Need to buy a drone?

A drone flying on a road through a wooded area.
Przemek Iciak /

Drones are more accessible than ever and are now available in a variety of sizes and prices. But before you reach for your wallet, there are a few things you might want to ponder.

Drone Laws and Regulations: Your Biggest Hurdle

Regardless of why you are considering a drone, the biggest hurdle to clear is the local drone laws and regulations. We will focus on the laws that apply to the United States, so if you are reading this and are abroad, you should investigate to ensure that you do not violate your country’s drone regulations.

In the United States, you must pass the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Recreation UAS Safety Test (TRUST) in accordance with federal law. This is a free test that takes less than an hour to complete online. If you pass, you will get a certificate. You must hold this certificate and present it to law enforcement when requested. If you lose your certificate, you will need to take the test again.

Passing this test will allow you to fly a drone under Class G (Uncontrolled Airspace) under 400 feet and under 0.55 pounds (250 g) for recreational purposes. If your drone weighs more than £ 0.55, you will need to register your drone with FAA for $ 5 per drone and provide information such as your address, phone number, and drone serial number.

When you register your drone, you will receive a registration number that you need to display on your drone. Registration is valid for 3 years. Then you’ll have to re-register for an additional $ 5. Both TRUST certificates and drone registrations only allow recreational flights in uncontrolled airspace.

Even if these conditions are met, fly less than 400 feet, maintain line of sight with the drone, make sure the drone is lit during night flight, and make it a manned aircraft. You need to avoid interference. How to do it. You will not receive any form of compensation for flying a drone without becoming a certified drone pilot for commercial purposes.

The biggest hurdle to overcome here is to fly in uncontrolled airspace. If you live in a big city or near an airport or military installation, you probably have to travel to legally fly your drone. If you live in the middle of where, you can probably fly right above your home. Check out DJI’s FlySafe Geo Zone Map to see if your area meets the restrictions.

What kind of drone is available?

There are many drones on the market, including many older models on the second hand market. Most of the drones described below are manufactured by DJI, which has consistently made the biggest leap in consumer drone technology (although other companies such as Parrot and Ryze are worth a look). These range from small FPV (first-person view) drones designed for racing and acrobatics to drones large enough to mount an entire camera or gimbal system for professional filmmaking.

Ultimately, the choice of drone depends on the intended use. If you don’t want to have to register your drone, a small model under £ 0.55 is ideal. The weight of the drone is calculated after deducting the battery and many hobbyist and FPV models are available for this bracket.

The DJI Mini series was specially created to meet this FAA regulation. The DJI Mini 2 (starting at $ 449) and DJI Mini SE (starting at $ 299) are ultra-compact and lightweight drones that are perfect for beginners and those who like the lightness of travel. If you want to hike or camp your drone, they’re perfect, but at the expense of some of the more advanced optical and safety features found in more expensive models.

Barriers to entry are low

DJI Mini2 drone bundle

If you don’t care about advanced features and don’t want to bother with FAA registration, this bundle is a great starting point.

If you like tinkering with your drone, there’s nothing better than the FPV drone scene. Visit forums such as and r / FPV subreddit to see the different builds offered. Over time, you’ll learn how to repair and replace components, improve your drone with new parts, and improve flight efficiency (and most FPV drones are meant to be lightweight, so most are less than 0.55 pounds. Meets FAA regulations).

If you spend more money or need a higher performance drone, we recommend considering models such as the DJI Air series (including the Mavic Air) and the DJI Phantom series. These drones have much higher payloads, larger batteries, more safety features such as obstacle avoidance systems, and controls with built-in displays (not dependent on smartphones or FPV headsets).

The high end includes drones like the DJI Mavic 3 with high-end interchangeable camera modules and the DJI Inspire series designed for filmmakers to carry large camera systems. Unless you have thousands of dollars burning holes in your pocket, these will be overkill for your needs.

What do you use the drone for?

Many drone owners have little “reason” to own a drone other than their interest in flying, which is not a bad thing. This is where cheaper hobbies and FPV drones come on their own, providing an affordable route to exhilarating entertainment.

FPV drones are usually designed with speed and agility in mind, often prioritizing lightweight designs that rotate and accelerate at high speeds over high quality cameras and video feeds. Hobby drones like the DJI Mini series aren’t as easy to use, but they may have a camera that can capture safe photos and videos comparable to smartphones.

Drones with high payloads focus on high quality cameras, some including gimbals for smooth and stable video footage. Many of these cameras include intelligent tracking systems that maintain shots on the move, such as skis and mountain bikes. This makes it suitable for photography and video shooting enthusiasts.

Drones not only enjoy flying and photography, they are also practical. One example is homeowners who use them to inspect hard-to-reach areas such as gutters, roofs, and tops of trees. Please note that non-profit drone operators are not allowed to receive payments for services, including commercial photos.

Please keep the cost in mind

FPV and hobby drones are often considered affordable, but beware of cheap “flying” drones that look too good and untrue. Like other cheap products, they often have poor build quality and very short battery life. The money that sinks into cheap drones that break the first time you use it can be spent on high-quality models and FPV projects that you can repair yourself.

This brings us to another point: keep in mind the “real” cost of your drone when buying. DJI Mini SE starts at around $ 299 for drones and batteries, but most drone operators have spare batteries or two ($ 55 each for Mini2), carry bags ($ 39), and optional extras such as propeller guards. You will need accessories such as. ($ 19).

DJI Mini2 Extra

This also applies to more expensive models. These models typically use a more expensive high-capacity battery ($ 115 for the DJI Air 2S). If you are interested in capturing high quality RAW photos and 4K video, you should also consider the cost of a fast, high capacity memory card. Other accessories like additional chargers and car chargers mean that your drone’s hobby can quickly inflate the price.

Photographers often refer to this as “gear acquisition syndrome” or GAS for short. If you’re not sure if your drone flight is your hobby, consider buying a second-hand model before buying the full “Fly More” package at checkout.

Other gadgets you may be interested in

If you can’t easily fly through unrestricted airspace, if you’re not sure you just like to fly a drone, or if you’re worried about the cost spikes of buying a drone, there’s a lot more. You may want to use the gadget of. Your money instead.

A drone is a camera that can ultimately fly. You can get better images from dedicated cameras like Sony’s compact camera RX100 family, or interchangeable mirrorless cameras like Fuji’s X-T3. Photography can be very expensive, but it’s a hobby with far less restrictions.

Fuji X-T3

There are also action cameras and 360 degree cameras that can provide a new perspective to existing hobbies. These cameras can enhance existing activities such as hiking, biking, road trips, kayaking, or simply going on vacation or sightseeing. Combine your camera and gimbal to create smooth videos and create professional-looking work at home.

For the value of entertainment, consider the latest consoles such as the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. While the Nintendo Switch may be one of the best-selling consoles, Valve’s Steam Deck is a valuable alternative for gamers who want to play the Steam library on the go. Another option is a VR headset such as Valve Index or Oculus Quest 2.

RC cars are always an option if you are most interested in the remote control (RC) aspect. Especially in the wonderful world of RC rock crawlers, you can turn your backyard into a wilderness and conquer it on a microscale. Like drones, model lock crawlers are highly modular and learning how to repair and replace parts is an important part of your hobby.

Drones are so much fun

Hopefully you now know a little more about the utility and usage that drones offer. They are fun to fly and offer unique aerial photography opportunities, but come with unique regulations and practical considerations to remember.

When you’re ready to bite a bullet, check out our best drone picks (and review geeks’ best cheap drones for beginners). Photographers need to pay particular attention to what lens filters can bring to drone photography.

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