If you are trying to figure out how to buy a drone in 2018, you’re in luck. Drones are more popular this year than ever before. The market for consumer drones has given rise to numerous websites and stores dedicated to selling and reviewing different brands, types, and price ranges of drones. You should certainly start with some comparison shopping, and we’ve gathered a few helpful considerations to keep in mind as you prepare to buy a drone.

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The Three Most Popular Types of Drones

There are three general types of drones, with many specialized products in each category. Camera drones are useful for achieving aerial views. The number of cameras, options for a first-person view and image capture, resolution and frame rate for moving footage, and quality of still shots all vary depending on the model. In addition, the battery life, range, and even the type of controller you bind to a drone determine whether a device is better suited for capturing sweeping footage of vast landscapes or taking selfies. Drones designed to capture video or images while flying usually feature gimbals, or mechanical camera stabilization systems, which make it easier to record high-quality video or take steady stills while a drone is moving fast or the wind is blowing.

Drones intended for racing fly in a separate category. Many of these devices only allow for the first-person view. These drones are designed with speed in mind, and some are advertised as being able to travel as fast as 70 miles per hour. Racing drones are available in all states of assembly, with some coming close to being ready to fly right out of the box. Many enthusiasts invest a great deal of time and effort in building and modifying competitive designs.

Toy or beginner drones can make learning how to fly an unmanned aerial system less expensive in terms of initial purchase costs and repairs. These drones have fewer advanced features and may be somewhat more difficult to fly, but they can be useful when you are learning the fundamental principles of controlling a drone. Some low-end drones feature 780p cameras for basic image capture, but they are typically intended as uncomplicated introductory devices.

Balancing Skills and Features

If you’re still not sure how to buy a drone in 2018, there are two more factors you should consider: the uses you have in mind and the pilot’s level of skill and familiarity with flying. Start by considering your priorities in light of the categories described above. While it is possible to buy a drone that is good for multiple purposes — say, a model with an HD or even a 4K camera and sports mode allowing for a slightly faster flight speed — you are more likely to experience trade-offs between these features. Most mid-level or higher-end drones are intended to serve a single purpose very well and cover a few other desirable or industry-standard features.

For example, specialized camera drones can feature a 5.2K camera, panning gimbal, and dedicated cameras for image capture and a first-person view. Racing drones often just allow for FPV, are usually smaller and lighter, and can achieve faster speeds. Even though you could attach an additional camera to a racing drone, this would likely slow down the device, and it would still be difficult to achieve a comparable level of recording or still image quality because this device is not designed for stabilization or digital image processing. On the other hand, you would probably not want to risk damaging a specialized camera drone in a race.

The best drone for you is one that is designed to suit your uses and skills. Even though you might have an easier time learning to fly a device in the $700 range with features that include a 3D camera and sensors for obstacle avoidance, you might still run the risk of damaging expensive components. Beginner and intermediate drones usually have a lower price tag and still offer a range of desirable features. Toy or miniature drones can be an even more affordable— though often challenging — option for getting a new hobby off of the ground with little risk.

Should You Buy Ready To Fly?

It is important to determine what state the drone you buy will be in when you open the packaging. A drone that is almost ready to fly, or ARF, may require you to purchase a variety of components, such as a transmitter, receiver, flight controller, motors, or batteries. If you are considering buying an ARF kit, carefully assess the parts list to ensure that you order all of the additional components you will need to take off. Bind and fly, or BNF, models require you to purchase and bind or link a controller to the drone.

If you are new to drones, you may want to choose a ready to fly, or RTF, model that will only require the most basic preparation. Some drone models can only be controlled by a smartphone or wireless device and require that you download an application and pair your device with the drone through proprietary software. The experience of controlling a drone through a device and through a traditional controller is very different and not necessarily transferable.

Advanced pilots and those interested in customizing drones for racing or other customized programming may want to be able to select and install specific components. Many vendors offer original and replacement parts for assembling or repairing your drone. Once again, your level of skill and intentions for using the device are the most important factors when deciding which drone to buy.

Recent Drone Innovations

Drone manufacturers have made great advances over the last several years. The new features available in 2018 make drone flying more immersive and allow a pilot to use these devices for an even greater variety of purposes. Some models featuring gesture control have recently hit the market, permitting pilots to control the motion of a drone and even take pictures with hand gestures. Other models make it possible for pilots to experience a FPV perspective in virtual reality.

Camera drones have advanced considerably with models that make tracking shots and selfie snaps easy through computer vision and facial recognition capabilities. Some selfie drones fold down to easily fit in a pocket or bag. Other innovative options entering the market include models featuring thermal cameras or waterproof casing, which make these devices useful for hunting or fishing. It is worthwhile to note that specialized devices like selfie drones or drones designed for specific activities are expanding the definition of a beginner drone. It may still be less expensive to learn the basic principles of flying with a basic starter drone.

You won’t have to look far to find a drone with high-tech features that enable to you make the most of your purchase. Drones with these cutting-edge features range in price, but the investment can be worthwhile once you determine which types of use you want to pursue. Depending on your priorities, these features may be deciding factors in your consideration of how to buy a drone in 2018.

How To Buy a Drone

Many online stores and manufacturer’s websites sell drones and can be useful resources for researching specifications and reading reviews. Some radio control suppliers also sell drones and drone parts. You might also want to investigate communities devoted to specific types and brands of drones in mind, as these sites sometimes offer classifieds sections where you can find devices or components. In general, if you want to ensure that the drone you purchase will be exactly as described and made by the stated manufacturer, buy directly from the manufacturer or a reputable site.

As you prepare to make a purchase, you want to pay close attention to the warranty and protection options that are available. Some additional coverage policies allow you to order and quickly receive a limited number of authorized replacement parts, especially when you purchase your drone and policy from the manufacturer. It is a good idea to order authorized accessories and replacement parts, which can be easier when you buy directly from the drone manufacturer. Aftermarket or unauthorized parts may not fit your model, be as durable, or perform as reliably as authorized parts designed for your specific drone.

Drones Are Taking Off in 2018

This guide on how to buy a drone in 2018 is intended to provide you with an overview of what to keep in mind when looking to purchase a drone in this ever-growing market. From uses and skills to specialized features and cutting-edge developments, there are many factors to consider as you shop for a drone. Try to find a model that allows you to achieve the unique kind of flight experience you are seeking. Even though every drone is different, the basic principles of flying unmanned aerial systems are important to grasp. Once you develop these skills, you will probably be most satisfied by investing in a drone that has the features you are most interested in and then growing your collection based on your abilities and preferences.

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