Do you wish you could see the world from the perspective of a drone? Even though drones can offer a brand-new view of the world, it’s an expensive hobby for a beginner to invest in. There are plenty of things people don’t expect, including the cost and hassle of registering your drone with the local aviation authorities.
But not to worry — you can start flying the friendly skies for only a few hundred dollars and look stylish while doing so. A great starter drone model is the ultra-compact and user-friendly DJI Mini 2.
What to know before you buy a drone for beginners
Drone weight and registration requirements
Before purchasing a beginner drone, you should be aware of any legal requirements that come with owning and operating a drone in your country. For example, the United States requires any drone operator to complete pilot registration, specifically those who use drones that weigh more than 250 grams, or 0.55 pounds. This registration process may put a damper on your drone plans.
In the United States, you must also register your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration and pay a $5 fee per drone to obtain a three-year certificate. You must also be at least thirteen years old to do so. And commercial drone pilots must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate, which you must be at least sixteen years old to obtain. All pilots must be able to control the drone and be able to speak, read and write English. Finally, they must pass the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG) aeronautical knowledge exam. You must take this exam within two years of completing the online training course.
Every drone needs a registration number which must be marked and labeled. If you fail to register your drone, you could be liable for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in civil and criminal penalties. This could also include up to three years of jail time.
Recreational or commercial use
Another important thing to consider is whether you plan on using your new drone as a hobby or as a means of making some income. If you’re flying for fun, you can engage in as much drone flight as your heart desires. But be aware that the definition of recreational flight is very specific.
For example, if you decided to use your drone to film your local high school’s football game for their social media page, that’s considered a non-recreational usage. The same would also apply for activities like a professional roof inspection or taking photos to sell real estate. Even if you don’t charge for the use of the drone, authorities may consider it as an in-kind or Goodwill donation. So, be careful to avoid any accidental legal issues.
Drone for beginners features
While there are several legal limits for how and where you operate your drone, the drone itself has its own operational limits. Depending on the rotor power, the signal strength and limits of its remote control, the range of a drone can be anywhere from 30 meters to over six miles.
As with all battery-powered devices, you should always know how long your drone will take to recharge and get back in action. The battery quality determines how long your drone can remain in flight as well as how quickly it recharges.
For those with aerial photography in mind, your drone’s camera quality determines much of what you can capture mid-flight. Depending on your budget, you could equip your drone with anything from a glorified webcam to a full-blown 4K camera. You can also add a gimbal and a full range of settings to adjust the shutter, exposure and much more.
If your drone happens to lose its way during flight, a pilot-assist feature can come in handy. If your drone has an onboard GPS tracker, it can track your progress on the ground or return home when experiencing low battery. Other examples include sonar distance sensors and collision-avoidance technology.
Drone for beginners cost
Depending on the desired features, a drone for beginners typically costs between $100-$500 and increases swiftly from there.
What are the drone flying requirements in my area?
A. You are allowed to operate drones without any specific authorizations as long as you stay under 400 feet in elevation and remain in uncontrolled airspace. Check with your local and municipal authorities for any requirements that are specific to your area.
Where can I find the FAA’s drone registration requirements?
A. All the information you need on how to become a recreational or commercial drone pilot can be found at the FAA’s website for drone pilots of all stripes.
Which drone for beginners should I get?
Best of the best drone for beginners
DJI Mini 2: available at Amazon
Our take: A foldable, ultra-lightweight drone with an amazing range and incredible camera.
What we like: It has a 10 kilometer or 6.2-mile range with professional-grade camera settings and is compatible with virtually every modern smartphone.
What we dislike: The drone’s performance may suffer in strong gusts and there is no significant improvement in hardware from the DJI Mavic Mini.
Best bang for your buck drone for beginners
Ryze Tech Tello – Mini Drone Quadcopter UAV for Kids: available at Amazon
Our take: An excellent drone for any young person interested in drone piloting.
What we like: The 5-megapixel camera is capable of taking pictures and video in HD720 quality.
What we dislike: The batteries run out very quickly, and users have reported issues with the companion apps not working.
Honorable mention best drone for beginners
Potensic T25 Drone with 2K Camera for Adults: available at Amazon
Our take: A great model for those who want a decent camera setup without breaking the bank.
What we like: Customizable flight path functions with “Follow Me” function and hands-free dual GPS. It also comes with a handsome aluminum carrying case.
What we dislike: People have reported issues with battery failure and difficulties detecting the drone on its app.
Daniel Martin is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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