Buying a drone: how cheap should you go?

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By Paul Archer, Dronesgator.com

Considering the range of prices for a drone these days, the decision is sometimes as hard as buying a car.

However, quadcopters can also get cheap and still deliver what you’re looking for at most. Here’s a list of the best drones under $200 where you can learn more about potential choices.

Just as with most technology equipment, after a certain price, the additional functions get more expensive and become more of a gimmick than real useful things.

This is why we’re going to do an overview on what are the most important aspects you should look for in a drone.

Camera

You might think a camera is totally necessary to have on a drone, but you might be wrong.

There are many situations where a camera on the drone will just drain the battery faster and increase the price a lot without serving the original purpose.

dji spark

Does a beginner drone need a camera?

If you want to learn how to fly a drone for the first time and want something to play around and maybe break without a sweat, you might not want a camera.

There are quite a few drones around $20 that are so cheap you can buy a bunch of them and become an expert at drone flying.

There’s also the fact that a cheap drone camera will suck big time. Most cameras on drones under $100 are low quality, usually under 720p and definitely not stabilized by a gimbal.

Can I get a good go pro drone for under $100?

It’s 2017 and yes, you can! There is a specific drone I’m thinking about. It’s called MJX Bugs 3 and not only can it carry a go pro, but also has very good battery life and powerful motors.

Using your action camera along with a drone will be the cheapest way to go, provided you already have an action camera beforehand.

How much does a gimbal stabilized camera drone cost?

Usually the cost of a motorized gimbal that can hold your action camera and can be mounted on a drone is over $70 by itself. But make no mistake, by having a gimbal stabilized camera you’ll get way better footage.

So if you’re a professional trying to shoot smooth cinematic video, you better buy something well done and spend more. But I don’t see the point of getting more than a DJI Mavic or Phantom 4 Pro. The new DJI Spark also has a very good gimbal for $500.

Motors

There’s two types of motors that are VERY different from each other.

Well… they both do the same thing but in different ways.

Brushless motors vs Brushed motors

Brushless motors are pretty much the better ones, by far. However, they are considerably more expensive than brushed ones. This makes the drone price raise a lot.

Why would you want brushless?

• they last longer in time (at least 10 times as long)

• they are more powerful (you’ll be able to fly faster and carry more weight)

Why would you want brushed motors?

• makes the drone price go down (you’ll only find these on cheap beginner drones under $100)

• because they are cheap, they are also easy to replace, so if you buy a few spare ones you’ll be able to prolong the drone life more.

GPS and sensors

As you may know, some drones have GPS inside them that allow these quadcopters to fly very precisely and maintain a certain fixed spot.

Not only that, more expensive drones also have return to home technology. There are drones like the Hubsan 501s and Bugs 2 that have both GPS and return to home for around $200.

How about other functions?

DJI is the biggest drone company on the market and there’s no denying the fact that their drones are very advanced.

Most of their quadcopters have forward facing sensors that can detect obstacles and make the drone stop in time. They also have bottom sonar and cameras to be able to fly inside and land in proper places. The bottom sensors are also found in very good drones like the Xiaomi 4k drone and Phantom 3 series.

bugs drone

If you consider these sensors to be gimmicks to you, then stick to the points I made before and you’ll still have a rock solid drone.

Most drones that are over $500 tend to have different modes that will make life easier for you. Before buying a drone you should first think if setting waypoints ahead of time and planning your flight is of any help, and also if other modes like automatic circle flight around objects can be used to improve the quality of your videos.

Range and battery life

This is pretty straight forward.

If you’re getting a drone camera over $200 you should have at least over 500m range, and it goes up to 7 km for drones like Mavic Pro from DJI.

If you want to just play around, do some tricks and maybe get some video in a park, then a standard 100 m range should be good.

Battery life is more important than you may think, but the thing is that even if you’re low on it you can compensate by getting additional spare batteries.

I like to usually have over 10 minutes at drones that are over $60 and more on more expensive ones.

There are many things you can nitpick for drones in general, but we’ll cover that in another article.

So stay tuned for more.

Stay tuned on the Personal Drones Blog for the latest quadcopter and multirotor news!

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