Drones 101

Thinking About a Drone?

In recent years, drones have become increasingly accessible. Malls, tech stores, and many big box stores have started carrying drones. But before heading out to purchase one, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

The FAA, and What You Need to Know About Safe Flying

One of the first things to consider before purchasing a drone, is having an idea of where you'd like to fly it. As outlined in Safe Flying, there are restrictions on where and sometimes when it is okay to fly a drone. If you happen to live in an area that's a no fly zone, you would not be able to fly a drone in your own backyard, or near your home. If there is a specific park, beach, or recreational area that you have in mind, you need make sure flying is allowed in that area. There are many resources available to help determine if a specific area is a no fly zone. The first step is to take a look at www.knowbeforeyoufly.org and www.faa.gov. There are also free Apps that allow you to see what areas are restricted, and which are safe to fly in, even if you don't own a drone. 

Think you know everything about safe flying? Take the quiz from Know Before You Fly  http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/are-you-ready-to-fly-a-drone

Keep in mind that flying a drone for commercial reasons, or as a Public Entity require you to apply for exemptions. 

Which Drone Is Right For You?

When determining what drone is best for you, it's important to know what you'd like to use your drone for. Many drones have the ability to take pictures and video, but some drones are just for flying. There are also specific drones for racing. If you like a challenge, there are DIY drone kits, so you can build and customize your own drone. If you're not interested in building your own, there are also ready to fly (RTF) drones that don't require additional parts, or assembly. 

Money Money Money

Perhaps one of the largest considerations when purchasing a drone is the cost. Due to the increased popularity of drones, there is not only a large variety available to the public, but lower pricing makes drones more accessible than ever. The first place to research a drone, would be the manufactures websites. There, you can compare the different drones the company offers, compare features, and prices. Once you've narrowed down your search to a couple of manufactures, check with local stores to see if there are drones available for testing. Another great resource are drone forums, and meet-up groups. The drone community is an extremely helpful one, so don't be shy in asking for help, or input. Try to ask a few people, that own different brands so you can have a good feel for the pros and cons of each. Make sure you understand the warranty, and return policy for the drone you'd like to purchase, and keep in mind that you are most likely not covered if you damage your drone. 

 Not only is there the cost for the actual drone to consider, but there are accessories as well. Some drones come with built in cameras, and some must have a camera, such as a Go Pro added onto it. The benefit of a built in camera is ease of use, but when a new drone with a better camera comes out, there's the cost of replacing the entire drone, instead of simply switching out the camera. Make sure you understand if the drone you are looking at comes with a camera, or if you will need to purchase one separately. 

The battery is a key factor in drone flying. Most drone batteries have an average of twenty minutes flight time. The time can vary depending on the drone, and customization that may drain the battery faster. If you would like to fly for an extended amount of time, you should expect to purchase additional batteries. Batteries can also get damaged, so it's important to consider that as well, when deciding how many batteries you need. Usually costing well over $100 extra batteries are a costly item to factor into a budget.

Once you have your drone, you'll have to get it from place to place. There are many options for drone cases and backpacks, offered by manufacturers, as well as independent case makers. Because drones are an investment, it's important to protect it with a proper case or backpack. There are other accessories which are not as costly, but should be considered, such as back up propellers, and propeller guards.  

Now that you have your drone...

You've found the perfect drone. You've taken a look at Know Before You Fly, and are well versed in safe flying, and no fly zones. Here are a few final points to keep in mind. 

  • Be considerate - Even if you are following the proper guidelines, it's always nice to be considerate of neighbors, and people that are around when you fly. If you are flying around your home, and within flight guidelines, it may be a good idea to write your neighbors a note, letting them know they may see the drone around. Drones can be loud, so it's also important to consider if a neighbor has young children, or animals that may be frightened by the drone. 
  • Safety considerations - Propellers on a drone can be dangerous. If you have young children, or pets that are very curious, it's important to make sure you have guards on the propellers. Proper battery storage is also important, as they can become extremely unsafe if damaged. Drone batteries should be stored properly, and all equipment should be checked before and after your flight to ensure everything is working correctly. Before you travel with your drone, be sure to follow requirements if taking your drone onto a plane, train, or whatever type of transportation you may be using. 
  • Read the instructions - Pouring over manuals and instructions may not be fun, especially when you want to get out an fly, but it's important to understand how the drone works.
  • Take advantage of resources - Be sure to check the companies website to see if they have available workshops, or tutorials.
  • Be a good example - I have had many conversations with fellow drone enthusiasts about bad behavior from people that fly drones. It's so important to be considerate, and have good knowledge of flying regulations. At the end of the day, the golden rule is often the best rule. 

Last but not least - Be inspired, and have fun.