Buying a drone can be a daunting task, believe us we know. Depending on who and what you are buying it for it can be a significant investment. But more importantly, you want to get the right drone for what you want it to do!
Here is our handy ‘drone-buying guide’ to help you pick the right drone for 2017.
We’ve broken our drone picks down into the function. There is drone out there to suit every from a professional operator to a budding photographer looking to add a new dimension to their portfolio! Or maybe you are just thinking of buying a drone for fun, we’ve found something for everyone.
Key Drone Terms to Know When Buying a Drone
RTF = Ready To Fly so no further outlay is required to get the drone in the air.
BNF = Bind ‘N Fly which means the buyer will need various other equipment to fly the drone. In the case of FPV racers, this would amount to a further £500+ outlay for the Vortex (Transmitter, goggles, batteries, charger).
For the Beginner / Indoor Drones (yes indoor)
If you are looking for something to start out flying drones with then look no further than the excellent Horizon/Blade Inductrix. Unlike most other drones in this category, the Inductrix features both self-levelling and “Acro” modes which can be selected via the RC controller. What this means is you can start in self-levelling to get the basics of flying down and switch to Acro when you start getting more adventurous.
Acro mode is much more difficult to master as the quad will not self-level when you release the sticks – it just keeps going until the pilot gives a corrective input. Flying in Acro on this little guy is a blast and will keep even the most seasoned pilot entertained for hours on end and is robust enough to deal with the punishment of flying indoors.
Cost: £44.99 BNF or £57.99 RTF
This drone is something of an evergreen in the beginner/ 1st drone market is the Hubsan X4. Whilst you are not going to produce a Hollywood blockbuster with it, it does feature a camera for taking pictures and video (though no live video feed). The X4 features stabilisation and self-levelling which make it ideal for noobs and keeps coming back for more, crash after crash. Flips & rolls are possible although these are performed as an automated function – there is no Acro mode on this drone.
Cost: £49.99 RTF
For the Serious Hobbyist: SEMI-PRO CAMERA DRONES
Whether it’s for you, or someone you love, then you won’t go wrong with either of these amazing drones. The newly released Phantom 4 Professional takes the already competent Phantom 4 and adds a camera! Already this is a quantum leap in terms of quality in the consumer/ semi pro-drone market. Whilst the Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 (not pro) and Inspire X3 cameras (among others) all share the same small 1 over 2 thirds inch image sensors (similar to those found in phone cameras), the Phantom 4 Pro uses a massive (by comparison) 1 inch Sony sensor as found in their high-end RX100 compact camera (the latest version of which retails for £1000!).
The lens is also greatly improved featuring variable aperture (f/2.8 – f/11) and variable focus. Thanks to these new improvements, filmmakers are offered far greater dynamic range, low light handling and the ability to achieve more cinematic shots by shooting at wide apertures to give a shallower depth of field (which is also helped greatly by the large sensor). Its 360-degree obstacle avoidance system is a welcome addition for less experienced pilots or for those wishing to smell the trees without actually kissing them!
In summary, whilst not as portable as the Mavic (see below), the greatly improved camera will put it on the top of must have drones for those who value the quality of output over outright convenience (we want one!).
Cost: £1589 RTF
DJI Mavic Pro – the Unicorn of the drone world
The DJI Mavic Pro is a formidable package for getting great aerial footage and stills when you simply can’t manage the bulk of a larger drone. Even a DJI Phantom is a bulky proposition when faced with carrying it up a mountain (no seriously we’ve done that) or when your mode of transport is a bicycle.
The camera is decent enough to get good 4K footage. To put that into perspective, it shoots video and stills of equal quality to the Inspire 1 with the X3 camera – the combination which we used for professional work before we upgraded to the X5R camera! How times are changing!
Buy it if you can get a hold of it, it’s a game changer!
Cost: £1099 RTF
For the Casual Drone User / for fun!
So if you are new to drones or want to get one for someone who might like them then this is for you! Here we focus on the fun, the application and the price.
Parrot Bebop 2/ FPV – The Selfie Drone!
The Parrot Bebop 2 is a fun feature rich “selfie drone” capable of 25-minute flights and full HD video. Since it doesn’t have a gimbal to stabilise the camera it relies only on digital processing to smooth the video. This drone is aimed not at filmmakers but at those who are looking for something that’s easy to fly, relatively inexpensive and fun. It features some clever flight modes including auto-tracking so the drone will follow you automatically tracking your movement making for some great selfie moments.
It also features a live video feed to your phone which also acts as the controller, and has the option to purchase an FPV headset, so you can really immerse yourself in the action.
Cost: £399.00 RTF or £499.99 with goggles
Priced similarly to the Bebop 2, we have the Phantom 3 Standard edition from DJ here at LA Media. While this drone lacks the smart flight modes of the Bebop 2 (such as auto tracking), the Phantom 3 standard has the upper hand when it comes to image quality thanks to its 3 axis stabilised gimbal and 2.7k video capability.
For more experienced pilots who want reasonable quality video on a tight budget, the Phantom 3 Standard is the way to go.
Cost: £449.99 RTF
FPV RACERS – For Those with the Need, the Need for Speed
The FPV drone market is, without a doubt, the most complicated to make a solid recommendation on. This is due to the fact that most pilots build their own using a seemingly infinite combination of different components. So our recommendations are therefore based on those FPV Drones that are bought ready to fly – a wise suggestion for someone new to the FPV Drone racing scene.
For the great outdoors – ImmersionRC Vortex Pro 250
For an out-of-the-box FPV drone, the Vortex 250 Pro is a definite winner. Everything on this racer has been designed to work together which results in a flying experience without any of the hassle associated with building & tuning it yourself. Every feature you need is there, including a very nice on screen display (OSD in drone speak) and it has the option to choose pre-programmed flight characteristics to suit your style. Of course, you can still manually tweak things to your liking (PIDs, RC rates etc ???) to get exactly the feel you’re after.
The Vortex 250 Pro is one of the most robust drones you’ll find and withstands punishment extremely well – we’ve seen a YouTuber who flew his drone at full speed (~70mph) into a tree and only broke the propellers!
Our resident drone pilot John Banks can vouch for its durability as he has personally smacked his into the ground a multitude of times with no damage. Believe us if John says it can survive a good thump then you can Bank on it (sorry a hideous attempt at humour….get it Banks…bank?).
Cost: £369.99 BNF
For the indoor racer Horizon/ Blade Inductrix FPV
The Horizon/ Blade Inductrix FPV is basically an Inductrix (see above) with beefed up motors and a factory fitted FPV camera. The birth of the Inductrix FPV came about through FPV pilots buying the standard Inductrix and mounting an aftermarket FPV camera… this was the birth of the “TINY WHOOP”.
Horizon obviously saw a gap in the market so started producing their own camera-equipped version… it was an instant success. The “Tiny Whoop” indoor racing scene seems to be gaining at least as much momentum as the regular FPV scene and for good reason – it’s ridiculously fun and addictive.
Cost: £85.99 BNF or £164.99 RTF
Of course, there are many, many more drones out there to choose from. It feels like new models are being released every other day. If we tried to keep up with the pace of new drones on the market, we would be writing this article indefinitely.
If we haven’t recommended anything you fancy, remember a little bit of research will greatly help narrow the choice depending on the needs and expectations of you, the consumer. However, we feel that we’ve given you a nice selection to start with.
If you feel strongly that we’ve missed something, please let us know in the comments and please share your drone thoughts with us. Wither it’s your first drone or fifth drone we really hope this guide helps you with buying a drone!
We hope you’ve found this blog helpful! Let us know what you think in the comments, tell us if we’ve missed something out. If you enjoyed this blog don’t forget to follow us on: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for you daily dose of media & drone chat!
*The current Hubsan website is currently down which is why instead we’ve linked it to amazon where you can still purchase this drone.