The idea of drones has been around for more than a century with the first quadcopter created in 1907, but they’ve come a long way since then. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s to those in the know) are now being used for anything from capturing live events to delivering small parcels.
We are in the midst of a drone revolution. It seems that everywhere you look these flying wonders are zooming around our skies. But with the sheer number of drones on the market nowadays, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Everyone has to start somewhere though, so we have created this guide to make drones a little less overwhelming for the rookie pilots out there.
What is a good drone for beginners?
You don’t have to be an expert flyer to get started with a high-quality drone, but that doesn’t mean you should jump into the deep end and buy an all singing all dancing drone before you’ve had the opportunity to learn the basics. Crashes are common for novices after all. It’s better to go for simplicity over swag with your first drone.
A good choice for beginners is a toy drone (rather than a racing or camera drone), and you will definitely want to start with the popular quadcopter (four propellers) rather than a fixed wing because they are easier to get to grips with. You should also look for ready-to-fly (RTF) models because they have a simpler set up and are some of the best drones to learn on.
Here are the main characteristics to look for in your first drone:
Small and light
This will enable you to take off and land more easily and can even fly indoors
Simple controls and interface so that you don’t get confused
Just in case you have some mishaps in the beginning
This is helpful so that your drone doesn’t drift too much when hovering
Is it difficult to fly a drone?
The short answer is yes, but it’s more complicated than that. The most important thing is learning when and where to fly. Patience is a virtue when it comes to drone flying, and you should always wait for good conditions before you take flight—the wind is not your friend in this instance. Always learn to fly in a wide-open space where there is less likelihood of your drone ending up tangled in a tree or telephone wire if you veer a little off course.
The next thing you are probably wondering is how are drones controlled. Drones tend to have a two-control stick system: one stick controls the climb and rotation of the drone, and the other controls the movement of your drone from left-right and forward-back. Mastering the take-off and landing procedures for the drone is probably the hardest part. There is definitely a learning curve with drone flying, but practice makes perfect, and once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s a breeze.
How much do drones cost?
Drones vary hugely in price, mainly because of the incredible variety available and the different purposes they serve. A high-end camera drone can cost you thousands of dollars, whereas you can buy a toy drone for under 50 U.S. dollars. It all depends on what you want from your drone. Good beginner drones are likely to cost you around the 100-200 dollar mark.
What is an appropriate age to fly drones?
Drones are excellent, fun educational tools, which make them great for kids. There are no legal age restrictions in the U.S. for operating a drone. However, different states and countries might have different age limits, so it’s always important to check. In order to register a drone for recreational flights in the U.S. you have to be 13 years old, but you can get a parent or guardian to register for you. To apply for a professional pilot certificate, you have to be at least 16 years old.
How far can basic drones fly and for how long?
Drones are designed to fly for limited periods of time. Cheaper drones will probably only give you 5 to 10 minutes of flying time, whereas higher quality drones can manage up to 30. The flight time depends on things like battery life and weight of the drone (lighter drones will fly for longer).
The time a drone can fly for obviously impacts the amount of distance it can cover. With an affordable beginner drone, it’s likely that you will get a short range of 100-200 meters, which is a good thing because you can keep your drone in view!
Know the rules
Before flying, it is absolutely vital that you educate yourself on the airspace regulations of your country, and the rules of safe flying. Remember, you are legally responsible when you fly your drone.
Recent FAA rules mean that registration of recreational drones weighing between 0.55 pounds (8.8 ounces) and 55 pounds is mandatory, and you should display your registration number clearly on the outside of your drone. FAA registration is easy, only costs $5, and lasts for 3 years.
Safety and warnings
To close up, here are some tips to keep you and everyone else safe when you’re flying your drone:
- Don’t fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Always follow regulations in your area—remember that legal responsibility lies with you
- Fly in open areas and never fly too close to people, animals, buildings or vehicles
- Don’t fly over crime scenes or fires
- Don’t fly over stadiums and other sports events
- Always keep your drone in sight so that you can avoid other things in the sky
- Keep hold of the control stick at all times so that you don’t lose control
- Make sure that your drone is fully charged and in good condition before taking flight
- Never fly near an airport and keep your drone below 400ft to avoid collisions with an aircraft
- Read your drone manual thoroughly before lift off
- Have fun!