Getting a drone can be a big purchase, so it's important to be informed. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about buying a drone.
Keyword(s): buying a drone
If you're thinking about buying a drone, you aren't alone. Drone sales in the United States have more than doubled since last year.
Companies are beginning to take notice. There are more drones available to customers than ever before. But an increase in options means an increase in pitfalls.
There's a lot that you need to know before taking the plunge and making your purchase. Here's our helpful guide to make sure you make the right choice when buying a drone.
Buying A Drone: RTF, ARF, and BNF
Not all drones come ready to fly. While there are RTF drones on the market, there are also many drones which come either partially prepared or requiring multiple additional purchases.
Here are the different types of drones in order of readiness.
Ready-to-fly drones are the easiest to use on the market. Everything you need to fly the drone comes in the package, within reason.
You'll likely need a few parts to put the pieces that come with your drone together. Those include a basic set of tools and screws. Sometimes these will come with the package, other times you will need to buy them.
Unlike ready-to-fly drone kits, an ARF kit can vary a lot from kit-to-kit. Always do your research when you come across one of these.
That being said, one major benefit to buying an ARF kit is the way they allow you to customize your drone. With an RTF kit, you may be able to get additional parts but will likely need to get them from a specific manufacturer or else risk damaging the usability of your drone.
This is not the case with ARF drones.
The other side of that, however, is that an ARF kit will require quite a bit more expertise than an RTF kit. If you're only a dabbler in drones, or this is your first drone purchase, you probably will not want an ARF drone.
If, however, you are a serious hobbyist or somebody interested in having an advanced and customizable set-up, you should absolutely buy an ARF kit.
Bind-and-fly drones come with everything but a controller. If you get a BNF kit, the next step is looking for a compatible controller.
If you're planning on using a BNF kit with a controller you already have, you'll need to do some research. Not all drone controllers are compatible with all drones.
Don't spend more money than you thought you'd have to buy a drone because you were too lazy to do research.
Finally, to use your BNF kit you should learn how to pair a new controller with your drone. This is information you would need anyway, as buying a drone means signing up to buy new parts in the future.
It Might Not Be Easy To Fly Your Drone
If you're a beginner, you should take a serious look at how easy your drone is to fly before making a purchase.
A lot of people think flying a drone is as easy as buying it and playing with the remote, but unfortunately, that's just not the case.
These are complicated pieces of technology. There's a lot of moving parts and a lot of factors that change your experience flying it. You might need to fly it differently based on the weather, and certain models are made only for experts.
The extremely cheap and extremely expensive models are both considered a major pain to fly.
Of course, flying your drone wrong could mean a lot more than not getting the cool area shots you wanted.
Flying it wrong could mean crashing it into a tree or losing it in a neighbor's yard. And that can mean both having to buy a new drone and having serious disagreements with the people in your neighborhood.
To find a drone that's easy to fly, look for consumer guides and user reviews of different models on the market. These guides will be a huge help when it comes to making the right decision on your purchase.
Before buying your drone, there may be a few expenses to look up before the purchase.
Make sure you buy these things before buying a drone or at least look up the price. Drones are expensive, and not knowing the overall price of the product you're buying, including pre-purchase expenses, can mean buying a drone you'll never be able to fly.
As we mentioned, most BNF drones, along with virtually all ARF drones, come without a controller. That means you'll need to buy a controller before flying your drone.
Make sure you buy a controller that's compatible with the drone you're planning on flying. Also consider the distance you plan on flying your drone: if your controller can't communicate at those distances you've purchased a dud.
Unless you're only planning on using your drone once (in which case you're rich enough that an article about buying a drone doesn't apply to you,) you need to get a high-quality charger for your drone.
When you buy your charger, consider the amount of time you plan to spend using your drone per day. Somebody using their drone to take multiple aerial shots for a film, for instance, will likely need to charge their drone quicker than somebody looking to use their drone only a few times on the weekend.
Of course, the charger you buy will be highly dependent upon your choice of battery. When buying your battery, consider what's compatible with your drone along with the amount of power you'll need.
America's Drone Laws
This is one of the most important things to consider before buying a drone, and also one of the most complicated.
That's because a lot of US law isn't really structured to deal with unmanned drones in a meaningful way. There's a lot of debate over what the FAA actually has the authority to regulate and how they can enforce those regulations.
Still, all drone owners should learn the laws to the best of their ability and follow them to the best of their ability. This is because it's always bad to commit crimes, and also because anybody buying a drone should be concerned about using it responsibly.
It is illegal to fly your drone around military bases in the United States. While all laws around drones should be followed, this one is particularly important.
Flying a drone at a military base won't be seen as light-hearted fun or somebody breaking simple aviation law. It will be seen as spying on the United States military.
This is a crime that can carry steep punishments, including years in federal prison.
Don't think you're invincible. Military bases are under constant surveillance and security, and whatever cool footage you can get from flying your drone around a base is absolutely not worth the penalties and risks associated with it.
It's also illegal to fly a drone around a national park, much to the chagrin of most people considering buying a drone.
Everybody has a different reason for getting their drone. For a lot of people, buying a drone provides a cool opportunity to take great photographs of nature.
Consider state parks as an alternative to national parks, but also consider why this is illegal in the first place. You don't know what sort of avian life there is within any national park.
The delicate ecosystem of a national park can be easily disrupted by any number of things. Flying your drone around in this area can result in serious harm to birds, which in turn can cause long-term environmental damage.
So even if you do find a state park after buying a drone, you should talk to park rangers and local scientists about the effect your drone can have on surrounding wildlife.
Remember to fly responsibly.
It is illegal to fly a drone near any airport. Once again, these laws are there for a reason and breaking them is also a serious safety risk.
Drones and planes do not mix. Worst case scenario, a drone can cause a plane to crash. While there are not examples of commercial drones doing this, there have been times that drones have caused damage to planes at international airports.
Even if a drone does not cause a plane crash or result in a fine for the owner, it can be damaged by a plane. And if your reason for buying a drone was to have one, this is a risk that is not worth taking.
After buying a drone, you'll need to register your drone with the FAA to be able to fly it.
While many small-time drone owners have argued against this law and even expressed a reluctance to follow it, the reality is there's no reason not to register your drone.
If you don't register your drone, you aren't protected from anxious homeowners shooting you down. Nor can you file a complaint if your drone gets stolen.
In addition, failure to register a drone is a crime and can result in fines.
Luckily, the FAA makes it incredibly easy to register a drone online. Make sure to follow all instructions in the registration process to avoid any problems down the road.
State and Local Laws
State and local governments have no authority to regulate the flying of drones, though they can regulate the purchase of drones within the state. That's because both state and local governments have no authority to regulate airspace.
This should come as a relief to drone owners who are subject from complaints from neighbors threatening to call the police, though they should still be kind and courteous to the people around them.
It's also worth noting that while state and local governments cannot regulate drones, flying them wherever you want and whenever you want won't exactly make you popular in your community. If you will be flying a drone over the property of a neighbor, always ask for permission or at least inform them.
If you will be flying a drone over the property of a neighbor, always ask for permission or at least inform them.
Also be aware of the difference between a local government's right to regulate the flying of a drone and the use of a camera.
If you are caught filming neighbors on their property, that can be a serious crime. If you are a film maker or aerial photographer using your drone over anything that could be considered private property, make sure you have the written consent of all people on that property.
Failure to do this would not just be illegal. It would also be wrong.
Navigable airspace is defined as anything 500 feet or above. When a drone is in this airspace, it can be legally flown if it is not in violation of any of the laws listed above.
The other benefit of flying within navigable airspace is protection from is trigger-happy neighbors. After buying a drone, you probably would prefer it not be shot down.
Flying a drone within navigable airspace protects the body and other elements of the drone from the damage that can be caused by bullets, rocks, or BB guns.
Sticking to navigable airspace also keeps your drone and flight area safer. If you're worried about crashing into any buildings or trees, or even the damage that can be caused by pets, you should absolutely stick to the 500-foot rule.
Parts and Repairs
After buying a drone, you'll need to consider ways to make it a long term investment. For people looking for parts for either before they've purchased their drone or after they've damaged it, the best option is finding a trusted seller of drone parts for a variety of models.