the first thing we do when we get a new drone is beat it up a little bit. We don’t kick it down the stairs or anything, but we’ll give it a few knocks, twists, and shallow drops to assess the build quality and durability. Does it feel flimsy, or does it feel like it could survive a crash landing in the park? We give each review unit a light beating (and usually a couple unintentional crash landings) before we give you a definitive answer on how durable it is.
Any drone is going to be a handful when you’re first learning to fly it, but the makers of drones in this price range largely take the novice pilot into consideration with features that make the UAVs easier to handle. A feature called headless mode (which we cover below) helps you orient the drone, while multiple speeds enable you to start more slowly and gradually go faster as you gain more experience and confidence. Another feature, called one-key landing, can also save the day (and the drone) if your flight goes completely sideways.
As mentioned above, you will crash, and you certainly don't want to go home empty-handed. Having back-up propellers can make or break your day. Extra batteries are also a must. Current battery chemistry limits flight times to somewhere between 5 and 25 minutes for most amateur drones. Having plenty of charged spares means you can fly longer — though flying for more than 30 minutes straight can be fatiguing.
FPV, or ‘First Person View’, drones give you the best possible experience imaginable, giving you a front seat to the action. FPV works by having a camera mounted on the drone, broadcasting a live video stream to the drone’s transmitter, FPV goggles, or a smart device. You’re able to fly more precisely and gain better shots with an eye in the sky than you normally would from your view from just the ground.
The Altair Aerial Outlaw Drone is one of the best GPS drones around and the absolute best that you can find for under $300. Thanks to the stabilization features in GPS flight mode, this drone will keep itself hovering in midair at whatever place you choose for it to go, making it easy to line up the perfect shot for your photo or video camera. It also has a 1000 meter flight range and a flight time of nearly 20 minutes, which is great for aerial photographers who need time for a longer shoot. If you want high definition, pro-quality photography at a price that won’t break the bank, the Outlaw is the choice for you!
If there’s one thing DJI is good at, it’s stuffing a ton of features and functionality into increasingly small drones — and nothing showcases this talent more than the Spark. Despite the fact that the drone’s hull is roughly the size of a Twinkie, DJI somehow managed to cram in many of the same goodies you’d find under the hood of the Spark’s bigger, bulkier, and more expensive brothers.
Likewise, ensure that your device is equipped with headless mode, which is a cheater mode that allows you to treat any direction that the drone goes as forward so that you don’t have to worry about how to flip it around safely and control it back to your location after completing a flight. With headless mode, all you need to do is just push the joystick in the corresponding direction that you want the device to travel.
Most still cameras are 5 megapixels or higher. Therefore, do not be fooled by the claims of HD for a camera when the manufacturer is relying on the resolution for still photos. It is true what they are saying but not the complete story. Having HD resolution for still images does not explain the possibility of also having a lower quality for video-image capture.