If you are a photographer like me you probably want to try out the world of aerial photography. So if you are looking for a drone, which one is best for you? Its another financial investment minefield and its just like starting out in photography all over again, Nikon or Canon, which one do I buy?
I think when it comes to drones, it’s pretty much down to one choice of manufacturer: DJI. The thing with DJI is they are a longtime established Chinese company but I have to say their customer service record is less than impressive.
So you’ve never flown a drone, you don’t come from the age of video gamers like the kids have today. Do you want to save yourself some heartache? Buy a cheap $50-100 drone and start with that. Play with it, crash it, fix it and fly it again until you get the hang of the hand controller joystick controls and how sensitive they are. Remember, you are not driving a tank, you have to be graceful and make small movements with those joysticks, otherwise you will zoom up, down and hit something hard in minutes of your first flight. You don’t want to invest $800 and crash it in seconds!
Now you have a grasp of flying, just like those Boeing 777 pilots who trained on those small Cessna or Piper planes, you can think about moving onto the bigger “toys”. So which one?
Do you buy a Phantom 3 or 4, a hand sized Mavic or the Inspire 1 or 2? It all depends upon your budget. Your biggest criteria is what do you want it for, stills, video or stills and video. Chances are you will try out a video or two and get hooked. If this is the case, you need to make sure you buy a drone with a 4k or higher video capability.
So if you want small and easily transportable, pick a Phantom 3 Advanced or Pro, they are cheaper than the Phantom 4 but just as good unless are one of those people who must have the very latest technology. Dont buy the Phantom 3 Standard ($500), it has a 2.8k video which is basically useless unless you want it just for fun. If you want interchangable lenses and cameras then look at the Inspire 1 or 2.
You can buy a Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional with a fixed 12mpxl stills camera and 4k video for around $800
and the Inspire 1 with an interchangable Zenmus x3 12mpxl stills camera and 4k video for $1800. If you want the Inspire 2 then expect to pay a lot more. You can add the Zenmus x5 or x7 camera to either the Inspire 1 or 2 which have interchangable lens capability. With this option you are looking at budgeting for around $5000 and more.
One big drawback with all drones is the flying time. A battery will at best give you 15-20minutes flying time. You can do a lot in 20minutes but if you’ve driven many miles to get to a place to fly, you might want to invest in a couple of extra batteries – Look to pay around $100-$150 each.
You haven’t stopped their with your spending just yet. If you haven’t already got one, an ipad is a must… remember your camera sends real-time video and you want to see where you are flying and what you are recording…. An iphone 6s Plus is a great option too.
OK, so now you’ve bought your drone. Do you want to fly it for fun or to make money? You’re a photographer, so of course you want to make money. OK you have to register it with the FAA if you are in the US and this bit is free or it was! You will get an aircraft recognition code which you have to place on your drone – just like a Cessna or Boeing plane, and you have got to go to Flight School and pass your commercial operators part 107 license test…..It’s a bi-annual test designed to give you the knowledge of how to operate your drone professionally and safely in most environments.
So now you are good to go….. Well, nearly!
It’s not manditory, but you really need to insure your investment and if you haven’t already got it, public liability Insurance. You can insure your investment against crashes and repair or replace costs with State Farm under the Personal Property Insurance policy (US). Its around $75 for an Inspire 1 but that’s a fraction of what it would cost if you lost it or crashed it.
You are set to go…. Now go fly your drone and have fun….