Which Drone or Quadcopter to buy first? It’s time to stop your research and get flying!
Although we have an existing section for beginners, I thought it would be nice to have an even easier and shorter guide to getting started in this hobby and pursuit. The below advice applies to those with NO flying R/C experience in the past.
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Your first Quad
An updated list of these and other units are also mentioned at our article on the best Quadcopters for 2017.
Since this is a short guide, I suggest all
The prices will vary, but most (except Blade and Alias) are about $40-$50 delivered.
Here are some pro’s and cons:
Hubsan X4 – 6 -axis micro – all-around current learning machine – $40-50 – buy the optional prop guards!
Syma X5 – 6 axis mini – Mini sized (bigger than Hubsan – which is a micro) Syma newer models (X5, 6) are more stable (easier to fly) than the originally, and still recommended, Syma X1
Syma X11 – Size in-between the Hubsan and the X5 – has good manners.
LaTrax Alias – 6 axis – high end model ($100) with great performance and durability.
UDI U818A – 6 Axis with camera – a decent deal and has gotten good reviews from 100’s of users. Of course, these cameras are just for your entertainment – the pictures and video they take are of low quality.
The idea of your first quad is to get a couple hours of flight time in so that your brain and your muscle memory start knowing how to fly.
What else do I need?
Most come complete with everything except the batteries for the Transmitter. It even comes with an extra set of propellers. You should purchase at least 1 extra battery for the quad itself.
Inside? Outside? Where to learn?
Can I fix it if I break it?
Parts are available – however, these things are quite small and if you are not handy you may find it just as easy to sell your unit for parts (many online forums have free classifieds) and buy another one. The difference is probably only $20. However, they are relatively easy to repair for those with basic skills – although a soldering iron is needed (on some models) to properly replace motors.
To keep this article short, we will mention only the basics. First, once you have a little experience, you’ll want to lift your quad off the ground almost instantly to 2 foot or so high – because there is a ground effect when it is close to the floor/ground.
Secondly, an important step is to start your practice by standing behind the quadcopter and having it face AWAY from you. This will allow the movements on your sticks (the Transmitter) to make the quadcopter go in the same direction as you push!
What about the DJI Phantom or Similar?
DJI makes some fine units! The Author uses a Phantom quadcopter for most of his aerial photography. Once you learn the ropes – depending on what you then want to do, the AR or DJI may be right for you. There are many options, but it will be much less confusing once you learn the basics.
Some beginners have started out with the DJI Phantom 3 or Phantom 4 and been successful – if you are good at reading instructions and take your time understanding the technology, it’s possible to jump over the “starter” machines and go for a DJI camera model as your first machine. Here is a lineup of the current DJI Phantom 3 line.
For many drone flyers, there may be no reason to lust after larger quadcopters. Larger units mean more expenses, just as with – for example – boats. Yet often the sailor with the small boat is having just as much (or more) fun than the large yacht. Unless there is a specific reason (payload, etc.), I’d suggest staying with smaller and mid-range quadcopters until and unless you have an actual reason for stepping way up.
Think about why you are entering the hobby and where you want to go eventually. If you want to race around the local fields, you may start with the toys above and then graduate to FPV style racing machines. You might just stay with the low priced toys for indoor or backyard flying. Maybe you see yourself as a aerial photographer or videographer? New FAA rules now allow commercial use of drones so perhaps your future is real estate photography, mapping or site/construction inspection?
But, hey, we can all talk about that later!
Thanks for reading!