Ballpark estimate: $75 to $3,000 (Average Price $1,200)
You’ve probably seen stories in the national news quite frequently in recent months about personal drones that are threatening air planes, national safety, and personal privacy.
As advances in technology bring down the price points for personal drones and also make a wider array of options available for the general public, drones are raising a variety of concerns in many areas of life. That being said, many people are eager to invest in a personal drone and watch it take flight.
What is a Drone?
In the past, remote control airplanes were quite popular, especially around holiday time since they make a great gift. While many of these were inexpensive, today, they are being replaced by personal drones (which really refers to an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV). Drones are similar in scope but with some subtle differences. For instance, most drones range from tiny models that can fit in the palm of your hand to huge designs that are difficult to transport because of their size. The features each drone has can also vary greatly. For instance, some drones are just basic remote-controlled vehicles that fly, while others come with different accessories like cameras that allow you to video tape from the air. Often you can buy a basic drone and then purchase various accessories so you can customize it for your specific desires.
When purchasing a drone, you’ll need to be sure that any model you get will be reliable so you can use it as intended. After all, if your drone is constantly crashing or not responding to your steering via the remote, it will probably become damaged quickly, which means your investment will be wasted.
Also keep in mind that your climate and wind stream will affect how your drone will fly. Therefore, if you live in a windier area, you’ll want to make sure you select a drone that you can easily navigate and is strong enough to withstand the conditions (although most people would not fly a drone if it’s very windy or risk of bad weather, since you don’t want to take a chance on losing or crashing your drone). In addition, how smooth a takeoff and landing you can expect can also be based on the quality of what you select. Further, if taking photos or videos is important to you, you’ll also want a drone that moves smoothly and that allows you to control the camera settings easily to manage the quality of your footage.
Uses for Drones
Drones are used for many different reasons. Some people use them for a hobby and just want to fly for the thrill of it. Others use them for business, such as taking aerial photography, conducting a power line inspection, and performing a search and rescue. The oil and gas industry also uses drones for finding leaks in the miles of pipelines they need to inspect. Another use for drones is for the news industry. The media mounts cameras on drones and can report on news of fires and anything else that needs to be viewed from above.
Laws and FAA
Though there are no regulations for drones at this early stage, there are many rules that should be followed. The FAA controls the airspace in the USA and has some guidance rules that should be followed. The guidance for drones is the same as for model aircrafts. You should not fly your drone higher than 400 feet from the surface and always keep it in visual line of sight. Though there are no laws now, the FAA is reviewing all drone practices and there should be laws coming as there are more and more drones that can interfere with aircraft.
Where to Shop
With the drone hobby taking off, you can purchase them at stores like Best Buy, Walmart and Target, as well online through EBay and Amazon. There are also specialty stores like Drones Plus that sell only drones, offering a large selection appropriate from the beginner to the professional. Many stores also have higher end drones suited for business.
Cost for a Personal Drone
When shopping for a beginner drone, the main difference between models will be what if offers in regard to electronics and the motor. On the low end, you will have smaller motors and less transmitting power. On a higher end drone, you’ll get altitude hold, GPS control, heavier payload, and advanced stabilization.
If you’re a beginner and just want to learn how to fly a basic model before investing in anything more expensive or complicated, there are lots of inexpensive models that will be easy to control. Keep in mind that they won’t have a very long range but will be acceptable for flying in a park or a parking lot. These start at $75 and go up to about $250. If you decide that you want to get a more advanced drone that has more features and a heavier payload, you can get one for $250 to $3,000, depending on the quality and features you desire. Many serious drone hobbyists stick to the $1,200 range for a reliable model with a good camera and a remote that allows you to get the footage you want.
To give you an idea of what you can get for your money, $700 will buy a good quality basic drone with a 1080p camera attached. For a little more of an investment, you can upgrade to a higher end model that has a better camera with higher capacity. Some better models also include a video downlink capability that you can operate from the remote, which can be quite handy. In addition, some drones offer a live stream option so you can share your footage will others as it’s happening. Some drone enthusiasts feel likes such a feature can be quite valuable, since you will be able to see what you’re getting as the plane flies and will be adjust as you go along.
With your purchase price for a mid-range drone, you can expect that this will include the batteries, a carrying case, and some extra features to put your drone to work in different ways. (Note that the lowest priced models may not include these features.)