The Ultimate Drone Buying Guide

17/01/2020 11:08 AM

Drones have changed the game for aerial photography. Previously, you had to hire a helicopter or plane to take aerial photos and videos - but not anymore.


Now, anyone can send a drone soaring into the sky and end up with epic shots. But do you know what drone to buy, and where you can fly it? We answer these questions and more in our guide to drones.


What is a drone?

Drones - or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) - are remote-controlled machines that can fly in the sky. They’re equipped with sensors that detect their surroundings, and sophisticated technology that helps them stay level when they’re in the air. While drones have hundreds of uses, like carrying cargo and tracking wildlife, we’ll be focusing on drone cameras.

 

Most drones are ‘multi-rotors,’ which means they have more than two blades. Quadcopters are the most popular type of drone: they look like helicopters, with four propellers, a transmitter, battery and camera. As the pilot, you manually control where and how fast your drone flies. Quadcopters are easy to manoeuvre, so they’re perfect for aerial photography and videography.

The Ultimate Drone Buying Guide

On the other hand, fixed-wing drones are more like planes in that the wings lift the drone straight up into the air. This type of drone only needs energy to move forward, so they’re great for covering large distances with the limited drone battery life. But since they can’t hover in one spot, they’re not the best choice for landscape photography.


The different types of drones

The Ultimate Drone Buying Guide

There are different drones to suit every budget and skill level. Drones fall into the following categories:

 

  • Indoor or toy drones - These are great entry level drones. They’re affordable, durable, and ideal for learning how to fly without worrying about wrecking your new purchase. Plus, they’re safe to fly indoors. We like the DJI Tello Drone.
  • Selfie drones - Lightweight and portable, selfie drones such as the DJI Mavic Mini Drone can be folded up or stored in your pocket as they are. Mini drones are about the same size as a digital camera, but they can offer you a bird's-eye perspective on every scene.
  • Follow me drones - As the name suggests, these drones are programmed to follow you around. Some follow me drones are equipped with GPS trackers, while others use vision sensors and facial recognition technology (similar to an iPhone). For example, the Gesture Mode on the DJI Mavic Pro allows the drone to follow you as you move, and take your photo with a simple hand gesture.
  • Video drones - Video drones like the DJI Mavic Air are larger, heavier, and designed to capture high-quality video. They usually feature a gimbal, which steadies the drone and reduces camera shake. Thanks to the gimbal, you can pivot the camera to get a unique perspective on your footage. A bigger drone means a bigger battery, and video drones can typically fly for 20 minutes.
  • Professional drones - Professional in name and nature, drones in this category shoot crystal-clear footage and images that are perfect for commercial use. Don’t be fooled by their compact size: professional drones are packed with features that photographers will love. Some, like the DJI Mavic Pro 2, combine an aerodynamic form with omni-directional obstacle sensing, a 31 minute maximum flight time, and a 1” CMOS sensor for stunning images in any shooting conditions.

What to consider when buying a drone

When you’re drone shopping, compare these features:

 

  • Battery life - Most drones last between 10 and 30 minutes in the air. Generally, the more you pay, the more battery life you’ll get. If you want to fly without too many interruptions, invest in spare batteries.
  • Controllable range - High-end models have longer ranges, so you can manage your drone from a further distance.
  • Weight - Lightweight drones are ideal for learning how to fly, but they don’t do well in windy weather. Heavier drones can be harder to manoeuvre, though they have a better camera quality.
  • Camera type - We recommend buying a drone with a built-in camera. They’re lighter and more functional. Now that you’ve refined your search, compare the number of megapixels, video resolution, and whether you can control the camera angle. If you’re a professional or budding photographer, you may want to spend a little more on a drone with superior image quality.
  • Replacement options - To make your life easier, choose a drone with parts that can be repaired or replaced. That way, if something happens to the propellers, batteries or gears, you know your drone will be back in action soon.
  • RAW/DNG format - Do you edit your photos in Lightroom or Photoshop? You’ll want a drone camera that can shoot RAW/DNG photos. They record all the data received by the camera’s sensor, so you’ll have more to work with in post-production.
  • Steadiness - If the drone can’t hover, it’ll rise, fall and drift - leaving you with blurry images. Look for a drone with an advanced flight control system and onboard sensors. If you’re planning to shoot video, we recommend a mounted gimbal drone.
The Ultimate Drone Buying Guide
  • Intelligent functions - Some drones allow you to zoom up on subjects, take selfies with a wave of your hand, and send a live feed to your controller, tablet or smartphone.

The best drones in 2020

Here at Ted’s Cameras, we’re lucky enough to experiment with drones all the time – and the technology is only getting better. To help you narrow down your options, we've rounded up the best drones of 2020.


How to use a drone

The Ultimate Drone Buying Guide

This varies depending on the drone you have. Let’s look at quadcopters. You’ll use a handheld transmitter or an app to manage your drone, which is why it’s important to stay within range.

Generally, there are four controls:

 

  • Roll - Pushes the quadcopter to the left or right.
  • Pitch - Tilts the drone forwards or backwards.
  • Yaw - Rotates the drone clockwise or counter-clockwise. If you want to draw circles in the air or change directions while you’re flying, use yaw.
  • Throttle - Powers up the propellers and launches the drone in the air. When you’re flying, the throttle will be engaged the whole time. You can increase or decrease it to adjust the height of the drone.

The cheaper drones have simpler systems, so they’re great for feeling out the controls and polishing your skills.


Are there any drone restrictions in Australia?

Flying a drone is legal - but it’s regulated. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) lays out the drone laws in Australia, and if you breach them, you may be slapped with a fine of up to $9,000.

 

The good news? The rules are reasonable.

 

These rules apply to recreational users:

 

  • You can only fly during the day, and the drone must stay in your sight
  • You can’t fly in bad weather, or into clouds
  • You can only fly one drone at a time
  • You can’t fly over crowds of people (e.g. festivals or busy beaches), or within 30 metres of people
  • You can’t fly over 120 metres high
  • You can’t fly near emergency services or situations, such as police stations or bushfires
  • You can’t fly within 5.5km of an airport, and you must land if you spot an aircraft touching down nearby

 

If you’re using your drone for commercial reasons, you may need to apply for a drone license or fly with a certified operator. You can read up on the rules online or on CASA’s handy app, Can I Fly There?

The Ultimate Drone Buying Guide

Each state has its own set of laws, too. For example, in NSW, you need to get permission from national park managers before flying a drone, and the whole of Sydney Harbour is a no-fly zone.


Top Tip: The Australian sun can be pretty harsh, so think about adding ND filters to your kit. They cut out glare and reduce the amount of light coming into your lens. We like the DJI Mavic PT47 ND Filter Set.


Basic drone safety tips

The Ultimate Drone Buying Guide

Drones are a lot of fun to fly, but they can be dangerous if they’re not used correctly. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pilot, follow these drone safety tips:

 

  • Fly in ideal conditions - Wind and rain are your drone’s enemies. Fly on a day with good weather and stick to large, open spaces and away from people, property and animals. Any crashes can cause serious injury.
  • Stay low - Make sure you can see your drone at all times so you can easily guide it.
  • Keep an eye out for obstacles - Trees and power lines are the main culprits. If you see another aircraft landing nearby, come back to ground.
  • Read the manual - It will list all your drone’s safety features, as well as tips and tricks for getting the most out of your drone.
  • Test the drone before lift-off - Charge the battery, check the rotors and motors, and take the time to learn the controls.

Finally, drones can be distracting and noisy, so please respect the privacy of the people around you, and be mindful of the local culture and wildlife.


Shop our wide range of drones

Once a novelty and now a necessity in the tool kit of any serious aerial photography enthusiast, drones are here to stay. 


Ready to see photography from a whole new point of view? Get advice on the best drone to suit your photography style and learn about our Total Care Packages for Drones/Gimbals by dropping into your local Ted’s Cameras store today!


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