I speak to a lot of people on a day-to-day basis that show interest in my hobby-turned-business. I get a variety of responses to our back-and-forths, but perhaps the most popular is, “I’ve been thinking about buying a drone, but I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
We’ve all been there.
Whether you’re looking to fly for fun or you want to start a business that either revolves around or includes the use of unmanned aerial systems, it can be a scary and confusing world to jump into — especially since some of the price tags can get steep. That’s where I come in to offer advice. I’ve been flying for over three years and while I don’t have the most season as a remote pilot, I can say that I know a thing or two after completely submerging myself in the industry and learning as much as I can about these awesome tools we call “drones.” Below I’ve categorized various types of drones and expanded upon how each category can be used to better help you identify what kind of drone you should purchase:
Now, this is a bit of a misnomer as drones as advanced as the DJI Phantom 4 and Skydio could be considered “consumer” drones. In recent years, a term has been developed to describe those drones better as it pertains to their application, but we will get to that in a few moments. For now, we’re going to flesh out what a “consumer” drone is and what it is best used for in the field.
Typically speaking when one identifies a drone as a “consumer” drone, it means the drone is equipped mostly for hobbyist use. The camera might not take 4K videos and might be less than 12 mega-pixels (or whatever you deem to be “professional quality”). On that same note, the aircraft might not have the same structural integrity as a higher-level drone (i.e. the fuselage may be made of plastic or even high-grade foam). An upside to these lower level productions is the lower cost. Typically you can find a consumer drone for $400 or less. Below I’ve listed a few consumer-level drones that have a good reputation:
The term “prosumer” has been coined to describe drones that fall somewhere between a consumer-style aircraft and professional-style aircraft. Prosumer drones are equipped with enough “firepower” to allow the pilot to capture professional-grade photos and videos as well as have an often seamless flight experience.
If you’re looking to make money as a primary or side hustle by capturing aerial photos and videos, prosumer is a great place to start when shopping for a drone. Most prosumer leve drones are equipped with 4K video capabilities as well as sensors that are 12 mega-pixels or higher. These features allow for stunning visuals to be captured with relative ease as the pilot enjoys an easy and almost effortless flight. In speaking of which…
“Prosumer” drones produced by the leaders in drone manufacturing even include obstacle avoidance sensors as standard equipment. This means pilots don’t have the same risk when flying in tight spaces. These sensors detect objects in the drone’s projected flight path and either stop the drone from proceeding until an adjustment has been made manually by the pilot or override the pilot’s commands and automatically adjust the flight path. These features are becoming more and more desirable as pilots wishing to capture high-level multimedia with their drones are becoming increasingly less skilled as the market becomes more popular to the average consumer. Some great quality “prosumer” drones include:
Professional drones are exactly what they sound like: drones used strictly for commercial purposes. These drones have often been optimized for a heavy workload (and sometimes payload) and can be extremely specific as it relates to their function. For instance, while many of these drones are either equipped or can be equipped with a high-end camera to capture cinematic photos and videos, they can also carry heavier equipment without sacrificing too much battery life.
Industries that could find use for drones in the professional category include agriculture, construction, filmmakers, government, infrastructure, logistics, and more. Essentially professional level drones can handle just about anything you throw at them and are more versatile than “prosumer” level drones in their capabilities. Great options for professional level drones include:
I hope that you (the reader) can utilize this brief guide as a launch-point for your drone shopping quest. Remember, while these are fun tools to use, they come with an immense amount of responsibility. When you take the the skies with a drone you are accountable for the aircraft and anything within its vicinity. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with airspace and how to properly navigate it as a remote pilot, I recommend you do that before making a purchase. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before making a purchase that could potentially cost you $1,000 USD or more.
Otherwise, please enjoy the process of finding the right drone for you and have even more fun once you have it in the air! Happy flying.