The Ultimate Guide to Buying Your First Drone

As a first drone buyer, it is essential to do some research and get all the information to help you choose which drone is best for you and your budget. Here’s what any new pilot needs to know before they buy their first drone.

What Will You Use Your Drone For?

The first thing you need to consider is figuring out what kind of drone you want to buy as there are plenty to choose from in the market. It’s important that you determine whether you’re buying a drone for photography or filming, drone racing, drone fishing, surveying, using it for a delivery or just to fly, as not all drones are built the same.

How Much Do Drones Cost?

When deciding on which drone to purchase, the price is a major consideration in most people’s minds. A high-end drone can come with a fairly steep price tag but may have more features or better specs compared to those that cost less. Cheaper drones can still give you a great drone experience but they may be on the lower end side as far as specs go.

Here is an estimate of the average price range of the following types of drones:

1. Toy drones – $30 to $100

2. FPV racing drones – $170 to $900

3. Home-built drones – $350 to $1000+

4. Photography drones – $370 to $1,700+

5. Fishing drones – $1000+

This is just a start. At the very least, you might want to buy a few extra batteries, spare propellers, travel cases, prop guards, goggles, cameras, ND filters and other accessories to enhance your drone experience. It will also help to include a budget for repairs and replacement parts for when you crash your drone – which is a likely thing to happen.

You may also want to consider if the drone you are buying has its own remote controller has its own screen or if it needs a mobile device to connect to your drone. A lot of drone manufacturers allow you to use your phone or tablet, plug it into the remote and use it as the screen. From there, you’ll be able to see the altitude, speed, distance, change the settings, see what the drone sees, etc. So it’s important to know if your mobile device is up to date and compatible with the software or application that they have.

What Drone Features and Specs Do I Need?

Knowing the specs and features is key when buying your first drone. Not all drones may have all of these features but here’s a list of some of them you may need to know:

Flight Duration

How long your drone can fly up in the air. Flight durations can range from 10 minutes up to 30 minutes.

Range

How far and how high you can use your drone with the controller. The longer the flight range, the less chance there is of losing the signal and control. Popular consumer drones can range from around 1 kilometer up to 7 kilometers.

Battery

Drones are powered by batteries. Most consumer drones come with their own battery and chargers, and you can also purchase separate ones as long as it is compatible with your drone’s battery requirement. LiPo batteries are recommended for drones as they are rechargeable, output more power, and can be more efficient.

Camera

Popular drones may already have a built-in camera but some may require to mount your own action camera such as a GoPro Karma and the 3DR Solo. Popular drones have camera specs that allow you to capture HD photos and videos with resolutions from 720p up to 4K.

Gimbal

A mechanical camera stabilisation system that lets you get smooth video and sharp photos even with fast movements or in high winds.

Obstacle Avoidance

Some drones such as the DJI have a built-in obstacle avoidance system that allows them to detect and maneuver around obstacles that could cause them to crash.

Follow Me

A feature that allows a drone to automatically follow a subject, typically using a GPS signal from a mobile device or remote control.

Headless Mode

Intended for beginner pilots, using this mode means the drone will always travel forward, backward, left or right when moving your remote’s stick in those directions, regardless of which way the front of the drone is pointed.

Integrated GPS

Lots of drones nowadays come with built-in GPS systems that help you monitor the location of your drone and can even allow you to program the drone’s flying route.

Auto Return Home

A helpful safety feature that allows the drone to fly back to the pilot’s location or starting point.

Brushless Motor

Though more expensive alternative than their brushed counterparts, drones with brushless motors are more efficient, last longer and are quieter.

Know the Lingo

Knowing the drone lingo and abbreviations can help you understand the type of drone and its features. Here are some you’ll come across the most when choosing what drone to buy.

  • Ready-to-fly (RTF): A drone that is ready to fly out of the box and requires little to no assembly.
  • Almost-ready-to-fly (ARTF or ARF): May require some minor assembly and additional equipment such as a receiver (Rx) and a radio transmitter (Tx) aka a radio controller.
  • Bind-n-fly (BNF): These types of drones are essentially RTF drones with a receiver, but does not have a radio controller (bought separately).
  • First-person view (FPV): These types of drones have a video feed direct from the drone’s camera. It can be used for framing your photos or videos as well as piloting. Drone racing pilots usually wear FPV goggles for an immersive flying experience.
  • Return-to-home (RTH): A helpful safety feature that allows the drone to fly back to the pilot’s location or starting point.

Brands

As with all consumer products, make sure you research your options. Read verified consumer reviews of drones online on sites like Amazon.com. Some brands have become household names when it comes to drones. Here are some popular drone brands that manufacture consumer drones you can look into:

Where to Buy Them

A lot of drones are now available online from their respective sites and from other retail sites such as Amazon.com. If you’re not keen on buying your first drone online, you can always go to a physical store such as Noel Leeming so you can see the drone for yourself.

Drone Laws

All drone users must follow the laws laid out by your country’s government, as well as following the policies of whichever local council is responsible for the area you wish to fly in. Abiding by these rules may help you learn flying etiquette and lessen the chance of you getting into any trouble. We recommend reaching out to your local authority to learn more about drone laws that may apply to you. However, here are some common examples of drone laws:

  1. You are allowed to use a drone with a maximum weight of 25 kilograms
  2. Keep the drone in your line of sight
  3. Fly during daylight
  4. Practice safe flying
  5. Have permission from people and property owners you are flying above before flying
  6. Don’t fly higher than  120 meters
  7. Keep at least a 4-kilometer distance from airports and controlled airspace
  8. Don’t operate in No-Fly Zones

Make sure to follow these rules and guidelines as you could get hit with a fairly hefty fine, and that’s never fun. Some laws may have been updated, so for the best safety measure, contact the administrations or the local councils of the areas you plan on flying in.

Join A Drone Community

You can find reliable drone communities or forums online that can help you know more about drones, some tips, and tricks, tutorials, and also see footage other people are sharing. They can be Facebook groups such as The Flight Club AKL, or threads on Reddit.