Get Your First Drone in 9 Simple Steps
Would you agree with me if I tell you that most beginners hesitate to get their first drone simply because they don’t have the right information to do so?
Who would say that entering into the fascinating world of drones and RC aviation gadgets is such of a hassle. And the thing is, believe it or not, that lots of people have had a bad experience with their first drone simply because they either followed the wrong guide to do so, or don’t have any idea of what to look for when buying a drone.
You can find a lot of places online saying they’ve done all the research for you and come up with a list of the top 10 drones in the market, however, I’m going to throw a bomb here: That is not real, is not possible.
Why, you ask?
It is true that certain gadgets perform better than others for the majority of people, for the average pilot. However, and especially in the case of a beginner, you are not the average pilot, you are a beginner who wants to spend as little as possible and still get the best for your money, right?
That is why today we are going to touch base on the things that nobody wants to say about drones, but can help you save a bunch of money and time. And here is the first one to state the tone clear of this post: drones are also cheap and fun gadgets that everybody can enjoy, and this guide will show you exactly what to look for in order to get the best for you.
Full disclosure here about your first drone
Noticed how I said that drones are also cheap and fun gadgets? That is because drones can also be neither cheap nor fun to play with, if you do things in the wrong way.
It is true that some of the best drones in the market are above $1000 USD. That is not cheap. Also these drones require other specialized gear to work at 100% of its capacity.
For the beginner pilot, I would never recommend to go with one of these, because not only you’ll be spending huge money, but also, if you crash, that’s where all the fun goes down.
Now you know and you can’t say you weren’t warned. If you are a beginner with a big budget, take that path only at your own risk.
What should a beginner do to start with drones then?
Well, in the case of a beginner, here is the best way (in my opinion) to do things: Get one of the plenty of options available of cheap drones for beginners (I’m talking about drones under 100 USD).
These drones should be high quality and decent enough to provide you with the right flight experience. Also, your piloting skills will be developed, which is crucial for when you get a higher-budget device (In 99% of the cases, it is the lack of these skills which leads to crashing a drone).
There are many advantages of going this way with drones, but the most obvious one is that you won’t be tearing your wallet to get one of these.
What should I look for when buying my first drone?
There is still a chance that you don’t like the models other people recommend, and that by doing your own research, you see a model that is visually appealing to you.
If this is the case, then there is a set of things I want you to do before hitting the buy now button. These are what in my experience will make it of brake it for you. In fact, there are 9 super simple but yet effective things I always do before taking any decision.
Here they are so that you can do the same and get the best for your money.
An expanded view of how to buy a drone for beginners
Here is a bit more detail on the steps mentioned in the infographic. The intention is to help you understand the basic aspects you have to look for when buying a drone.
Predefine your budget
Start with a round number for your budget. This should be a broad idea of the amount of money you are willing to spend. At first it may appear like this is the price tag plus tax of your gadget, but we are about to discover that there are other things to consider.
This is why right now we are just pre-defining a budget, and as we move through the process, we’ll fine-tune this number.
Define your needs
It is very important to decide what is your purpose with this drone. Do you want it for racing? Aerial photography? Landscaping? Just to have fun?
Many times, people are not interested in taking pictures or video with a drone, and if this is your case, you should be looking for a drone without camera, since the camera increases the cost.
This is just an example of why deciding ahead of time your purpose with drones can help you save money, time, and energy when buying one.
Truth is that most people are crazy about drones just because of the camera attached to them.
The opportunity to see the world from above is closer than never before. But like I said, cameras increase the drone price, so be sure to consider this when deciding which drone to buy.
If a camera is a must for you, a gimbal may also be required, which is a piece of equipment that helps to increase the image quality by absorbing the vibration of the drone.
If this is your case, probably one of the best drones under 200 dollars is a better option for you.
Most drones today come with a built-in camera, however, some models may carry different types of cameras, so it is important you check this while doing your research of a specific drone model.
These days, batteries give very little flight time, compared with the period you have to wait for these batteries to recharge. In most cases, you’ll get 6 – 9 minutes of flight, and spend 90 – 120 minutes charging the battery.
This is one of the biggest downsides of drones, but batteries with a different technology have not been developed yet, at least not commercially.
The best cure for this problem is to buy extra batteries, which are super affordable and can be easily swapped. So for your budget, include the cost of extra batteries as well.
Crashes will occur
This is true for every beginner pilot. Inevitably, crashes will happen and each one will bring a unique lesson to hone your piloting skills.
However, there is a lesson that may not be as visible as the ones you’ll learn from your crashes. Once a hard hit breaks a piece of your drone, you’ll be looking for spare parts.
At that moment, you may realize the vendor does not sell parts separately for fixes, rather, they only sell complete units.
I’ve heard this story many times, and it happens more often than you think.
That is why you have to include spare parts in your budget, and actually, buy them right when you buy your drone.
If you discover spare parts are not available, run from it, that device is not a good deal.
RTF or ARF or BNF???
These acronyms refer to the type of device you are getting. The labels are present in the boxes and in the product descriptions online.
An RTF device comes Ready To Fly out of the box, which means once the battery is charged, the drone is ready to use.
An ARF drone comes Almost Ready to Fly, so a bit of assembly will be required before being able to operate the drone.
The BNF are the trickiest ones. Bind aNd Fly, which means the drone does not include a transmitter (remote control) inside the box.
Thus, you are required to have one to operate the drone. In many cases, this transmitter can be your smartphone, so be sure to check this before buying a BNF model.
This is one of those steps you can’t skip. Even when most people do read reviews and check comments, most beginners do not have a criterion to sort through these opinions.
First of all, make sure the item has at least 80% acceptance rate (4 out of 5 stars) minimum.
I always tell people to buy drones with at least 20 review. Less than 20 with high acceptance rate and you could be seeing manipulated reviews.
If you insist in getting a drone with less than 20 opinions, then check to see if bad reviews are present.
If not, comments may be manipulated. Many eCommerce sellers pay people for submitting fake comments to their product pages.
In my opinion, a good device earns genuine reviews from people who test them. These genuine reviews are long and thorough, and while not all comments will be like that, a few will be.
This is the unequivocal signature of a drone that is earning good comments because of its quality.
Finalize your Budget
It’s time to fine tune your budget and prepare to make your choice. At this point, you should have a few models you are interested in.
Make sure you have included everything this process mentioned in terms of costs (extra batteries, spare parts, registration fees, gimbal if needed, and any other accessory that your application requires) and prepare to hit the buy now button.
This is the final step before making the call. Just make sure you read enough reviews and checked for authenticity. Finalize your budget and get ready to start your journey in the world of drones.
Final words from the Author
Up to this point, I’ve made my best to share everything I know to help you choose the best drone for you.
This process has been tested over and over and as you can see in the infographic, it was developed considering many experts’ advice.
Hopefully you’ll have fun with this. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.
About the author
Jose Lozano is the owner and chief editor of RC Hobbies on Air. A website dedicated to share honest reviews and thoughtful posts about drones and other RC aviation gadgets. The intention is to help enthusiast pilots start in the best possible way their journey with RC helicopters, planes, and drones. When Jose is not having fun with drones, he likes to read about spirituality, businesses, marketing, and spend time with his family.