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While you may not be able to get your hands on a military-style drone anytime in the near future, you can buy smaller drones or quadcopters. These are fairly inexpensive compared to the price tag that they had just a few years ago and the best part is that they even have the ability to capture crystal-clear video.
Before buying a quadcopter, you must consider the following features or factors.
1. Camera Type
The drone camera type available will be a major consideration. While some models come with their own camera, others will need a product like a GoPro attached to them. Ideally, you will choose a model that comes with its own built-in camera.
Built-in cameras are lighter than most other cameras and they are often more functional.
A few other considerations will be:
- How many megapixels the camera is
- The video resolution given
- Whether or not the camera angle be controlled
- The distance of the camera
If you plan on taking video or pictures when flying your quadcopter, you will need a camera that is more suited to your needs.
2. Controllable Range
The range that you can control the quadcopter is very important. Many only work with a remote distance of 30m. This is the farthest you will be able to control the drone.
Knowing the range may not seem vital for casual users, but if you want to take aerial footage, you will need to know the range at which you can control your drone.
Typically, the more expensive models will have a further range available.
3. Live Feed
Live feed of the video that is being taken is not available with all drones. In fact, quadcopter cameras that have live feed are more expensive but worth every penny. The feed will go over Wi-Fi and can be transmitted to a variety of devices.
Typically, the feed will be either given to a computer, tablet or smartphone. Live feed may also be available right on the controller which is the optimal choice for precise flying.
Controllers that have an LCD display will often have a feed that is sent and allows you to see what the camera is capturing in real-time. If your main purpose is to take aerial videos at parties or of real estate, this may be the most important factor of all.
There are apps for streaming or streaming may be available directly to your tablet, computer or smartphone. These capabilities will vary from one drone to the next. The one benefit to streaming to your computer is that you can capture the video directly without the use of a USB transfer.
When there is not a live feed present, video is often stored on an SD Card or flash drive. This means precise videos will be virtually impossible to take for professional purposes.
4. Battery Life
Battery life is one of the most important factors to consider. Whether the quadcopter is for you or a child, the last thing you want is for your copter to be dead within minutes of use. There are a few considerations pertaining to battery life.
- Charging time. How long will the battery take to charge once it has been depleted? Many models will take 2 hours to recharge, so keep this in mind.
- Battery life. Some copters can fly for 6 minutes and others 12 minutes before needing to be grounded and recharged. Know how long your battery will last before purchasing.
- Replacement batteries. Whether for a spare that can be used when a battery has died or simply if a battery is no longer holding a charge, replacement batteries are essential. Determine if replacement batteries are available and where you can purchase them.
Another factor that will determine the longevity of your battery is how the camera is being charged. Oftentimes, cameras will have their own batteries that they utilize to operate which will extend the flight time of your drone greatly.
5. Height and Speed
Height and speed will be a consideration. This is more of a personal preference that has to be tailored to a user’s specific needs.
If you have a drone that is meant for taking live-action video during a baseball game, you may need to reach a height of 300 feet or so to be able to capture the entire baseball field. However, if you are flying just for fun, 100 feet may suffice.
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Speed is also another consideration. Oftentimes, the speed of a drone will be 10 – 15 miles per hour. However, as stated before, you are confined to the range of your controller. Speed will be a consideration if you need to take video of sport’s games, such as soccer, or you want to follow around your child as they run through the yard to make a family video.
Drone advancements are occurring fast. The high-end models are now being offered with GPS capability, which allows the quadcopter to adjust for wind and even call the helicopter back to its base.
Typically, quadcopter designs are most utilized because they allow for refined control and balance when flying. Weight and dimensions will also be a factor to consider.
The heavier a copter, the more power it will need to fly. However, heavier models typically do better when gusts of wind are present.
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If you want a very smooth flight, you may want to choose a model that comes ready with GPS capability.
7. Replacement Options
Just like any quadcopter or drone, parts may need to be replaced or repaired. Some models will not allow for an easy replacement which means they are virtually useless if anything breaks.
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Instead, you want to make sure that you can buy adequate replacement parts that are easily installed.
The most common replacements are:
- Gears that have worn in the propellers
- Propellers that have been damaged
- Batteries that have lost their ability to charge
You will also want to consider what type of maintenance, if any, will be needed. Oiling the blades may be a necessity to keep your quadcopter in tiptop shape.