Why Get an RC Drone?
RC drones are not only a blast to fly, they also have a wide array of uses. You can remotely pilot a drone to take aerial photography and shoot video. Other uses include delivering small payloads or serving as an extended eye in the sky to watch birds or search for lost hikers. Many personal drones have built in GPS, which allows you to input coordinates in advance to map out the perfect flight plan. You can easily hover around a building or explore a new area you weren't able to reach before.
A word about regulation: Drones occupy a unique space somewhere between traditional aircraft and remotely controlled toys. The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) regulations currently do not usually apply to hobbyists. If you’re purchasing a drone for business, check on local and federal regulations; they are changing as the FAA moves to create a space for UAVs in the National Airspace System. It has been reported by the Wall Street Journal that the FAA may soon require commercial drone operators to have a license. The agency is also considering limiting flights to daylight hours, and other proposed legislation includes requiring the drone to hover below 400 feet and within sight of the person controlling the aircraft. These are not in effect as of our publication date, but be aware that changing regulations for commercial drones are in the works.
RC Drones: What to Look For
In order to find the best drone available, we looked at several characteristics and features of personal drones. As previously mentioned, UAVs have a wide array of uses, so how and where you plan to use the drone will determine which one is best for you. However, you should consider the drone's performance and features, and pay attention to what accessories and supplies are included when making a selection. Lastly, consider purchasing a drone that has some help and support or warranty available to back up the drone in case something goes wrong.
When searching for the perfect RC drone, you should compare the speeds of various drones. Some people believe that faster means more fun, but this isn't always the case. Especially since a faster speed means you need to be more skilled and qualified to control the drone. Fast speeds can lead to crashes. Although drones may look like toys they are not, and drones can be incredibly dangerous.
You'll want to pay attention to flight time, this may actually be the most important specification. The best drones have a flight time above 20 minutes. The average is a little more than 15 minutes. The range is another spec to consider, to make sure you can cover plenty of ground. The best drones have a range of at least 2,000 feet.
The best RC drones are ready to fly so you can hit the skies in little to no time, without the need to make extra purchases. Some drones include a built-in stabilization gimbal, which gives you smoother video and still shots, and drones have GPS for automatic landing and pre-flight planning.
Purchasing an RC drone is sort of like configuring a computer. Often you start with a base model, then you choose whether or not you want to add a built-in camera, stabilization gimbal, GPS, landing gear and several other extras. Be aware that these add-ons add up, and depending on what you select, the cost of functional and even necessary extras can cost you anywhere from $400 up to $1,000, and sometimes even more.
Accessories & Supplies
Many drones have all the essentials included, like a battery for the drone itself and its transmitter, or remote control. Some include extra propellers or even an extra battery so you can have longer flight times. You'll want to make sure a transmitter is included. If one isn't you'll have to purchase one or use your smartphone or tablet to control your drone.
Some personal drones with Android or iPhone apps allow you to use your smartphone as a remote control and offer a live view of what the drone sees in real time. They can also give you the ability to map out your routes.
Help & Support
Unfortunately, when it comes to RC drones, warranties won't come in handy as much as they do for other products. Of course, they are still great to have. The duration of drone warranties varies from just 7 days to up to a year. However, most manufacturer warranties don't cover accidental damage. If you crash your drone, which you more than likely will, you won't be covered under warranty for the problems that arise after your crash.
Just because warranties for RC drones don't cover accidental damage doesn't mean the warranties are no good or that help is out of reach. Most manufactures still offer help and will sell you replacement parts as needed. You can reach most manufacturers by telephone or email, and some even have chat support. Almost all of them allow you to download a user manual for your drone online.
Drones are such a new exciting product category that choosing which one to purchase can be intimidating and confusing. The market offers several choices of drones with a variety of features from all different price points. Armed with our comparisons and reviews, you will be able to select the best RC drone for you.