In the past decade, drones have gone from an expensive tool almost exclusively for filmmakers to a swelling consumer industry filled with drones at every price point.
Needless to say, it's a great time to get into the drone hobby and there's no better time than the beginning of summer to touch the skies with a drone of your own.
NOTE:As of 2018, the U.S. has reinstated the law requiring all unmanned aircraft to be registered with the FAA. It costs only $5 per aircraft to register and the government requires your email address, physical and/or mailing address, and the make and model of your unmanned aircraft. Once you're registered, you're valid for 3 years and are required to label your drone with your registration number.
It's cheap to get started for beginners
If you've never owned a drone before, the idea of buying a $1000 piece of flying technology and crashing it on its maiden voyage might terrify you. And let's be clear — that's absolutely a possibility. Give a novice drone pilot a top-end, super fast drone and a crash landing of some sort is almost guaranteed.
Fortunately, there are quality drones available to fit into any budget. Sure, you'll be exchanging some cool features like HD video and auto-piloting modes — but if you're a complete novice to drones and other remote-controlled toys you're best off getting something that lightweight and replaceable. Especially if you're buying for a younger child, you want a drone that won't cause too much harm if it comes crashing into someone, and also at a low cost point so you're not absolutely heartbroken if it crashes and breaks.
Once you feel entirely comfortable piloting a cheap, plastic drone, you'll feel that much more confident flying a more substantial product with higher top speeds and better features.
Great excuse to go outside and explore
So much of the technology we buy for entertainment purposes these days is designed to keep us staring at screens while sitting comfortably indoors. Drones, with rare exception, are strictly for flying outdoors, and can offer a great excuse to simply go out for a hike and see your world from a new perspective.
Now, it's here that I should reemphasize that you shouldn't be flying drones in congested urban areas, over busy streets, or anywhere that's considered restricted airspace. You should be able to get away with some low-key practise flying at a local park, but ideally you'll want to go be sure you're flying legally and safely away from buildings, trees, people, and other vehicles.
That said, it's a great reason to grab the drone and go explore a National Park, or some other really cool natural areas. If you've got kids, buy them a drone and take get them hooked on playing with tech that gets them outdoors!
Take breathtaking photos and video
Lets be real — most of us see some of the epic footage and cool photos taken from drones and thing "I want to do that, too".
The good news is that you can absolutely replicate some of those super awesome shots that look like it was shot by a professional without investing in a $21,000 rig capable of carrying a Hollywood film camera.
You'll find capable camera drones for as low as $400 and some of the more premium models for closer to $2000. Typically, you get what you pay for in terms of video quality and other features such as the ability most DJI drones have to automatically lock on and track a moving object for excellent action shots as you bike down the side of a mountain or skateboard around like your Casey Neistat.
They're easier to fly than ever
If you were an early adopter when consumer drones first started hitting the markets, you'll know that they were crazy expensive and near impossible to control outside of near-perfect weather conditions.
These days, even the smallest drones you can buy will typically have on-board tech to keep your flight relatively steady. While I would certainly recommend starting out small and cheap with your first drone, if you gotta have a full-featured drone DJI has made incredible strides in making their industry-leading drone tech available in entry-level drones like the DJI Spark Mini Drone.
For just over $300, you get a full-featured drone with gesture and TapFly controls, active obstacle detection, and an HD video camera with subject tracking features. Just be assured that even the best-featured drone can still get away from you…
Join the ever-growing FPV drone racing community
I personally consider this the supreme end to becoming a hobbyist drone pilot. First-person view drone piloting takes an extreme amount of skill and technical ability to fly your drone with pinpoint accuracy, wearing a VR headset strapped to your face feeding you live video as your drone zips through the air.
If you're curious, your best off Googling around to find any local drone racing communities in your area. It's a great way to network with other likeminded individuals, and could also open your eyes to a bustling community that you never knew existed.
To become an elite drone racer will require serious investment of time and money to keep up regular practise and build a kit of replacement parts. Before you start investing on tech, you're best off trying a drone racing simulator to get a feel for the insane speeds and dizzying twists and turns you'll hope to experience in real life.
Have you hit the skies with a drone?
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