There has been a steady rise in demand for remote and computer controlled drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in recent years. With so many on the market, suited for different purposes and wallets. The sheer choice available can at first seem a bit daunting.
The many different types drones come in various shapes and sizes. They combine widely ranging features and designs, in some cases for very specific applications. You may well be considering a drone purchase for racing, for photography or recording videos. Or just to have some aerial fun on the weekend with the kids, or your mates. Whether it’s for yourself or a gift, it’s a good idea to do a bit of homework on the world of drones before you buy.
Here’s a list of what’s available on the consumer market to help you find the right drone for you.
Let’s start with the most popular drone on the market. As the name would suggest, quadcopters employ four rotors, one on each corner of the device’s body. It evenly distributes the necessary support for takeoff and manoeuvring making them easy to fly. The design of these drones are headless which offers the benefit of not having to point in a single direction.
Quadcopters tend to be small using batteries and ready to fly (RTF) right out of the box, making them great for beginners. Some will come with a built-in camera, and those that do not will include an HD camera mounting surface.
Flight time will range between 5 and 10 minutes and will depend on weight and battery life.
Using a single rotor, instead of four, these are essentially remote-controlled helicopters, which are most useful if you want to keep them relatively motionless in the air for any amount of time.
They are perhaps not quite as fast and agile as their quadcopter counterparts and, with the inclusion of the head, you’ll need to keep it pointed in the right direction. They are, however, comparably easy to land as they include landing bars, like the full-size version.
GPS compatible drones will carry a higher price tag than those that are not. The capability to link up to satellite GPS signals, via a computer program, allows the drone to identify its destination. Plus crucially, how to return to the point of origin if it flies out of range, your control signal is interrupted, or your device starts to run low on power.
This ‘return to home feature’ is going to be most useful to you, and therefore worth the extra spend, if you are planning to fly your drone on holiday or in wide open spaces where you might loose it. It’s also a great fall-back feature if you are new to drone flying and occasionally struggle to control the device.
Do note that a GPS drone will require a clear sight of the sky to identify GPS signals.
The use of drones has been an exciting development in photography in recent years. They are manufactured with integrated HD cameras. With lens guards to reduce the risk of damage, to capture still images.
They don’t have to be large but do need to be easy to control and keep steady in order to take clear pictures.
The drone control will come with a button for taking pictures, and some may have the capability of linking with your tablet or smartphone, through a WiFi connection, allowing you to see through the camera lens.
Racing drones, with slim builds to reduce wind impact, are designed for speed. Highest speeds range between 40-60 mph, and they require more power than a regular drone.
Their speed also relies on a dedicated radio connection between the drone and the controller to ensure that there is no interference from other signals, which is vital for racing.
These make great gifts. Small and lightweight, they can make quick manoeuvres. Such as flips and rolls. They are ideal for beginners and children to get a feel for flying drones before moving onto the ‘big boys’ toys’.
Some trick drones come with built-in cameras, but don’t expect high-quality images as they tend to be small by necessity.