To gauge flight performance, we put the drone through a number of tests to see how the manufacturer’s claims hold up. First we take it to a local football field and see how fast it can clear 100 yards, then do some calculations to get an objective reading on speed in miles per hour. After that, we do a similar test to assess ascent and descent speeds, and all the while, we’re also taking notes on how responsive the controls are, how stable the craft is, how far it can go before it’s out of range, and what the overall piloting experience is like compared to other drones.
Another one of the great drone on this list with the beginner in mind, the UDI 818A HD Drone is electric powered, radio controlled, and equipped with six gyroscopes for stabilization. Although it can take a decent beating, it is recommended that this drone not be flown above asphalt or concrete, as it is still made of plastic, and can break if improperly used.
Almost all of the models featured here have some safety features. Even the DJI Spark, which isn't built for long-distance flight, includes a GPS and automatic return-to-home functionality. If your control signal is interrupted, or if the battery gets down too low (most drones can only fly for about 25 minutes on a single battery charge), you drone will start to head back to its takeoff point and land.
I spoke to these guys when I wrote my complete review of the Altair Aerial AA108 which you can read here. They picked up their customer service phone line on the 2nd ring, which in itself is amazing when you’re talking about drone companies. I’m so used to trying to reach a company only to find out they operate out of China!They have a great product, with specs at least as good as any other drone in this category.
These drones are marketed towards beginners because they are really cheap. However, these drones are not the easiest drones on the market to fly. Higher-priced drones, with the ability to use GPS coordinates and that have onboard obstacle detection and collision avoidance, are much easier to fly than these drones. You will have to spend in the range of $200 to $300 to get these advanced features for a drone; however, you may ultimately be happier if you do this than if you lose or crash one of these drones.
A. The commercial use of images taken by a drone is illegal under current FAA guidelines. Because these aerial photos would benefit your business, they’re considered to be commercial. Recreational users are allowed to sell or publish photographs taken during recreational flights — but they shouldn’t make it a regular practice. FAA regulations are in flux and may change, so if you’re in doubt, please check first.
Want to keep your budget below $300, we suggest you choose one of the Altair drones we recommend. Altair is a great company (learn about Altair) out of Nebraska and provides top notch customer service! Shop the Altair Outlaw which goes 1000+ meters and costs $279. Altair also offers the AA108 as a budget option at $129 and the 818 Hornet is a great mid range for ages 10-14 and $169.
The JJRC H26WM is a great drone for beginners or those who want a casual drone to zip around with. The camera is pretty decent but nothing too fancy, so don’t expect the world from it. The maximum amount of flight time you can get is approximately 7 minutes, so having an extra battery is a good idea. The camera allows for 2MP in FPV which swings around in all directions.
The other primary consideration is how the photos and video are stored after you take them. Drones with WiFi capabilities will work with your mobile device, letting you see and store media real-time on your phone. For those that don’t, you’ll store the media on the drone, usually on a microSD card. If this is the case, know how much storage the drone comes with and whether (and by how much) it can be upgraded.
Many manufacturers mount cameras inside the body of the drone. This is acceptable for casual photography, but if you want more professional results, consider adding an external camera mount, or gimbal. Gimbals allow you to place your video or still camera in front of the drone body, away from the vibrating motor and rotors. Gimbals can swivel and pivot, providing you with additional control over your imagery.