What drone should I buy? No matter which online forum you’ve joined or Reddit thread on drones you dive into, this very question will without fail be tossed into a cage of ravenous drone operators ready to sell you on the virtues of the brand and model that they own. And equally ravenous are those that will chime in to berate the brands or models that they themselves detest. What you are left with are more questions than answers and a hole burning in your pocket from money that wants to be spent on a new flying machine.
You’ve resolved to get that very first drone or upgrade from that AR.Drone that was more of an inside joke between you and a few drunken college buddies. Great. Welcome to 2018, the land of “we don’t yet have a release date” and “wait for the upgrade of (insert name of model here) to be announced as (insert name of brand here) is surely going to have it out by (insert name of drone conference here).” In all seriousness, buying a drone now is great as no matter when you buy it the next version of it or its direct competitor is only a few months away anyway – at any given time of any given year.
The real interest to take into account when thinking about buying a drone isn’t those of anyone on a forum, but rather picking the perfect drone based on your needs and your intent for the drone. And as obvious as that seems and sounds, all too often people get bogged down with the noise of what good drones are available. Instead let’s simplify things and focus your buying based upon your interests such that you can determine exactly which drone is perfect for you and your needs. So ask yourself these questions:
- What is the intended purpose? – Answering this question narrows things dramatically in that if you are looking to get into drone racing, you’ve ignored the aerial photography drones. And your answer here may be “for a business” and then may have you shifting attention to the industrial variety of drones.
- How often will it be used? – This may seem to be an odd question, but really if your plan was to just to fly once a month then you’re better off skipping that $30,000 drone and pocketing the rest for another hobby.
- Where will it be used the most? – Are you the adventurous hiker who throws on a hydration backpack and takes to the trails and what a drone to tag along? If so, portability is going to be key and even that moderate sized non-folding industry leading model is going to end up sitting at home after you take a hike or two and find it just isn’t practical for your lifestyle.
- What feature can you absolutely not forego? – Is that shutterbug in you screaming, “give me megapixels or give me death” or is that practical mother-knows-best voice saying “without obstacle avoidance you’re sure to crash” taking over?
- What is the top end of your budget? – And whatever that number is, be sure to hold back 20% to also allow for grabbing essential accessories – extra batteries, case, filters, cables, SD cards, and did I mention batteries? Yes, more batteries and an extra set of props, why not…
Getting realistic with the answers to those questions is going to narrow your choices dramatically and may get you inclined towards one or two specific models. From there you’ll want to engage with a knowledgeable retailer (and FYI, someone roaming a store in a Blue polo with the letters B E S T B U Y on it isn’t that guy) to help you look at and potentially even test fly a few models to let you come to the right decision and buy that perfect drone.