Last updated: August 14, 2021

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Until recently, flying a drone was an experience for people willing to spend considerable sums of money, but over time this niche has become more accessible.

We know that buying a drone can be intimidating if you're new to drones, so we've gathered all the important information, top-rated reviews and common questions to create this buying guide, where you'll find all the information you need to choose the best drone for you.




Summary

  • Drones are aerial vehicles that can be piloted remotely or programmed to fly on their own. They can be piloted from smartphones, tablets, computers or using specialised controls.
  • You can find these devices in large sizes, ideal for transport, or in small sizes, more suitable for taking to remote locations and filming footage from above.
  • Be sure to study and know your local drone laws, and it's also a good idea to join drone hobbyist groups in areas near your community.

The best drone: Our picks

Buying guide: What you need to know about drones

Buying guides exist to guide your purchasing decisions and ensure that the outcome is always satisfactory. This guide is no exception, and after reading it you will know exactly the profile of the ideal drone for you.

The perfect drone will give you a lot of fun. (Photo: choreograph / 123rf)

What is a drone?

A drone or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is any aircraft that does not need a pilot on board to be piloted. Drones are piloted remotely using wireless controllers, computers, tablets and smartphones, and can also be programmed to fly themselves, follow specific routes or to assist the pilot while flying.

Drones come in different shapes and designs, with 4-propeller drones being the most recognisable on the market, as they are the easiest to learn to fly and land. They were initially limited to military use as reconnaissance and attack vehicles due to their high cost.

As time went by and technologies became cheaper, they found their way into the hands of civilians and now there is an endless number of brands that offer this equipment at different prices, as they seek to land in the budgets of anyone who wants to fly.

Advantages
  • Drones with cameras allow aerial shots to be taken
  • they are portable
  • they can be programmed to follow routes
  • they can be used to transport things from one place to another
  • they are stable
Disadvantages
  • They can be dangerous in the hands of inexperienced people
  • they require practice to be piloted
  • they usually have limited battery life
  • they can be intercepted by hackers

Small or large drones?

Drone sizes and designs vary widely, as companies seek to create models that suit the needs and tastes of buyers, so it should come as no surprise if you find that when it comes to buying a drone, there are small models that are just as eye-catching as large models.

When you want a drone for relaxed flying that you can count on to take great aerial shots without worry, it's best to go for a large drone. Their powerful propellers allow for stable flights and their large batteries give them more flight time, giving you the ideal conditions to take carefree photos and videos.

When looking for the best drones for kids you will find many small models, as these are cheap and agile, ideal for making a small purchase that won't hurt too much if it gets damaged. Whether you want to buy a drone to learn to fly or one that you can carry with you everywhere you go, a small drone will be your ideal purchase.

Small drones Large drones
Portability Very portable, can be carried comfortably Uncomfortable to carry
Stability Unstable in bad weather Very stable
Battery Low autonomy High autonomy
Quality of cameras Not professional Can be professional
Travel capacity Can't carry weight Can carry a few kilograms

How much do drones cost?

Drones have widely varying price ranges. The factors that most influence price are design, battery life, flight capability and some additional features such as the quality of the camera or its software, which enables things like flight path tracking, obstacle recognition or autonomous landing.

It's always a good idea to join communities of drone pilots, where they can recommend models, so you can search for videos of their flight online and buy them if you like them. (Photo: David Henrichs /unsplash.com)

Buying criteria

The drone market has just begun to emerge, it is normal not to know well each of the features that can help you make a better buying decision, so we took into account the most common doubts and created this list with the most important features to consider when buying drones.

Size and manoeuvrability

The manoeuvrability of a drone depends on factors such as its size, weight and design. Larger drones tend to be less agile than smaller ones, but they compensate for this with stability during flight and resistance against adverse winds.

If you are a parent looking to buy a drone for inexperienced children, it would be best to go for a small or medium-sized drone that is sturdy and easy to manoeuvre.

In case you are a videographer who needs to take aerial shots or someone who wants to start with a model to fly outdoors, it is better to go for a larger drone, as its superior stability and flight time will help you in your purpose.

Take the limits of your drone very seriously, things like reception distance and maximum height are factors that every pilot should be aware of at all times, as this will prevent many accidents.

Drone models with gps and assisted flight technologies are easier and safer to operate. (Photo: asoggetti /unsplash.com)

Battery life

Flight time is the most limiting factor for drones, as they can only achieve flight times ranging from 5 to 10 minutes in the case of beginner drones, while professional drones have flight times ranging from 15 to 30 minutes.

If you plan to use your drone for extended periods of time, it's best to buy extra batteries so you don't fall short when flying, as you don't want to travel to a good flying spot and then sit around between battery charges. Plan your flights with your remaining battery time in mind, so you won't come up short on the return flight or miss shots due to lack of batteries

Camera

On cheaper drones the cameras are often just accessories that you can leave out, this will give you a little extra flight time if you don't plan to take photos or video during your flight.

Drones for photography usually have cameras of 12 megapixels or more and are capable of taking videos up to 4K resolution. Some drones come with a gimbal or gimbal that gives them extra stability for better quality shots during flight. They can also include mounts to attach sports cameras such as GoPro.

GPS and autonomous flight functions

The top end of drones tend to have a GPS system

The best drones on the market usually have an integrated GPS system with which you can plot flight paths for the drone to follow or indicate a return position in case you lose contact with it, as well as being able to track its position at all times, something very useful in case something goes wrong and you want to look for your drone at its last known position.

Some drone models have recognition and tracking systems

Some drone models have recognition and tracking systems, as well as collision avoidance technology to avoid collisions with trees, walls, vehicles and people. If you're a sports fan and want a drone to record you while you're practising or riding your bike or skateboard, a drone with these options will work great for you.

Additional features

Since we've covered everything important to consider, here's a list of a few extra things you'll want to keep in mind while shopping for a drone, they're not very influential purchasing factors, but we think they're worth keeping in mind.

  • Wireless compatibility: Some drone models can be paired with smartphones, tablets and computers to be controlled remotely or to view camera footage. The experience is not as good as a dedicated controller, but it will be useful for emergencies.
  • Portability: As you may know, most commercial drones are very small in size, making them easy to carry in a bag. In the case of larger drones, some have foldable parts that allow them to be made smaller for easy storage and transport.
  • Drone laws: Until a few years ago drones were in a sort of legal zone of blurred lines. Now many entities have started to take legal measures to make pilots more responsible when flying, so it's a good idea to find out about local drone laws before flying them.
  • Communities: If you want to start with some "street smarts" it is best to join a drone hobbyist group. These communities can help you keep up to date with local laws, the best flying areas and even help you control your drone and give you information on maintenance, repairs and flying tips.
  • Controls and accessories: You can find spare parts for your drone in the event of a crash, and one of the most shared tips in communities is to buy spare batteries. You can also buy additional controls in case the one you own feels uncomfortable in your hands.

(Featured image photo: Dmitry Kalinovsky / 123rf)

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