Looking at all the possibilities before you buy a drone can be a head-spinning task.
They are all different sizes, have different capabilities, flight times and produce different qualities of images.
Our article here will help you with nine crucial trips on what to look for before you buy your ‘eye in the sky’.
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9. Why You Have to Know the Rules
You may want to be famous for drone photography. But I doubt you want your name attached to a situation where your drone endangers people’s lives.
Before you buy a drone, make sure you are aware of all the rules and regulations.
If you are unable to stick to them for whatever reason, it may not be a viable purchase. Each country has different rules and regulations. They even have general rules on safe flying.
Here are a few things you need to be aware of:
- Register your drone with the FAA.
- Stay at least 5 miles away from all airports.
- Don’t fly more than 400 feet above the ground.
- Don’t fly over people without permission.
- Don’t fly over government facilities.
- Don’t fly in national parks.
- Don’t fly over private property.
- Don’t fly over fires or crime scenes.
8. Easy to Fly, Easier to Crash
Many people think that drones are difficult to fly. In reality, they are pretty easy. If you have a mobile device, then you are more than capable of flying a drone.
However, just because they are easy, doesn’t mean they are foolproof. Even the most advanced devices need some advance knowledge.
As long as you understand a few basic concepts, it could save your drone from getting damaged, or worse, lost. The onboard sensors are there for exactly this reason.
One common sensor that is prone to interference is the GPS receiver. This receiver tells your drone where it is. If this sensor doesn’t receive a good signal, bad things happen.
Another one that can cause problems is the compass. Knowing how these work will keep your drone safe.
7. Android or iOS
Whether you have Android or iOS could determine which drone is better for you. Some drones can be controlled with your mobile device rather than drone-specific controllers.
This can be convenient, even saving you money. Unless you have an outdated model. In that case, you will need to upgrade to download the necessary software.
If you do need to upgrade, find out which mobile device will work with the drone model and keep that in mind.
6. Intelligent Functions
Drones are expensive. Good drones are even more financially straining. This isn’t just down to image size and a good flight control system. It’s because they all come with intelligent functions.
Some drones can track you as you move. Others follow waypoints, take selfies with gesture following and much much more. Every drone manufacturer creates devices with very different and unique features.
For example, the Mavic Pro’s camera turns 90° to support vertical shooting. The Phantom 4 Pro comes equipped with a mechanical shutter to cut distortion when shooting objects moving at high speeds.
The professional-grade Inspire 2 supports dual-operator control.
5. Flight Time Isn’t as Important as You Might Think
Most photography drones can’t fly longer than 30 minutes. There is no solution to this yet, as bigger batteries need more power.
If a drone has a flight time over 20 minutes long, it’s top-level and professional.
A longer flight time is better, as it means you don’t have to keep starting and stopping.
With a longer flight time, you are able to photograph higher and further from your base.
4. Mounted Gimbals
A gimbal is a device that helps to stabilise the drones’ onboard camera. Without it, your images and videos will be shaky and unusable. A mounted gimbal is much better than gimbals that come as accessories.
The DJI Phantom series is the first consumer drone series to be equipped with a 3-axis gimbal. Most come with the onboard gimbal, but check beforehand.
If you aren’t looking to capture videos, time-lapse images or long exposures, this is not be important.
3. Can It Hover Perfectly Still?
If you have never owned a drone before, the concept of hovering will be new for you. Stable hovering is as important as image quality. It dictates how well the drone can capture aerial images.
If a drone cannot hover, it will constantly rise and fall, drift from side to side. This means blurry, out of focus images. For a drone to hover steadily, it will need an advanced flight control system and onboard sensors.
Many people hold a torch to DJI drones. They consider them above-and-beyond the best drones on the market.
They do hover incredibly well, especially the DJI Spark.
2. RAW and DNG Possibilities
You’ll spend quite a bit of money on a high-quality photography drone. Chances are you’ll also want the images you capture to be the best they can be.
This is where RAW and DNG file formats come into play.
To have the best possible quality in your final image, you will most likely need to edit your shots. Having the capacity to shoot in RAW means a bigger file, filled with more information.
This allows more stops of play when you import your images into Lightroom or Photoshop.
Basically, RAW and DNG files offer more possibilities. They give you better and higher quality images.
1. Image Quality Is Important
You already know that image quality is directly linked to the sensor. This also applies to drone photography.
Looking at the drone market, you will see the very popular DJI Mavic Pro uses a 1/2.3” sensor with 12 megapixels. This sensor size is almost twice as large as the iPhone 7’s 1/3” sensor.
Other photography drones, such as the professional Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 have increased the sensor size to 1”. This improves the resolution to 20 megapixels.
The most powerful photography drone, the Inspire 2 (Zenmuse X5 camera), uses a 4/3” CMOS.
A larger CMOS allows you to capture high-quality images in low-light conditions. The bigger the sensor, the higher the resolution and the better the quality of the images.
Follow these points when choosing which drone to buy.
Make sure it fits your photography needs, but don’t automatically go for the most expensive option.