of your drone. Toys do not need registration. Also, you’ll want to check the FAA regulations and rules for your area. It may be common knowledge that you can’t fly too close to airports and U.S. national parks, but you’ll also need to check if it’s permitted to fly in local parks or at certain events like the Super Bowl.

Now that you have everything you need, why not get the most out of your drone experience by participating in the Women Who Drone Academy. There, you can find our online course, workshops and lesson. Potential drone photographers should check out Introduction to Drones: How to Capture Stunning Aerial Content for Beginners, and there are workshops on a variety of topics.

I am a writer and an artist based in Georgia. Specializing in illustration, graphic design, and video art, I love to explore the new ways technology intersects with art. I think drones have done amazing things for photography and video art, making what would previously be costly and difficult more accessible. As a complete novice, it was only recently that I saw what independent artists could do with their drones, and I continue to be impressed by the sights that drones are able to explore and the images they can capture. Instagram: @tyesha.ferron

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