Modern drones have numerous possible applications. Capable of recording at high altitude, they can replace helicopters and airplanes in the making of movies and clips, making the creative process more cost-effective. In addition, drones are also used by emergency services for rescue operations, for example to access areas where they would not be able to get in. Using them to search for missing people is yet another possibility.
Of course, a drone can also be of great use in your spare time, as you can take a lot of photos and videos traveling, hiking or even in your garden at home. It can even help you plan and recalibrate your route during hikes or capture stunning images while playing outdoor sports. The weight of the camera-less versions is light, and if you have one of these models, this feature can give you extra flying minutes.
Drones are small, airborne vehicles that you can control with a radio frequency remote control, smartphone or tablet. They move in a helicopter-like style. Their most common type has 4 propellers and some have cameras. Some don’t come with a camera, but they can have a socket on them for placing one. What you should check is whether the camera socket will fit your GoPro or whatever device you use.
A drone doesn’t need any special stabilization, as it stays in the air thanks to the aerodynamic pressure created by the propellers. They rotate continuously, clockwise or counterclockwise. By accelerating or decelerating the rotors, you can change the direction of flight.
The most common types are lifted by 4 rotors in an X- or H-shaped frame. Two of their 4 propellers move clockwise and two counterclockwise. Other common types are hexacopter (with six propellers) and octocopter (eight propellers).
The circular sensor adjusts the rotors, one by one, fully automatically. Gyroscope also measures, for example, the rotation speed of the drone and its pitch angle during adjustment. How can it help you? For example, it is vital for hovering in one place or to remain balanced on vertical and horizontal axes. What’s more, a drone with a gyroscope can hold its course better.
They are designed to protect the rotors, as well as the users. Isolated from the outside world, the rotors are not damaged that much in case of a collision.
It is a joy to watch footage from devices with image stabilization, as the image will not shake. This is made possible by the gimbal and electronic stabilizer. The 3-axis gimbal is a useful device that keeps the camera level and ensures stable footage no matter where the drone is flying and at what tilt angle. This way your photos and videos will be vibration-free.
Drones come with Li-Ion or Li-Pol batteries. Practically both have their pros and cons, and it makes little to no difference which one your drone has.
- You can charge the Li-Ion (lithium-ion) type even if it’s not fully discharged. It is considered a cheap battery that will run down even when not in use.
- The Li-Pol (lithium-polymer) battery is light and has a higher capacity than the Li-Ion type, by about 1/5. But it also discharges faster.
The number of minutes a drone can stay airborne and how many minutes it takes to recharge is marked separately for each device. An acoustic signal usually accompanies the approach of a battery discharge, but it is recommended that you, as the pilot in charge, monitor this data.
If you look it up, you’ll see that the battery capacity is expressed in milliampere-hours (mAh). This data affects the operating time and the length of the flight. For drones intended to complement your hobby, flight lengths of 6 to 40 minutes are most typical. You can extend this time by using a replacement battery.
The remote control of drones is mostly done by buttons and joysticks. Some models now have a touch screen remote control though. Fortunately, in many cases the remote control can be connected to a smartphone or tablet via Wi-Fi.
Of course, the drone can only be operated as far as the range of the remote control. The radio remote control can be operated within a range of 1-3 miles, normally. Within short distances, smartphones and tablets may also be able to control the device. In general, the range of a mini drone will be less than that of a full-size drone.
The material determines not only the frame structure of the drone, but also its weight. Plastic is significantly lighter than carbon and metal, for example. The quality of the material also affects the price of the drone. It can also be said that lighter drones have higher speeds and longer operating times than heavier ones. And outdoor models are reinforced with metal parts to make them more durable.
Read the specifications before you buy a drone with a camera, as there are also cheaper versions available alongside the pro ones. There are two possibilities: either the camera is built into the device or it’s just an optional extra. If you want to do well, go for the full HD resolution (1920×1080 px) model or 4K (3840×2160 px).
Drones equipped with GPS will move more stably because they can measure their position in space. Such a drone will return to you or to a predetermined location when its battery runs out, or at the push of a button. The presence of GPS also indicates where the device is. This can be very useful if the drone accidentally crashes.
All drones include three basic modes. Based on these, you can set the drone to manual mode, automatic mode or hover mode. But the best types also include the following modes:
- FPV. It allows you to control the drone seeing things ‘first-person’ – as if you were in the airplane’s cockpit. The disadvantage is that it is easier to have an accident because of obstacles.
- Hover mode. With this one, you let go of the controls and let the drone simply hover.
- Terrain follow mode. Your drone will maintain a certain height over the terrain below.
- Follow me. This mode lets the drone follow you from a certain distance. You can use it to keep a fascinating travel or hiking log; it’s also the best way to take the best aerial selfies.
- Course lock. Activate it and the drone will follow a fixed course without GPS.
- Home lock. Also without GPS, your drone will follow a course that is actually relative to the point you fixed before take-off.
- Return to home. It’s good to activate this option, because it will ensure that the drone will return to you, i.e. to its starting point.
- Auto land. This mode brings your drone straight to land below. Make sure that the landing surface is level enough.
Tips for beginners
- Watch some videos of your drone in action and the images shot by it before you buy.
- Before using your drone, read the instructions carefully.
- Don’t be afraid of the controls.
- Don’t opt for the GPS-less mode for a while, as it requires more experience than you have in the beginning.
- When you’re just getting familiar with the device, it’s best not to max out the speed, as you’re not acquainted with the drone yet; a high-speed flight can easily backfire.
- Drones for beginners and drones for children are designed to limit the risk of injury or damage. With this in mind, expect such a drone to have a lower flight altitude than a more technically advanced device.
- Always carry at least one spare battery.
Operating a drone makes for a great hobby. It will provide great memories for the future and develop some useful skills. There’s a lot about drones you should know beforehand, but some things you’ll only learn as you fly them.
And keep in mind that sooner or later your drone will need repairs. All devices need it one day. At such a moment it is necessary to turn to pros from a good drone repair shop. In this case, everything will go smoothly, and further use of the drone will still be a safe and exciting process.