My First Drone of 2015

My First Drone

Before we start lets clear up a misconception that has been perpetuated by the media. A true drone is an autonomous aircraft that, with the use of the Global Positioning System (GPS), can fly on its own from point A to point B and back. What we will be talking about here are Remote Controlled (RC) aircraft. For the sake of consistency I will refer to these RC aircraft as drones.Traditionally, there have been two types of aircraft in the RC hobbyist community, airplanes and helicopters. Learning to fly these types of RC aircraft was time consuming and tended to be an expensive endeavor. Until the hobbyist got the hang of operating his aircraft trying to make it do something specific, such as a loop, turn or even a landing resulted in a crash. These crashes often resulted in some type of damage that needed to be fixed before the aircraft was airworthy again.With the introduction of the quadcopter drone into the aircraft mix, the RC community now had access to a durable and very forgiving drone that was much simpler to operate and less expensive to repair when damaged. Not all drones are alike and novice operators need to be mindful of this when choosing their first drone.


Drones range in price from about $40 to well over $10K, the difference in price being how much power it can produce and the operating electronics on board. Choosing a specific model depends on what your looking to do with the drone. On the low end, you will have models that are flown by line of sight, just like traditional RC aircraft, models that utilize a smart phone or tablet with the manufacturers operating application (App) to operate the aircraft rather than a dedicated remote control.

For a first time user the best starter model would be something along the lines of a Parrot AR.Drone 2.0. This is probably one of the most robust RC quadcopters available today. The Parrot can be found new for under $450 and is ready to fly once the App has been downloaded and the tablet or smart phone paired with it. It includes a 720p video camera which streams live images back to your phone or tablet as well as recording them for later viewing. The best part of the Parrot is that it is easy to operate, very robust and easily repaired. It also includes space internally for optional upgrades including a GPS based flight recorder. The flight recorder allows the Parrot to be flown by setting a course on a map and then directing it to return home on its own.

If you are ready to dive into the drone hobbyist community then remember that it is an RC aircraft. What you plan for it to be used for will play a significant role in deciding which model is best suited for you. Before you go for the high end models, spend some time working with the less expensive models to hone your flying skills. This will go a long way in reducing the cost of operating the more expensive model by making sure you are ready to enjoy it.