Table of Contents
- Our Recommended Quadcopters
- Quadcopters Under $100
- Quadcopters Under $200
- Quadcopters Under $1000
- Quadcopters Over $1000
- Quadcopters for Beginners
- Smallest Quadcopter
- Smallest Drone with a Camera
- Best Indoor Quadcopter
- Best Drone for Photography
- Best Quadcopter Kit
- Drone Features
- Where Can I Buy a Drone?
- Other Issues to Consider
- Glossary of Common Terms
- Drone Racing
- Toy Drones
- How to Fly a Quadcopter
- How to Build a Quadcopter
Purchasing your first quadcopter can be an exciting experience. Now, after watching friends or family fly these amazing machines, reading articles, and watching videos, you are about to own one yourself. However, finding the best quadcopter can be tricky. There are thousands of models from which to choose, ranging in price from a few dollars to more than $8,000. All of them tout features that may or may not be useful to you as you embark on your quadcopter flying journey. As a result, it is important to know what features to look for, what price ranges to consider, and which features to bypass because they simply do not contribute to the functionality of the quadcopter.
Our Recommended Quadcopters
|SYMA X5C Explorers||Beginner Quadcopter||$|
|DBPower MJX FPV Quadcopter||FPV Quadcopter for Beginners||$|
|DJI Phantom 3 Standard||Best Quadcopter for the Money||$$|
|DJI Mavic Pro||New Quadcopter||$$$|
|DJI T600 Inspire 1 Quadcopter||Quadcopter for Photography||$$$$|
Quadcopters Under $100
The best beginner quadcopters tend to be the ones that cost less than $100, simply because they offer a number of solid features without breaking the bank. In addition, many of the best cheap quadcopters are still challenging enough to keep you interested as your skill level increases. The best drones under $100 should come with a basic HD camera that can take photos and video. In addition, you should look for a drone that has at least 5 minutes of fly time, a range of at least 50 yards, and beginner features such as headless mode. While not present on all quadcopters, FPV is a fun quality to look for. In addition to these basic features, you can also find many other fun and useful characteristics on the best cheap quadcopters.
Weight: .32 lb.
FAA registration required? No
Navigation: 4 Channels
Battery: 3.7v 650 mAH
Fly time: 7-9 minutes
Charge time: 30-45 minutes
Range: 250 feet
Stabilization: 6-axis gyro
The Haktoys Storm Ryder stands out at first glance because of the small Storm Ryder figure seated at the top of the drone. This figure makes it easier for new fliers (especially children) to learn which way the drone is facing as they operate it. It also adds to the fun factor of the drone for kids. However, it is also removable for adults who would prefer to use the drone without the figure on top.
With or without the figure on top, the Storm Ryder possesses a reputation as one of the best quadcopters for beginners. For example, this drone is small enough not to require FAA registration so beginners do not have to worry about navigating the FAA requirements for drone registration. In addition, this drone comes with LED lights that make it more visible and navigable even in the dark. With the ability to withstand winds up to 5 mph, the Storm Ryder can even handle itself in mild breezes. All of these features together add to the ease with which this drone can be used, even by beginners.
In addition to being one of the best quadcopters for beginners, the Storm Ryder is fun and versatile. It comes with the ability to conduct 360 degree flips and rolls for exciting acrobatics for drone fliers of all ages. Plus, it comes with four different channels of movement. This means that you can get the drone to fly up or down, clockwise or counterclockwise, left or right, and backward or forward. The Storm Ryder also comes with speed control so you can decide how fast you want to fly it.
Designed for children and adults ages 14 and up, the Storm Ryder comes with positive reviews from customers who enjoy its versatility, responsiveness, and ease of use. This versatile, fun, and easy quadcopter promises hours of enjoyment for the whole family.
Weight: 1.2 pounds
Battery: 3.7v 500 mAH
Fly time: 7 minutes
Charge time: 100 minutes
Stabilization: 6-axis gyro
The Syma X5C Explorer has been described by reviewers as one of the best drones on the market for less than $100. This 12-inch drone is packed with features that belie its small price tag. For instance, the SYMA X5C comes with a 2mp HD camera that can take both photos and 1280 x 780 videos. You can even turn the camera on while the drone is in the air.
In order to make it more resistant to wind, it comes with a 6 gyro stabilization system that works so well, reviewers note that it is one of the most stable and smooth drones they have ever flown. This drone can fly for about 7 minutes, and takes about 100 minutes to recharge. The SYMA X5C also outperforms other drones in its class in height and range. While the official range is 50 yards, reviewers report that they have gotten their drones to fly much further. This range is due to the 2.4GHz controller that has been designed to cut down on interference so your signal reaches further.
Reviewers also regularly comment on their ability to get the Explorer hundreds of feet in the air to capture clear photos and videos from above the treetops. If you want to show off for your friends and family, you can also get this drone to perform 360 degree flips with a press of the button. Its accessories include a memory card, extra propellers, extra propeller guards, and a rechargeable battery. The result is a stable, responsive, high-tech drone for a very affordable price.
Battery: 3.7v 500 mAH
Fly time: 6-7 minutes
Charge time: 90-120 minutes
Range: 50 meters
Stabilization: 6-axis gyro
The Cheerwing Syma Explorers2 provides features that are often only found on more expensive drones. For example, one of the most notable features of this drone is headless mode. Headless mode refers to the fact that the drone moves forward based on the direction you indicate on the controller, not the direction the head is facing. This feature makes it easier for beginners to fly the drone, even before they have learned to distinguish between the head and the tail of the drone. The drone can also be flown left or right handed, allowing you to fly it regardless of your skill level or hand preference.
The Explorers2 also boasts an HD camera that allows you to take both photos and videos with the drone. While the camera is not extremely strong, it is good enough to provide an appealing look at where your drone has been flying. Perhaps even more notable than the camera, however, is the existence of FPV (first-person view). This feature is possible by downloading the Syma app onto any iPhone or Android phone. This app makes it possible to link to the drone’s camera, so you can see everything your drone sees. While reviewers note that the FPV is a second or two behind the actual flight of the drone, they appreciate the ability it gives them to take pictures and video while the drone is in the air.
If you want to impress friends and family, you can get this drone to perform 360 degree flips at the push of a button. Plus, 6-gyro stabilization allows the drone to fly straight and true, while reviewers’ reports of its durability and performance ensure that with this drone, you will get more than you pay for.
Weight: 5 oz.
Battery: 3.7v 500 mAH LiPo
Fly time: 7-9minutes
Charge time: 90-120 minutes
Camera: 2 mp
Stabilization: 6-axis gyro
The UDI quadcopter boasts a number of features that make it a great value among the under $100 drones. Like many of the best cheap quadcopters, the UDI allows you to fly it in headless mode. This allows you to move the drone backward and forward regardless of where the front and back of the drone are. This mode makes it easy for beginners to steer the drone before they have become familiar with the orientation of their machine. Plus, the UDI boasts a 780 HD camera that can take both photos and videos while in the air. The camera can be turned on before you fly or while you are in flight.
In addition, the UDI comes with a transmitter that boasts an LCD display. This means that you can keep track of your drone and its performance while it is in the air. Included in the transmitter’s capabilities is the ability to beep whenever the battery is getting low. This allows you to bring the drone in for recharging before the battery dies completely and you crash.
Another stand out feature of the UDI is the presence of a return home function. This function allows you to bring your drone back to you with the touch of a button. Along with the inclusion of two batteries and a charging pack, the UDI stands out as a convenient way to enjoy the quadcopter hobby.
Reviewers praise the UDI for its maneuverability. While they find that the drone tends to drift in wind (thanks to its lightweight size), they also find that its light weight allows for acrobatic performances. Combined with a durability that allows it to withstand crashes, the UDI stands out as a reliable investment for less than $100.
Weight: 2.9 oz.
Battery: 3.7v 500 mAH LiPo
Fly time: 5-7 minutes
Charge time: 60 minutes
Range: 50-100 meters
Stabilization: 6-axis gyro
The Akaso X5C is a light weight and maneuverable drone that is well-suited for beginners. This drone comes equipped with 6-gyro stabilization that reviewers report works well to keep the drone stable in the air. While stable enough not to be blown back and forth by the wind, the drone is lightweight and responsive enough to perform 360 degree flips and rolls with the push of a button.
In addition, the Akaso X5C comes with an HD camera to allow you to take photos and videos while you fly. While reviewers find that the camera is not high quality, they do find that it is powerful enough to give you a feel for how your flight goes. Plus, the Akaso X5C’s transmitter is designed to be interference free, allowing you to fly your drone without worrying about your signal getting mixed up with others’.
The Akaso X5C is designed to be versatile. You can use it either indoors or outside, and you can choose from a regular or high performance flight mode. In one, the drone is more stable and slower, while in the other, the drone becomes extremely maneuverable and fast for acrobatic performances and fun for more confident fliers.
What makes the Akaso really stand out, though, is the attention to durability that the company has built into the drone. For example, it comes with a plastic frame that protects the propellers from bangs and crashes. Reviewers enjoy this drone for its durability and for the fact that it provides a fun and manageable way to enter the world of drone flying.
Battery: 3.7v 750 mAH LiPo
Fly time: 7-9 minutes
Charge time: 80 minutes
Range: 50-100 meters
Stabilization: 6-axis gyro
If you are looking for the best cheap quadcopter, you may want to consider the Holy Stone F181. This drone possesses a number of features that make it one of the best beginner quadcopters, while bringing enough challenge to the table to be fun for intermediate and even advanced fliers. In particular, the F181 comes with a key return system that allows you to call it back to you quickly and easily. Plus, this drone comes with a headless mode that allows you to steer the drone without worrying about where the head and the tail are. These features make it difficult to lose your drone, and much easier to learn how to control it. Some advanced drone fliers also report that the yaw is slower than average, making it easier for beginners to learn how to control this important element of flight.
If you want a record of your flights, you can also activate the HD camera to capture still shots and aerial video. The camera’s resolution is 1280 x 720, and the video takes 30 frames per second. While not top of the line, these features allow the camera to capture impressive photos and video. Reviewers also report that the F181 is a durable drone. Its propeller guards prevent damage to fragile areas during crashes, while many reviewers find that the drone continues to operate reliably, even after being crashed repeatedly. The F181 comes with four speeds to challenge and excite any drone flier. Finally, if you want to impress friends and family, you can enjoy 360 degree rolls from this agile and inexpensive drone.
Quadcopters Under $200
Quadcopters that run less than $200 offer you many of the same features available on drones that cost less than $100. However, these features tends to be more sophisticated. For example, the best quadcopters under $200 provide you with FPV flight that does not lag and that allows you to accurately fly the drone from FPV mode. Other features, like headless mode, 6-axis stabilization, durability, and cameras with photo and video capability are also standard on these drones. In addition, the best quadcopters under $200 also come with extra features that make them even more useful and fun to fly. For example, a longer ranger of 100 meters or more is common, as is the inclusion of extra parts like batteries and motors. Finally, almost all of these drones are light enough that they do not have to be registered with the FAA. If you want one of the best cheap quadcopters, but want some of the extra features like reliable FPV and a good camera, you may want to choose one of these.
Dimensions: 13.4in. X 12.9in. X 3.6in.
Weight: .35 lb
Battery: 3.7v 750 mAH LiPo
Fly time: 6-9 minutes
Charge time: 50 minutes
Range: 80-100 meters
Video range: 30-40 meters
Stabilization: 6-axis gyro
The U818A offers many of the same features as do drones under $100, but combines those features with other benefits to make the extra money more than worth it. For example, this drone boasts headless mode. At the same time, it adds a sophisticated FPV system to make flying the drone even easier and more exciting. FPV (first person view) consists of syncing your drone with the app on your smart phone so you can see what your drone sees as it flies.
In addition, the U818A offers you the chance to fly with gravity induction. This means that not only does the drone respond to the directions you give it through the remote controller, but it will also respond to the angle at which you hold your mobile phone. The result is a drone that you can control in the smallest detail. Finally, this drone comes with a 720 HD camera that takes video at a rate of 30 frames per second. Reviewers find that these photos and videos are, for the most part, clear and appealing.
The U818A has many other, smaller features that add to its usability and value. For example, it comes with safeguards to protect it in the event of a crash. It comes with two instead of one rechargeable battery. It alarms when its power is running low; does 360 degree flips on command, and comes with 6 axis gyro stabilization. Reviewers love this drone because it is easy to use. Even beginners find that they can quickly get the hang of the U818A, and praise it for its durability in the event of a crash.
Dimensions: 13in. X 13in. X 4.3in.
Battery: 7.4v 500 mAH LiPo
Fly time: 6-12 minutes
Charge time: 100 minutes
Range: 150 meters
FPV range: 200 meters
The Landvo is one of the best beginner quadcopters because of its combination of features and low price. This drone comes with headless mode (to allow you to fly it even if you do not understand the orientation), but also first person view (FPV). The Landvo also boasts a 5.8Gh camera so you can take photos and videos while your drone is in the air. Reviewers find that all of these features, while not comparing to more expensive drones, are still impressive for the price point and make the drone well worth purchasing.
In addition, the Landvo comes with a longer life battery that allows it to fly for more than 10 minutes on the lowest speed and up to 6 on the highest speed before needing to be recharged. Reviewers in particular mention enjoying the longer flight time. They also report that the fact that the Landvo is easy to use makes it one of the best beginner drones on the market. The ability to do a 360 degree roll, combined with a transmitter that does not interfere with other nearby drones, make the Landvo a smart purchase decision if you are looking for a drone that is less than $200.
Battery: 7.4v 750 mAH LiPo
Fly time: 8 minutes
Charge time: 70-80 minutes
Range: 100 meters
Stabilization: 6-axis gyro
The Holy Stone X400C is a more advanced version of the slightly less expensive U818A. This drone boasts many features that make it a great value for the price and make it easier for intermediate and some beginner drone fliers to use. For example, as with many drones in this price range, it comes with headless mode so you can fly it without worrying about orientation. Plus, it comes with several control modes. These modes allow you to choose your experience level (beginner, intermediate, and advanced) as well as whether you want to fly the drone left handed or right handed. These modes give the X400C an appealing versatility.
In addition to its versatility and ease of use, the X400C is fun. It comes with first person view (FPV) abilities. Once you download the app to your phone, you can link your phone and the drone together to receive video from the drone in real time. Reviewers find that the FPV feature is not as smooth or as clear as with more expensive drones, but they do find that the FPV gives them an idea of how to fly with this feature. In addition, the drone comes with a camera that takes photos and videos. The camera relies on wifi instead of an SD card to take its images, but can offer you a glimpse of how your drone flight went.
Most reviewers also note that the X400C is durable and stable in flight, thanks to 6-axis gyro stabilization and propeller guards. The result is a drone that is more than worth the low price tag that accompanies it.
Battery: 7.4v 500 mAH LiPo
Fly time: 8 minutes
Range: 300 feet
Camera: 2mp, 1280×720 HD camera
The Potensic RC quadcopter is one of the best FPV quadcopters on the market today. The FPV feature is present on many drones that cost less than $200. However, this feature on the Potensic is set apart from others because of the sheer quality of the images it provides as you fly. While reviewers often complain that the FPV lags a second or two behind on other drones, reviewers note that the FPV on the Potensic has no lag at all. This means you can see where your drone is going as it flies, giving you an incredibly exciting flying experience.
The Potensic also boasts a 2mp HD camera and the ability to take 720 video at a rate of 30 frames per second. In addition, the Potensic comes with a return home feature allows you to recall this drone when you are ready to charge your batteries. The Potensic is incredibly light weight, but this light weight does not mean that any old wind will blow it off course. Instead, a 3 axis stabilization system allows it to fly straight and true wherever you direct it.
Finally, the Potensic boasts many extra pieces that add to its value. For example, it comes with three batteries, a battery charger, and extra blades, and even an extra motor. Reviewers find that these extras make it much easier to replace parts that break and that these extras make the low price tag even more incredible. Overall, the Potensic receives h3 praise from reviewers for its ability to withstand crashes, for its incredible photos, and for its h3 videos. Thanks to these features, the Potensic may very well be the best quadcopter under $200.
Quadcopters Under $1000
If you want to spend less than $1,000 on a quadcopter, you can still expect some pretty sophisticated features from the best quadcopters in this class. For example, these drones should come with features like headless mode, GPS, return features, longer fly times, and extra accessories to give you more bang for your buck. In addition, drones in this class generally boast excellent FPV and camera systems. You can expect up to 4K video and crystal clear photos, as well as the ability to remotely control the camera. You can often do away with wifi FPV in favor of more reliable forms of connecting the transmitter and the drone, and sometimes you can even enjoy FPV without using a smart phone. The result are sophisticated, high performing, yet easy to fly quadcopters.
Battery: 15.2v 2600 mAH LiPo
Fly time: 25 minutes
Speed: 16 m/s
Charge time:60-90 minutes
Stabilization: 3-axis stabilization
Camera: 1280×720, 2.7K HD camera
The DJI Phantom 3 Standard is one of the best quadcopters in the under $1,000 price range simply because of the number of accessories that are included in this package deal. Not only do you get a high quality DJI drone, but you also receive 3 batteries, extra propellers, the controller, a 32GB micro SD card, a battery charger, and propeller guards. Plus, the Phantom 3 Standard boasts a DJI hard shell case that reviewers praise for its quality and for its ability to safely and easily transport your drone and all its accessories wherever you go. It even comes with a cleaning cloth and a lanyard to put on your controller.
While these accessories alone would make the cost of the Phantom 3 worth it, you also get many outstanding features in the drone itself. For example, it comes with a return function and a built-in GPS so you never lose it. It boasts an amazingly long 25 minute flight time, thanks to its 2600 mAH LiPo battery. In addition, this drone comes with a high quality camera that boasts 2.7K video abilities.
This quadcopter’s reviews support its quality. Reviewers point out that the drone comes with a 1-year warranty to cover any defects that might pop up, but also note, almost universally, that their drones worked perfectly right out of the box. They also love the quality of the hard shell case and the value that the accessories add to this machine. The result is a drone that can deliver clear images, stunning video, reliable flight, and great stability, all for a reasonable price.
Dimensions: 18.5in. X 13.4in. X 9.1in.
Battery: 5400 mAH LiPo
Fly time: 18 minutes
Speed: 14 m/s
Charge time:120-180 minutes
RC range: 800 meters
FPV range: 500 meters
Camera: 4K, 2.5K, 1280, 720 HD camera
The Upair drone is a relatively cheap quadcopter that offers features that are often only found on more expensive drones. One of the most impressive of these features is the high quality camera and gimbal that come with the Upair. This camera can take 4K, 2.5K, 1080, or 720 video (at increasing rate of frames per second). Plus, reviewers note that the video and photos taken by this camera are very high quality, very clear, and very crisp, even from more than 400 feet up in the air.
In addition, the Upair boasts features, such as an auto return home function, that make it easy for beginners to use, and a long flight time of about 18 minutes. You can choose to either call the drone back yourself, or the drone will return to you when it reaches a low battery level. Finally, the Upair integrates its remote controller and its FPV program. This means that you do not have to download an app to your phone and sync your phone and your drone. Instead, you simply activate the FPV on your remote controller, and enjoy the view within seconds on your 7-inch screen.
Reviewers find that the return home function does not always work reliably on the Upair. However, they enjoy its sharp videos, its inexpensive price, and the ease with which even beginners can operate it. The result is one of the best beginner quadcopters for less than $1,000.
Dimensions: 18in. X 13in. X 8in.
Battery: 6000 mAH LiPo 2S
Fly time: 23 minutes
Speed: 16 m/s
Charge time:120-180 minutes
RC range: 5 kilometers
Camera: 4K HD camera
The DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter is a more advanced version of the DJI Phantom 3 Standard package. This drone is uniformly reported by quadcopter reviews to be a stunning and incredibly well designed drone. There are many features that lead reviewers to this conclusion. One of the most prominent is the DJI Phantom 3’s camera. The camera takes 12 megapixel photos and 4K video. Reviewers find that these are crystal clear, beautiful images that more than meet their expectations. The camera goes above and beyond expectations, however, in that you can control the camera from the transmitter, allowing you to move it wherever you wish while you fly.
In addition to recording gorgeous aerial images, the Phantom 3 also lets you see what the drone sees while it flies. Through the use of Lightbridge technology, it sends 720 resolution images from the camera to your mobile phone. Through the use of DJI’s app, you can also send this video to friends and family while you fly. This might be the best FPV quadcopter in this price range on the market today. In addition, the Phantom 3 is designed with intelligent features that allow you to control the drone from the transmitter while it flies, as well as use your mobile phone to control the drone if you wish.
Other desirable features that come with the Phantom 3 include a Visual Positioning. This features a variety of tools, including sensors and GPS, to allow the drone to orient itself indoors. As a result, you can safely fly it indoors. In addition, this drone comes with GPS navigation to guide the drone during take off and landing. In order to keep you safe and in compliance with federal regulations, the Phantom 3 includes a database of no fly zones, and the drone will not operate within 15 miles of the White House. These advanced features, at such a low price, make it a great value.
Reviewers praise the Phantom 3 for its video, its range, and its overall performance, despite having issues with DJI’s customer support. The result is a relatively high quality drone for its price range.
Dimensions: 18in. X 13in. X 8in.
Battery: 6000 mAH LiPo 2S
Fly time: 23 minutes
Speed: 16 m/s
Charge time:120-180 minutes
RC range: 5 kilometers
Camera: 2.7K HD camera
The DJI Phantom 3 Advanced quadcopter is one of DJI’s line of Phantom 3 drones. All of these drones fall into the category of great drones for less than $1,000. The one you choose depends primarily upon what you hope to achieve with the drone. For example, the Phantom 3 Advanced boasts a 2.7K, HD camera instead of a 4K HD camera. However, this camera is still sharp enough and clear enough to provide you with fantastic aerial videos and photography, even if you are a professional looking for the best possible shots.
In addition, the Phantom 3 Advanced offers you the Lightbridge technology that makes it one of the best FPV quadcopters on the market. This technology means you do not have to rely on wi fi, instead delivering a reliable stream of video to your smart phone. You can even send this video to other people while you fly. The speed (2mbps) is less than with the Phantom 3 Professional, but reviewers still find that it provides great video, even at a distance. The Phantom 3 Advanced also comes with Vision Positioning, which uses GPS, sensors, and other tools to “see” where the floor and walls are so you can fly this drone inside.
Like the other DJI Phantom 3 quadcopters, this one is designed to give you control over your drone when flying. If you need to change any of the settings or input commands while the drone is in the air, it will automatically hover so you can input your commands without risking a crash. Plus, this drone uses GPS to take off and land, flies for up to 23 minutes at a time, and is praised by reviewers for its exceptional performance. The result is one of the best quadcopters on the market today.
Battery: 5400 mAH LiPo 3S
Fly time: 23-25 minutes
Speed: up to 35 mph
Camera: 4K HD camera
The Yuneec Q500 Typhoon is one of the best quadcopters under $1,000 because of the incredible aerial photography it can capture. This quadcopter comes with a 4K HD camera that, according to reviewers, can capture breathtaking video. This video is not jumpy or scattered but instead smooth and steady. Plus, the user can control the resolution at which the video records so you get exactly what you want to see.
In addition, the Yuneec comes with FPV that allows you to see what the drone sees as it flies. The transmitter comes with a screen for viewing FPV so you do not have to use your smart phone. While the FPV tends to stop working after the drone reaches a certain distance, it can provide an exciting way to fly your drone. In addition, the Yuneec comes with appealing accessories, such as an extra battery and a high quality carrying case, to make the drone more convenient to transport and use.
The Yuneec comes ready to fly (RTF). This means that it comes assembled and with all of the accessories you need to use it right out of the box. This feature, along with others, makes the Yuneec a good choice for people who have never flown a drone before and are looking for an easy way to begin. Reviewers report that the Yuneec is intuitive to fly, has a decent range, and is an overall smart choice for a drone in this price range.
Weight: 1.64 lb.
FAA registration required? Yes
Camera: 4K, full HD 1080p
Range: 4.3 miles
Battery: Lithium ion Intelligent Flight battery
Fly time: 27 minutes
Stabilization: 3-axis mechanical gimbal
The DJI Mavic Pro is a sophisticated addition to DJI’s line of exceptional quadcopters. It is designed to fold into the size of a water bottle for super compact travel. Even its remote controller is designed to fit into your pocket. Yet, it is outfitted with the same kind of advanced technology that has earned DJI the reputation of having some of the best quadcopters available.
For example, the Mavic Pro comes with an Intelligent Flight battery. This technology equips the drone to “see” objects at a distance and maneuver smoothly around them automatically. Its flight autonomy capability allows it to notice and account for objects up to 49 feet (15 meters) in the distance. In addition, its Absolute Precision technology allows it to hover in the air wherever necessary and land exactly where it took off from.
The Mavic Pro’s intelligent flight is not its only impressive feature. It also comes with an exceptional camera that allows you to capture the breathtaking images and video that make DJI quadcopters great for aerial photography of all kinds. This camera can take 1080 pixel or 4K photos and videos. The 3-axis mechanical gimbal allows this camera to remain steady and reliable throughout the course of the flight. With a long flight of 27 minutes, the Mavic Pro also allows for longer, more enjoyable flights.
While reviewers note that this drone is expensive, they marvel at its small size and incredible performance. Its numerous features make it one of the best quadcopters on the market today.
Quadcopters Over $1000
When you spend more than $1,000 on a drone, you can expect high quality, advanced features that offer you a smooth flying experience, superior videography and photography, and complete control over your quadcopter. For example, the drones in this price range come with some of the industry’s most advanced 4K and HD cameras, along with features such as gimbal stabilization and hover capabilities that ensure steady, clear photos and video. Plus, these quadcopters allow you to stream your video live to your transmitter and/or smart phone, edit your videos, share your videos with others, and remotely control the camera to get the perfect shot. Besides the camera, you can also enjoy GPS technology, sensory abilities that make these drones responsive to their surroundings, intelligent flight capabilities, tap to fly features, ranges of more than 3 miles, long flight times, and more. The result is some of the best quadcopters on the market today.
Battery: 5350mAH, LiPo 4S,
15.2 volt Intelligent Flight Battery
Camera: 4K ultra HD 12.0M pixels
Max distance: 3.2 miles
Max video distance: About 1.5 miles
Max flight altitude: 6,000 meters
Flight time: About 28 min.
Dimensions: 12.8in. X 8.66in. X 14.96in.
There are many features that make the Phantom 4 one of the best quadcopters around. One of these features is the fact that it comes with multiple flight modes. Position mode allows the drone to use sensors and satellite to see where it is. TapFly mode allows the Phantom 4 to respond to you tapping on the controller’s screen to show it where to go. Active Track enables the Phantom 4 to track any object or person you wish. Intelligent flight mode uses a dual satellite positioning system and a visual positioning system to move around objects in the air and avoid crashes. Sport mode allows the Phantom 4 to enjoy high speed racing through the sky.
The Phantom 4 boasts a GPS system that allows it to know where it is at all times, respond to obstacles, take off and land automatically, and fly easily. Plus, the visual positioning system allows the drone to know where it is in relation to other objects in order to avoid crashes and hover if needed.
Of course, the Phantom 4 comes with a sophisticated camera that provides 12mp photos and 4K videos. The videos are crystal clear because of the drone’s hover capabilities, plus an advanced gimbal that keeps the drone stable. Perhaps most impressive is the ability you have with this drone to edit your videos after you take them, including adding colors and music with the DJI director software. Combined with extra stability, extended flight time, and solid reviews, the DJI Phantom 4 is hard to beat.
Battery: Intelligent Flight
Fly time: 18 minutes
Camera: 4K HD camera
The DJI T600 Inspire 1 quadcopter is all about its camera. This drone is designed to be one of the best quadcopters with a camera, thanks to a slew of impressive features. For instance, the arms of the drone lift out of the way when you are taking photos in order to provide clearer, wider field shots. Plus, the camera takes 4K video and 12mp photos for clear, amazing images. As if these were not enough features to make the Inspire 1’s price tag worth it, you can sync your smartphone to the drone in order to see the videos it is taking as it takes them in the air. All of these features combine to offer you a quadcopter that is designed for aerial photography and videography.
Reviewers agree. While they find that DJI’s customer support is lacking, they praise the Inspire 1’s durability and quality of performance. For example, they enjoy the Lightbridge technology that allows you to see FPV while you fly the drone without worrying about the wifi signal cutting off if you fly too far or too high. Plus, reviewers love this drone because it keeps the camera steady, even in moderately high winds. The result is impressive videography and photography with relative ease.
Quadcopters for Beginners
Starting out in flying quadcopters can be a daunting task. Quadcopters come in a wide variety of sizes and with many different features, and the total beginner will have a hard time picking out the right drone for them. We made a comparison chart of the best quadcopters for beginners to get you started with the most bang for your buck.If you’re shopping for a child, these are also the best drones for kids.
The size of the quadcopter matters! Most beginner quadcopters are in the neighborhood of 1 foot by 1 foot squares, with the exception being the Hubsan X4, which is much smaller than the rest. This would make the Husban X4 a good choice for beginners wanting to fly their quadcopter indoors.
Many people find the most important aspect of their quadcopter to be a camera attached to their drone. For our list, almost all of these beginner quadcopters come with cameras attached for you to practice your aerial photography.
It’s important to know what resolution your drone camera will film to if you plan on making many videos. These quadcopters range from 480p – 720p. If you want to do more than just practice filming, you should look for at least 720p.
How long you can fly your quadcopter before needing to recharge is an important factor to consider. Unfortunately, most of these quadcopters won’t get more than 10 minutes of flight time per charge. There’s good news though in our next section.
All of our best beginner quadcopters have the ability to swap batteries in and out easily, so don’t need to wait hours between flights. Just be sure to buy some additional spare batteries from Amazon when you checkout.
If you’re a new drone pilot, you might want to choose a quadcopter that comes with propeller guards. This will extend the life of your quadcopter by preventing the propellers from breaking if you run into something hard.
Weight: .40 ounces
Battery: 100 mAH 3.7VLiPo
Fly time: 4-6 minutes
Charge time:40 minutes
Some quadcopters weigh more than 55 pounds. Others are the size of a hummingbird. However, few are as tiny as the Estes 4606 Proto X nano quadcopter. This tiny machine is only 1.8 inches by 1.8 inches, and might just be the best nano quadcopter out there. Because of its small size, it is designed to fly indoors only. Outdoor flying may prove to be too much for this quadcopter’s tiny frame and ultra light weight.
However, the small size of this remarkable quadcopter does not indicate a lack of features. Instead, this drone is one of the best nano quadcopters because it provides an outsized number of features. For example, this powerful little machine comes with LED lights to show you which end is which, a sturdy plastic frame, and four tiny motors to power it. In addition, the Proto X comes with a 4-channel 2.4GHz controller that is powerful enough to direct the drone wherever you wish. The only things you need in order to fly this little beauty are two AAA batteries.
Reviewers praise the Proto X for its stability, for the high quality of the controller, and for its ease of use. Despite its small size, this nano quadcopter’s full size controller means that you always have perfect control over the machine. Added details, such as gentle landings, mean that it is unlikely to crash or be damaged, even though it is tiny and light weight. Finally, reviewers who have flown other drones still find that the Proto X provides a comparable recreational experience and quality to larger drones. The result is a fun, tiny, and high performing nano quadcopter.
Smallest Drone with a Camera
Cameras are almost a must-have with quadcopters, especially if you are going to fly your drone outdoors. You want to be able to capture video and photos that reflect the beautiful and exciting flights that you are achieving. However, many drones with cameras are large enough and heavy enough to require registration with the FAA. While simple and inexpensive, this process might be intimidating or annoying to some drone fliers. If you are looking for a drone that is both small and camera equipped, consider the Drone Dron nano quadcopter. Following are the specs and an overview of this small but mighty quadcopter.
Stabilization: 6-axis gyro
Speeds: Low, medium, fast
Weight: 6-12 ounces
The Drone Dron Nano stands out because of its unique combination of small size and camera technology. As one of the smallest drones with a camera, it boasts the ability to fly in small spaces while still recording your flight. The camera, by necessity, is small, at just .3MP. While a camera of this size will not give you professional-grade results, it will be sufficient to take videos and photos of your tiny quadcopter’s adventures as you fly it either indoors or outside.
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that this nano quadcopter comes with FPV (first person view) technology. This means that the drone uses wifi to stream the images from the camera to your phone (iPhone or Android) so you can see where your drone is going as you fly. All you need to do is to is download the app and sync your smart phone with your drone and controller. A tiny size does not mean you need a restricted flying experience.
In order to make the Drone Dron even easier to use, it comes with three speeds: Low, medium, and high. These modes allow you to choose the speed which is most appropriate to your experience level and to where you are flying the drone. LED lights make it easy to fly at night, while the 6-axis gyro stabilization make it more stable in the air. The result is an impressive little flying machine with satisfactory photography and videography capabilities.
Best Indoor Quadcopter
Many quadcopters can be either flown indoors or both indoors and outdoors. Even larger, high tech drones, such as the DJI Phantoms, come with technology that allows them to sense where the walls, furniture, and floors are so they can avoid these obstacles and safely be flown indoors. However, if you are looking specifically for an indoor drone, you would be hard pressed to find a better one than the Hubsan X4 H107L. Here are the specs and an overview so you can see for yourself why this is the best indoor quadcopter out there.
Weight: 1.1 ounces
Battery: 240 mAH 3.7VLiPo
Fly time: 6-8 minutes
Charge time: 30-45 minutes
Range: 100 meters
There are several versions of the Hubsan X4 H107L available. However if you are looking for an indoor drone that can fly (and crash) without harming you or your furnishings, the version that comes with the propeller guards is the best choice. These propeller guards match the distinctive royal blue of the rest of the drone, so you can maintain the beautiful, eye catching look that defines this nano quadcopter. The propeller guards will safeguard both your drone and your home if you accidentally run into furniture and walls while flying it.
However, running into anything is more difficult with the Hubsan X4 H107L because of its advanced gyro stabilization system that keeps the drone steady in the air. Plus, it comes with an LCD display screen as well as digital trim adjustment buttons to make stabilizing your drone easy, even for beginners to the drone hobby. Finally, its ability to make banked turns means that you can more easily navigate around obstacles in the house. The result is an indoor drone that is made for both safety and fun.
Of course, safety is not the only characteristic of the Hubsan X4 H107L. This quadcopter also comes with the ability to perform eye catching acrobatics, such as flips and rolls. Its light weight and small size (only 3 inches across) make it easy to control, even during stunts. Plus, the ability to operate the drone in either normal or expert mode means that you can rest assured that the drone will be easy to fly no matter what your experience level is.
Reviewers love the Hubsan because of its durability. They report that this indoor drone can survive multiple crashes without damage. In addition, they love this drone because of its responsiveness, and because it is easy to use, even for people who have never flown a quadcopter before. Their solid reviews mean that you can rest assured that the Hubsan performs as well in actual use as the company claims in its promotional material.
Best Drone for Photography
Many quadcopters come with cameras so you can take photos while your drone is in the air. In fact, it is difficult to find a quadcopter above $100 that does not come with some sort of camera. However, not all cameras are created equal. Most quadcopters that cost less than $1,000 will give you decent to excellent photos, but will not give you the type of professional photography with will cause jaws to drop or earn you money as an aerial photographer.
The best drones for photography comes with the ability to take 2.7K or 4K video, and photos that are at least 12MP. They include separate gimbals for the camera to ensure stability no matter what the drone is doing, allow you to hover to capture the clearest shots, boast high resolution images, and come with strong reviews that confirm their performance as professional-level cameras. If you want to enjoy an aerial photography drone that is known for excellent drone photography and may very well be the best drone for photography, you may want to consider the DJI Inspire 1. Following is an overview of this incredible quadcopter’s features, especially when it comes to photography.
Weight: 15 pounds
Battery: 5700 mAH 22.8VLiPo
Fly time: 18 minutes
Range: 1,600 feet
Camera: 4K HD camera
This incredible photography drone has been reviewed above. However, there are certain features that bear closer examination because of the fact that they contribute to this drone’s ability to function as one of the best aerial photography drones around.
The first of these features is the camera itself. Many of the higher priced drones come with 4K cameras like the Inspire 1 does. However, it is the other features of this camera that make it stand out above the rest. For example, the Inspire 1 also comes with its own gimbal to keep the camera steady. Plus, it comes with a huge resolution of 12.76 MP, for clear shots that are hard to match with any other camera. Plus, its field of view is 360 degrees, because the drone is made to lift its arms out the way when you are taking shots. This means that your photograph is completely unobstructed, allowing you to capture panoramic views that will make even demanding professional photographers happy.
If the camera and accessories that come with the Inspire 1 are not enough, you can also purchase accessories, such as filters, that will further improve your experience with this powerful camera and carefully crafted quadcopter. For example, the filters you can purchase include an ultra violet filter, an ND fader filter, a circuar polarizer filter, and an ND filter. Depending upon the filter you choose, you can reduce the amount of glare you experience against the lens of the camera, reduce the amount of UV light that penetrates (and wears down the lens), improve the appearance of your nature shots, and more.
The Inspire 1 also stands out as a great drone for photography because it allows you the option of purchasing a focus controller. This controller can be linked to your camera to allow you to focus the camera on whatever you wish to photograph. The result is an even clearer quality in your pictures, and the freedom to control exactly what your photos look like. Plus, the multiple versions of the Inspire 1 available for purchase mean that you can select exactly the version that will best suit your photography and videography needs.
Best Quadcopter Kit
If you want to take your drone hobby to the next level, you might want to consider buying a quadcopter kit. These kits allow you to build a drone from the ground up. One of the appealing features of these kits is the fact that there are many different kinds that will work for many different skill levels. The quadcopter kit you choose will reflect both your skill level and the amount of time you want to put into building a quadcopter.
For example, if you are a beginner to the drone hobby, you might want to choose an RTF quadcopter kit that can be flown right out of the package. These drones typically require only minimal assembly and come with everything you need. If you feel a little more confident in your skills, however, you can select a kit that requires you to purchase pieces or that requires different levels of assembly.
Regardless of which kit you choose, however, you should look for one that has high quality pieces, easy assembly, and, in the end, that provides you with a reliable, feature-rich drone to fly. If you want a kit that will allow you to do more than build one quadcopter, you can even select one that will allow you to build one of a number of different flying machines. The following quadcopter kit is the best quadcopter kit on the market because it fits these requirements, and because it does so with h3 reviews and by providing a wide degree of versatility in what you can make with the kit. Following is an overview of some of its main features.
Weight: 1.1 pounds
Max thrust: 440g
Features: Protection from over heating,
low voltage protection,
Range: Versatile, depending upon
the controller you choose
This pure carbon fiber quadcopter kit provides a versatile, agile, and durable drone. It is designed to be light weight through the use of the pure carbon fiber used to construct its body. This fiber is known for being light weight yet durable, which is why this drone weighs in at a scant 1.1 pounds. In addition, this quadcopter comes with an aluminum alloy spacer to further lighten its load.
In addition to being light weight, this quadcopter is stable so it doesn’t move around a lot in the wind. For example, it comes with a rubber damper that keeps the quadcopter from vibrating while it is in the air. Reviewers praise this drone’s performance as being smooth and reliable.
This quadcopter kit also boasts a versatility that frees you up to add whatever parts you want to create exactly the type of drone you are imagining. For instance, the range of the throttle can be adjusted to accommodate the requirements of whichever controller you purchase. You can use a program card or a transmitter to set the ESC’s parameters. Plus, perhaps best of all, you can add whatever you wish to these elements in order to create a drone, an indoor copter, or other type of copter.
This kit also includes a number of features that add to its convenience and safety. For example, it is built to protect against low voltage (which could otherwise cause a crash), and over heating (which could burn out the motors). The drone is also designed to conduct its own self checks to identify problems. A h3 battery, a longer flight time, and the use of the renowned Simon K firmware also speak to its high quality.
This kit provides you with a mini quadcopter frame, ESCs, controller, 4 motors, and 4 propellers. You may need to provide smaller items, such as connectors. Reviewers note that the small number of pieces required to complete their flying machines is one of the reasons that this kit is a smart choice. The result is a reliable, durable, and satisfying way to build a drone and further enjoy your drone hobby.
Regardless of which quadcopter you purchase, you should make sure that it possesses certain features that will make it safe, reliable, and easy to use. These features are so basic that the best quadcopters, regardless of price, include them in their specs. Here are a few of the important features that any of your quadcopters should possess.
The first feature you need to consider when buying a quadcopter is the price. There are several major price ranges that these machines fall into, and the range you choose will determine many of the features that you get in your quadcopter. For example, the best drone under $100 will not be as advanced as the best drone under $200, or under $1,0000, but you can still get a great drone for that price range, as long as you know what you are looking for. Choose a price range you can afford, and then focus on buying the best quadcopter you can manage for that price.
Once you select your price range, you should look for a drone that comes with a reliable camera. While videography and photography are not the only reasons to fly a quadcopter, being able to take pictures is one of the most common reasons people purchase drones, and these cameras provide an exciting way to record and remember your flights. Just make sure your camera is HD (high definition), and can take video of at least 720 pixels (preferably more). While cameras on drones in the lower price ranges might not offer you professional grade shots, you can still find cameras that allow you to take decent pictures and videos without graduating to more expensive drones you may not be able to afford.
Another basic feature you need on any drone is stability. When you are flying your quadcopter outdoors, you will encounter breezes, since it is almost impossible to find a perfectly calm day. If your quadcopter is not stable in the face of these winds, you are more likely to lose control of the drone, crash it, or watch it whipped away from you in the breeze. Make sure your drone has 3 or 6 axis stabilization (gyro stabilization is best). Also check the drone’s reviews to make sure that customers confirm its ability to withstand breezes in real time use. Other safety features, such as a return home button, low alarm warning or light, propeller guards, and reviews that support the drone’s durability when crashing, are also important to look for. These features will help to ensure that you, especially as a beginner, can avoid hurting yourself, others, property, and your drone while learning how to fly it.
Headless Mode and Safety Features
Another feature that you should look for in your quadcopter is headless mode. While you can fly a drone without headless mode (and some advanced fliers choose to do so), headless mode can make drone flying much easier to learn. Headless mode refers to the ability to fly the drone without worrying about where the front and back (head and tail) of the drone are. Without headless mode, your drone will move forward in the direction the head is pointing, or backward in the direction the tail is pointing, regardless of where you are standing. In headless mode, the drone moves forward and backward in relationship to where the controller (and you) are located.
Finally, when looking for a quadcopter, always consider the reviews. People who have purchased and flown the drone before are best qualified to tell you how it actually performs in real life. If you find hundreds of reviews that support the drone’s claims to being a safe, fun, high quality product, you can be pretty sure that is the case. If you find, however, that many reviews report the drone flying off on its own, taking bad pictures, or crashing, you can be pretty sure that you will be unhappy if you purchase that brand yourself.
As long as you have a quadcopter that is affordable, has a camera, possesses safety features, and comes with strong reviews, you have a quadcopter that will be easy, enjoyable, and reliable to fly. Of course, you probably want more than pure functionality in your drone, even as a beginner, and virtually all of the best quadcopters are going to give you more than just the basic features. If you want to add excitement to your quadcopter flying experience, there are many other features you can look for. Here are some of the most common fun features that you might want to include in your quadcopter search.
If you are flying a quadcopter with friends, you might want to show off your flying prowess a bit by making your drone do some acrobatics in the air. Most of the best quadcopters, even those under $100, come with the ability to perform 360 degree flips and rolls in the air. These tricks are exciting to watch and, if you can capture them on video, are sure to impress over and over again.
Long Distance Range
The best quadcopters under $100 are going to come with a range of about 100 yards (300 feet). This means that you can control the drone up to 300 feet away from your controller. This is a pretty long distance, about the length of a football field. However, being able to range even further can give you incredible photos and videos and be just plain fun. That is why many of the drones that cost more than $200 come with extended ranges (of up to 3 miles or more). They also often come with technology that allows you to see where your drone is when it is out of sight.
First Person View
First person view (FPV) is an exciting best quadcopter feature that lets you see what the drone’s camera sees as it flies. Sometimes, FPV is achieved by downloading an app to your smart phone and syncing your smart phone with the drone’s camera. On more advanced models, the FPV is integrated into the controller so you can see it on your transmitter screen as you fly. The connection on lower cost drones uses wi fi, while the more expensive drones use more reliable technology that does not cut out when you reach a certain distance or height.
FPV gives you an entirely different flying experience, allowing you to feel as if you are in the cockpit of the drone. It is also an essential feature if you purchase a drone that has a range that takes it out of your line of sight. FPV can be found on drones that cost less than $100 (though the FPV quality improves with the price of the drone, and the best FPV quadcopters cost more than $100).
Of course, there are an almost endless number of features that you can get with your quadcopter. These are just a few of the most common essential and fun features that you will find in every price range. If you want to learn more about what is available in every price range, check out the list below. It will give you an idea of what your money can buy, and it will point you in the direction of some of the most fun, reliable, and positively reviewed drones on the market today.
Where Can I Buy a Drone?
If you have decided to pursue a drone hobby, you may be wondering where to buy a quadcopter. In general, there are three answers to that question. The first is that you can stop by a brick and mortar retail store, such as Wal-Mart or Target, to purchase your drone. You can also peruse these stores’ selections and order a quadcopter from them online.
Since you can walk into a brick and mortar store and leave almost immediately with the product you want, this option gives you the advantage of choosing your quadcopter quickly. The downside to buying a quadcopter from these locations, however, is that the selection is usually limited. You may, for example, have difficulty finding features such a FPV, or locating a specific brand. Sometimes, these stores’ selections consist of the more basic quadcopters, forcing you to look elsewhere if you want a more advanced piece of technology. In addition, you will usually spend more on your drone at a retail store, even if you buy online, than you will at other places.
Your second option for where to buy a drone is to purchase it directly from the manufacturer online. For example, DJI’s website allows you to select and order any of their drones. This option works well if you know exactly which manufacturer you wish to purchase from, especially if you know exactly which drone you want. You will also often get extra bonuses when you purchase from the manufacturer. For example, they might give you discounts off the retail price, provide you with free shipping, and/or help you get your quadcopter set up. However, you will still usually pay more for your quadcopter by buying directly from the manufacturer. And, if you are not yet sure which quadcopter to buy, you may not want to limit yourself to a single manufacturer.
Finally, you can choose to buy a quadcopter from an online giant (such as Amazon). You can usually find almost any type of drone on this site, and often for significantly less than you would find it in other locations. Plus, you can take advantage of beneficial shipping policies and have the chance to read the reviews from other customers to help you get an idea of how your drone will perform during real-time use. Even if you do not end up purchasing from these online stores, reviewing their options and what customers have to say about the quadcopters that most interest you can help you identify which quadcopter you would like to purchase.
Regardless of where you buy your quadcopter, the key is to find the right drone for you and to get it for a reasonable price. As a result, researching drones before you buy can help you to avoid committing to a poorly designed or poorly performing quadcopter. Once you know which drone you want, then you can decide where to buy the quadcopter, and look at the stores, the manufacturer and other online sources to find out which place will offer you the best deal for the best quadcopter.
Other Issues to Consider
The features and reviews that come with your quadcopter are important elements to consider before you purchase your first drone. However, there are a few other things to be aware of when purchasing and using a drone for the first time. FAA registration, FAA regulations, no-fly zones, and privacy concerns are four issues that you need to know about so you can remain in compliance with the law and keep the respect and trust of your neighbors. Following is an overview of these four issues and how they might affect your drone flying hobby.
A recent development in the drone flying world is the requirement that drones above a certain weight be registered with the FAA before they are flown. This requirement is meant to ensure that the FAA is aware of the drones being used, since drone technology has become so advanced that drones are now capable of interfering with the flight of airplanes and helicopters.
The FAA currently requires that all drones weighing more than .55 pounds (250 grams) be registered with them. You will find that most drones costing less than $100 will fall under this weight, and, therefore, NOT need to be registered with the FAA. Often, drones that do not require FAA registration will advertise this fact when you go to purchase them. However, before you purchase any drone, make sure you know whether registration is required and whether or not you are willing to purchase a drone that must be registered.
The registration process is relatively simple and only costs $5 every 3 years. However, failing to register your drone with the FAA can result in a penalty of a fine of up to $250,000 and/or jail time of up to 3 years. If you wish to know more about drone registration, the FAA provides information online. However, here is a quick overview of some of the most important points of the registration requirement:
- You must register your drone before you use it outdoors.
- Your drone must be registered online if it weighs less than or up to 55 pounds.
- Anyone who registers a drone must be at least 13 years old. If the owner of the drone is younger than 13, they must have someone who is older than 13 register their drone on their behalf.
- Once your drone is registered, you should always have the registration available, and you should write the registration number on your drone.
Of course, registering your quadcopter with the FAA is not the only rule that will govern how you use it. There are a number of other regulations that should determine when and how you fly your drone. Following are some of the most important regulations that you should be aware of when flying any quadcopter:
Indoors vs. Outdoors
Many drones are designed to be flown indoors, or to be flown both indoors and outdoors. If you choose a drone that is only made to fly inside, or if you choose to fly your drone exclusively inside, you do not have to worry about many of the regulations that govern the use of quadcopters. For example, you only have to register your drone with the FAA if you fly it outdoors. Community guidelines govern the outdoor use of drones. Privacy rules, no fly zones, and so forth also usually apply only to the outdoor use of quadcopters.
However, if you are going to make the most of your drone and experience as much fun as is possible with this hobby, you are going to need to venture outdoors eventually. As a result, it is wise to familiarize yourself with the various regulations governing the use of drones, and to obey those regulations whenever you use your drone outside.
There are a number of community guidelines that you can choose from to guide your usage of your drone. For example, the Academy of Model Aeronautics provides a set of guidelines online that you can choose to follow. The FAA also has a set of guidelines you can choose to follow. These guidelines are simple and sensible ways to use your drone. They include, among other things, the following rules:
- Never fly above 400 feet, except in certain circumstances
- No flying while under the influence of drugs and alcohol
- Alert local airports to the presence of your drone when flying within 5 miles of one
- Stay away from other aircraft
- Remain 25 feet away from other people
- Do not violate others’ privacy
Another important issue to be aware of when flying a drone or quadcopter is the presence of federally-imposed no-fly zones. These are areas surrounding sensitive locations (such as nuclear power plants and the White House). No one is allowed to fly in these areas without authorization, and violating these zones carry stiff penalties. As a result, you should be aware of and respect any no fly zones near your residence.
In addition, some drones will not operate if they are taken within a no-fly zone. For example, many DJI drones will not work at all within 15 miles of the White House. If you live in or near a no-fly zone, you may want to be aware of the fact that your drone may not work for you because of your location, even if you are trying to fly it on your own property.
Another issue you should be aware of when you use your drone is the privacy of your neighbors. People generally expect to enjoy a certain level of privacy when on their own property or in their own homes and cars. Drones can, intentionally or unintentionally, violate that privacy if they are used to take videos or images of people in private areas.
In order to protect the privacy of others, drone regulations state that you must not take photos or videos of other people without their consent. In addition, they state that you must keep your drone away from other people’s private property and their vehicles. Usually, the laws require a distance of at least 25 feet. However, these guidelines vary from community to community, so you would be wise to check your own community’s rules regarding where it is appropriate to fly your quadcopter.
There are many other recommendations made by drone guidelines regarding how you use your quadcopter. For example, they state that you should be free from the influence of drugs and alcohol, refrain from reckless behavior that endangers others, know how to use your drone, and avoid flying your drone in severe weather (high winds, storms, etc.).
While these guidelines are important to keeping you and others safe while you enjoy your quadcopter, they often boil down to the need to use common sense. As long as you are using common sense, putting safety first, and operating your drone within the limits of your ability, you should not encounter any major issues that could result in danger to your or others. Just be safe, and enjoy all of the fun and excitement that the drone flying world has to offer.
Glossary of Common Terms
When you decide to enter the world of drone flying, you might initially feel overwhelmed by the new vocabulary you encounter. “Remote controllers,” “transmitters,” “FPV,” and more can make you feel out of your depth. To help you get a clearer idea of what you are reading when you look at drone reviews, following is a glossary of some of the basic quadcopter terms you will encounter.
A drone is any flying aircraft that is not manned. It can refer to tiny children’s toys and larger weapons of war. When used to refer to recreational machines, the term almost always refers to quadcopters.
A quadcopter is a drone that has four propellers. Each propeller is powered by its own motor. These propellers make the drone resemble a helicopter in shape, and serve to lift and guide the quadcopter through the air.
The controller, as its name suggests, is responsible for controlling the flight of the quadcopter. Typically, this is a small device that fits in your hands. It usually contains two joysticks. One joystick on the right controls where the drone tilts (forward, backward, side to side). The one on the left controls the direction the drone turns and controls the take off and the landing of the drone. On more expensive drones, the controller often comes with a screen that allows you to view FPV, or even control the drone by tapping the screen.
Another name for the controller.
The gimbal is the mount for the drone’s camera. It serves to keep the camera stable while the drone is moving around. The quality of the gimbal is responsible, at least in part, for the quality of the aerial photography and videography you can capture with your quadcopter.
A device that will charge the batteries for your drone. You simply plug the batteries into the battery charger and wait until they are charged to use them again. This usually takes anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, though the charge time for the batteries of some smaller quadcopters is shorter.
This term stands for milliampere-hour. It refers to how much electrical charge a battery can produce. The larger the mAH, the stronger the battery is, the more features it can power, and the longer it can run. Typically, drone batteries are 50-6000 mAH, with the strength of the battery increasing according to the size and cost of the quadcopter.
RTF stands for “ready to fly.” It is used to refer to quadcopters that come with everything you need to fly them in one package. For example, they may come with minimal assembly required, a battery, battery charger, propeller guards, camera, controller, and more.
An ultrasonic sensor is a sensor that bounces sound waves off the ground. The drone can use these waves to determine how far off the ground it is and whether there are obstacles in its way. More expensive drones use these sensors to fly indoors, as well as to fly around obstacles in the air.
Almost all quadcopter batteries are LiPo batteries. This term refers to lithium polymer batteries. They are preferable for drone flying because they weigh less than regular batteries.
FPV refers to first person view. This refers to a quadcopter feature that streams the video from the camera directly to your controller or to your smart phone. When it streams to your smart phone, it is usually sent through the use of a drone-specific app that may also allow you to do things such as edit the video or share the video with friends and family. FPV is desirable because it improves the flight experience and because it can make it easier to fly the drone if the drone is out of sight.
Headless mode refers to flying the drone without regard for where its front and back are. In regular mode, the drone moves forward where its head is pointing and backward where its tail is pointing. In headless mode, it moves forward toward the controller and backward away from the controller, no matter where its head and tail are.
Over the last few years, a new use for drones has rapidly been gaining popularity. Known as drone racing, this pastime involves racing small, agile drones around obstacle courses. This type of racing almost exclusively uses advanced FPV technology, often including the use of FPV goggles. As such, it provides an experience that involves all of the senses and offers fliers an adrenaline-laced surge of excitement while the race lasts. The sport is becoming increasingly organized, with the formation of the DRL (Drone Racing League) and competitions that can net the winners hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In order to compete in the world of drone racing, you must possess a racing drone. In order to achieve the fastest, most advanced, and most customized racing drones, you need to build your own. However, there are also many fast drones on the market today that you can use to get a taste of the world of drone racing.
Any racing drone you purchase should come with certain features. For example, almost all of these drones come with FPV capabilities. This feature allows you to see what the drone sees as you fly it. Instead of flying by sight alone, you put on the goggles (or look at the controller screen) and see the world from the view of the drone.
This ability to put yourself in the cockpit of the drone is one of the reasons that drone racing is such an exciting and popular pursuit. Any racing drone you purchase should come with reliable FPV that allows you to easily fly the drone without needing to rely on sight. This means clear images and no lag between the drone’s flight and what you see.
In addition, racing drones must be light and maneuverable. As a result, most racing drones are very small (sometimes nano-sized). However, they can be larger, as long as they are capable of maneuvering quickly around the obstacles in the race course. Of course, this maneuverability must include speed, since racing drones can get up to 120 miles per hour during a competition.
Many of the best racing drones come with durable, lightweight bodies made of carbon fiber or fiberglass. These materials allow the racing drone to withstand crashes and dings while keeping it light weight and maneuverable. You should be aware that many of these drones require additional pieces before you can fly them. Some require a few simple pieces; others require FPV goggles or other important elements. Just make sure to take any missing pieces into consideration when looking at price and functionality for your racing drone.
Other features you might find on a racing drone include a night vision camera (so you can fly it at night), technology that reduces lag in the FPV, FPV-equipped controllers in case you do not want to use FPV goggles, a long range, and advanced cameras. Of course, you can also purchase fast drones in a variety of price brackets, but even the best racing drones rarely cost more than $500.
If you want to try out racing but do not want to build your own, purchasing a racing drone that comes with a light weight yet durable body, a reliable camera, advanced FPV, and a reputation for speed can help you to get a taste for the sport without costing you too much money.
One of the most fascinating and appealing things about quadcopters is that they come in so many different sizes and shapes and come with so many different capabilities. For example, you can take professional photos and videography with a drone, dive into drone racing, or show off to friends and family with a sporty and acrobatic drone. The key is to identify what you want to use your drone for and then to look for the best drone to match that desire. Regardless of what you want to do with your quadcopter, you can find high quality, high performing, and affordable choices.
One of the most popular categories of quadcopters are the toy drones. These machines are small drones that are designed for entertainment and recreation. As such, they do not often come with cameras or advanced technology. They are not built for speed. They are not large, and they typically do not cost as much as drones meant for more professional uses (such as videography and photography). Some toy drones are even suitable for children to play with, because they are inexpensive enough, and durable enough, to withstand steady usage by a child.
Typically, a toy drone will come with a limited range and a limited fly time. For example, you probably will not get a toy drone to fly further than a 100 meters away from you, and you will probably only get a fly time of less than 10 minutes. If the drone comes with a camera, that camera will not capture professional grade shots, but will capture photos and video that help you enjoy the excitement of drone flying.
One of the first features to look for in a toy drone is affordability. If you are going to be using the drone solely for entertainment purposes, you will want to purchase something that is less than $100. That way, you never have to worry if it crashes and breaks, or if your children let it fall into a tree while they are learning how to fly it. If you spend more than $100, chances are you will be buying a drone that is meant for more advanced uses anyway, and will come with features you do not need.
Another feature to look for in your toy drone is ease of use. If you are purchasing a quadcopter as a toy, chances are you do not want to spend hours learning the ins and outs of the drone. Instead, you want something that will fly easily right out of the box. A drone that comes with multiple flight modes (such as beginner, intermediate, and experienced) can be beneficial, because it allows you to increase the challenge of flying the drone as your skill level increases.
One of the most fun aspects of flying a toy drone is doing tricks with it. For example, many toy drones come with the ability to do 360 degree flips and rolls. Because toy drones tend to be smaller and lighter weight, they also tend to be very maneuverable. This means that you can have fun navigating around obstacles. The faster and more maneuverable your toy drone is, the more likely you are to have fun with the drone, so look for one that has strong reviews regarding its fun factor.
Regardless of which toy drone you purchase, you should focus on an item that is affordable, maneuverable, and highly reviewed. Purchasing one that looks great and can do the kind of tricks that make it fun can add to your enjoyment of your recreational drone.
How to Fly a Quadcopter
Regardless of whether you purchase or build a drone, the end goal is probably going to be flying it. Learning how to confidently fly a quadcopter will allow you to enjoy the benefits of drone flying, from great photos and videography to fun stunts and a sense of accomplishment. While flying a drone can involve a great deal of skill, following is an overview of the basics of quadcopter flying. If you master these basics, you should be able to move more easily into the more complex parts of drone flying.
Start with the user’s manual.
While every quadcopter has certain features in common, each one is also different. Learning how to fly your particular drone means that you need to become familiar with all of its unique qualities. The best place to get information about how your particular drone operates is the user’s manual. This manual should outline all of the features of your drone, how those features work, and any steps you need to take to get your drone in working order.
Before you try to fly your quadcopter, make sure you understand the user’s manual and have followed any pre flight steps it recommends (charging and installing battery, connecting controller and phone, etc.). Otherwise, you risk making mistakes that are preventable or that would hinder your ability to fly your quadcopter (for example, if you fail to download software, you might not be able to fly your drone with FPV, and if you do not know that the drone will not turn on within 15 miles of the White House, you might try to fly a quadcopter that will not operate in your DC yard). As a result, first get your drone unpacked and set up, and then read through the user’s manual and follow any of its pre flight instructions.
Familiarize yourself with the transmitter/remote control.
Once you have familiarized yourself with your quadcopter and its features, you will need to familiarize yourself with the controller. This is the part of the quadcopter package that you will use to send commands to your drone. The specific features of the controller vary by brand, so understanding how each one is intended to work is important. For example, you may need to take time to sync your controller and your quadcopter, or set your controller up to deliver FPV view on its screen. Again, your user’s manual should give you the information you need.
Learn the throttle basics.
Before you fly your quadcopter, you also need to make sure you understand the basics of your throttle. The throttle is the control stick located on the left hand side of your controller. It is used to control the up and down motion of the drone, as well its movement from side to side (referred to as yaw).
The throttle might feel a little confusing in the beginning, because it is used in two ways: First to power the propellers to keep your quadcopter in the air and second to control the yaw of the drone (its movement from one side to the other). In order to fly your drone successfully, you must push the throttle up to engage the propellers and provide your quadcopter with lift. You must then keep the throttle up while you move it side to side to control yaw. For example, you would keep the throttle pushed up, but move it to the right to move the drone right and left to move the drone left.
You also use the throttle to land your quadcopter. In order to land, you gradually pull the throttle down. This will allow your quadcopter to land gently. Unless you are crashing, avoid pulling the throttle down all the way at once, otherwise, your quadcopter will drop out of the sky like a rock because you will have cut all power off to the propellers.
The throttle can also be useful if you are about to crash. Leaving your propellers spinning the event of a crash can be dangerous, because the propellers can damage property or injure people who happen to get in the way as it lands. If you see you are about to crash, cut the throttle off all the way, immediately. Doing so will minimize property and personal damage in the event you lose control of your drone.
Finally, always be aware that your drone will respond to the way in which you adjust the throttle. If you push it hard and fast, the drone will respond hard and fast. If you move the throttle slowly, your drone will move slowly as well. As a result, make sure that when launching and landing your drone, you move smoothly and slowly enough to ensure a launch or landing that allows you to keep control of your quadcopter the entire time.
Learn the pitch basics.
The control stick on the right of your controller is called the pitch. However, it is used to control both he pitch and the roll of your drone. Pitch refers to the forward and backward movement of your quadcopter. The pitch control goes forward to move your quadcopter forward and backward to move your quadcopter backward.
Be aware that, in most quadcopters, the pitch, or forward and backward movement of the quadcopter, will be controlled by the location of the head and tail of the drone. For example, if your drone’s head is pointing toward you, and you move the pitch controller up, the drone will move closer to you, because forward is the direction its head is pointing. Being sure where your head and tail are located is essential is getting your drone to go in the direction you wish.
Headless mode: Some quadcopters come with what is called headless mode. This means that you can command your quadcopter to move in relationship to where your controller is instead of where the head and tail of the quadcopter are. For example, say the head of your drone is facing you, but the drone is in headless mode. If you push the pitch control up, your drone will still move away from you, because forward is the direction in front of the controller, not in front of the head. Headless mode is not necessary to fly a quadcopter, but beginners often prefer it because it makes it simpler to direct your drone before you understand (or can see) which end is which on your quadcopter. Try flying your drone in both modes and see which one suits you best.
Your user’s manual should tell you how to activate headless mode in your drone (if it comes with this feature). The key, regardless of the method of activating headless mode, is to locate the head of your drone (your manual should tell you how) and to position your drone with the head facing away from you. This technique is usually needed to activate headless mode, and it will also help you learn where the ends of your drone are and how to guide your drone when you are ready to abandon headless mode for regular mode.
Most drones are also capable of rolling from side to side. Some even boast 360 degree rolls that spin the drone completely around. Roll is also controlled by the pitch control on the right hand side of the controller. Simply move the control to the right to roll the quadcopter right, and left to roll the quadcopter left. If your controller has extra buttons to achieve 360 degree flips and rolls, your owner’s manual should tell you, and you should follow its instructions for achieving these stunts.
No one has ever gotten a drone flying fast, with perfect FPV and great photography their first time out. Chances are, you may spend your first (or second, or third) flight just learning how to take off and maneuver your quadcopter without crashing. Even quadcopters that are known for their ease of use require time to master. As a result, keep your expectations realistic as you embark on your drone flying hobby. Your mantra should be to “start slowly.” Take as many flights as you need to become familiar with how your drone feels, how it moves, and how it responds to the controller. Now that you own a quadcopter, you have all the time you need to learn how to fly it.
For example, for your first flight, simply get your quadcopter up and running and then gently move the throttle up to engage the propellers and get some lift on your drone. Then, when your qaudcopter is a few feet in the air, gentle set it down. Repeat this procedure multiple times, perhaps until your battery runs out. Gradually lift your quadcopter higher every time. When you have built up enough confidence with the throttle to get your quadcopter up in the air, you can leave the throttle engaged and begin practicing with pitch, yaw, and roll. As with the throttle, however, start small with these basic maneuvers. Move gradually, and take a few flights to really get the hang of how your quadcopter moves.
The reason this slow and careful approach works best is because it minimizes the risk of crashes and damage to your drone. For example, if you crash your drone at 5 feet, you are much less likely to experience damage than if you crash it at 30 feet, or 300 feet. If you turn your quadcopter slowly, you minimize your chances of losing control because it spun further than you had expected (or moved forward further than you had anticipated and rammed into a tree). Plus, if you make a mistake (such as thinking your drone’s head is pointing one way instead of the other), slow movements give you time to recognize and rectify your mistake before you run into people, objects, or the ground.
Build your skill level.
Once you are comfortable performing the basic movements of the drone (throttle, pitch, yaw, and roll), you can build up to more complex movements that will allow you to experience all of the excitement your drone has to offer you. For example, once you are comfortable with how yaw works, try venturing further and further afield. Once you are confident with using yaw (or the other basic movements) at a distance, then begin practicing maneuvers such as 360 degree rolls or hovering. By building up your skill level, you reduce the risk of crashes and provide yourself with a solid foundation upon which to embark on all of your quadcopter flying adventures.
Learn how to hover.
Hovering is an excellent intermediate skill to learn once you have the basic movements mastered. Hovering can be useful if you want to take photographs with your drone, give you time to choose a direction, help you manage obstacles, and so forth. While the most advanced drones will hover automatically when you let go of the controllers or when they sense an obstacle, most quadcopters will require you to perform this skill manually.
The first step in hovering is to lift the quadcopter using the throttle. You should be comfortable with this step thanks to your previous practice. The first time you practice hovering, lift your quadcopter up into the air by engaging the throttle. Then, you simply adjust the right control stick slightly to compensate for the movements of the drone. For example, if it tilts to the left, move it to the right. If it moves forward, adjust it backward. You should already know how to perform these movements. However, the hard part will be keeping these movements tiny enough to balance your quadcopter without actually moving it anywhere.
One activity you can try in order to learn the type of fine control needed to hover well is to hop your drone from one location to another. The fine motor control used in this activity will sharpen your skills for when you need to hover. Be patient as you learn to hop and hover. It may take time, but the ability to precisely control the location and movements of your drone will be invaluable if you hope to control a drone far afield, in less than ideal conditions (such as windy days) or when capturing photography and videography.
Know how to crash.
No one likes to think about crashing their drone. The possible damage to your drone, as well as to nearby people and property, is enough to give anyone a headache. However, most quadcopter owners have crashed their machines multiple times, even after they become experienced fliers. Plus, unexpected failures in your machine, gusts of wind, or other people’s mistakes can all contribute to a crash, even if you are flying your machine perfectly. Being able to crash safely is important in minimizing damage to everyone involved.
The key to crashing safely is acknowledging when a crash is inevitable. Sometimes, you need to vie up on the idea of remaining in the air and focus instead on minimizing the damage from the crash. If you find that your quadcopter is irretrievably out of control, immediately try to guide it to a soft, open place to land. If this proves impossible, immediately cut off the throttle. Doing so will cut power to your propellers so they do not cause damage as they land (or be damaged by impacts with hard objects such as rocks and trees). By not hesitating, you can save yourself and the people around you serious damage in the event of a crash.
Follow standard safety precautions.
Finally, flying your quadcopter means observing the standard safety precautions that apply to every drone. One way to ensure safety while you fly your quadcopter is to establish and follow a pre flight checklist. This is a list of items to check before you embark on every drone flight. Here are a few items to put on your list:
- Make sure your batteries are charged.
- Make sure your batteries are installed correctly.
- Make sure your SD card is installed
- Make sure your propellers are securely fastened.
- Check for any other loose or misplaced parts, especially your first flight after a crash.
- Check the operation of your controller.
- Move your controls slightly to make sure they all work correctly.
Another safety precaution to consider when flying a quadcopter is the location of your flight. Many people choose to fly their drones in their backyard, but this location only works if it is an open, grassy area that is large enough to fly in without running into your neighbors’ yards. Otherwise, you may want to find a park or other open area in which to fly. Doing so minimizes the chances that you will accidentally violate others’ privacy or run into anyone or anything with your drone.
In addition, consider the weather before you go out. Even small winds can negatively impact the flight of a small, light weight drone, while heavy winds, rain, or snow can make it impossible to control your machine. Ideally, especially as a beginner, you should choose a clear, calm, sunny day that will give you good visibility and few weather distractions.
Flying a quadcopter takes time and practice and forethought. However, the rewards it offers you are huge. Not only do you get the satisfaction of accomplishing a new skill and being able to show off for your friends, but you also get to try new things like aerial photography and videography, or drone racing. Do not let inexperience with drones stop you. Instead, embrace the fun they have to offer by starting small and working your way up to the complex skills that you dream of.
How to Build a Quadcopter
If you want to learn more about how a quadcopter works, instead of just how to fly it, you might want to learn how to build a quadcopter. Building your own drone requires more work, and more skill, than simply purchasing a ready-made quadcopter. However, it also rewards you with the satisfaction of knowing that the drone you are flying was made with your own hands. Plus, there are many kits and tutorials out there that are targeted toward beginners who either have flown drones but never built them, or those whose first experience ever with a drone is building one.
If you are going to successfully build a quadcopter, there are a few steps you need to follow. You can find more detailed instructions online, but the following steps are the most basic and important. Following them should allow you to put together a serviceable and fun quadcopter, regardless of your experience level.
- Choose between an RTF kit, an ARF kit, or a from scratch build.
When you decide to build a quadcopter, you will quickly find that there are many options for putting together a drone. In particular, there are three approaches you can take. Selecting the one that is right for you needs to be your first step, because each approach comes with its own steps for a successful build.
The first, and simplest, approach is to choose an RTF quadcopter kit. These kits come with everything you need to fly the drone right out of the box (frame, controller, motors, transmitter, etc.). If you need anything to put the drone together, it will be tools like screwdrivers, and perhaps some connectors. In some cases, an RTF quadcopter will even already be assembled for you. If you want to actually build a drone, you may want to skip the pre-assembled drones and select an RTF kit that requires some assembly. However, because these kits come with everything you need (and at least some of the assembly done already) they are the easiest drones to put together.
ARF stands for “almost ready to fly” and refer to quadcopter kits that require some more parts to complete the kit. For example, you might need to add a controller, propellers, etc. in order to end up with a working quadcopter. These kits also require more assembly than do RTF quadcopter kits. While these kits offer more of a challenge while you build a drone, they still provide you with many of the parts you need and make it much easier to build a drone than if you constructed it from scratch.
A from-scratch drone build is out of reach for many beginning drone builders. The term refers to purchasing all of your own parts and putting them together yourself. The reason from-scratch builds are more difficult is because they require a deeper knowledge of the intricacies of the quadcopter. For example, in order to build a frame, you need to understand how the frame supports the weight and technology of the drone, and how to construct a frame that can withstand accidents.
In addition, all of the parts of a quadcopter must be compatible with each other. When you purchase a quadcopter kit, all of the pieces within the kit are already compatible, so you just have to worry about putting them together. When you are building from scratch, you have to make sure all the parts you buy are compatible. Despite its difficulty level, however, from scratch quadcopters allow you to incorporate any features you wish into your drone, and generally allow you to build a more sophisticated and advanced piece of machinery than is possible with a kit.
However, many beginners will find this type of from-scratch construction to be overwhelming and difficult. If you are a beginner, you may also want to select an almost-ready-to-fly or ready-to-fly quadcopter kit. These will come with all the pieces you need to put together a simple yet reliable drone, and they should come with the instructions you need to navigate the assembly.
- Select a quadcopter to build.
Once you know whether you want to build an all-inclusive quadcopter kit or a more advanced one, you will need to choose the specific drone you will be putting together. One of the great things about building a drone is the fact that the sky is the limit as far as the capabilities you can incorporate into your quadcopter. And, often, you can build these capabilities into your drone for less than you would pay for a similar drone at a store.
However, keep in mind that the more features you include in your drone, the more complex it will be to build, and the more chances there are for you to make mistakes. For beginners to the drone hobby, adding special features can be a little too complicated to be accomplished successfully. For example, putting a frame together from scratch and adding cameras and FPV capabilities are advanced techniques that may require practice first.
As a result, if you are a beginning drone builder, you may want to choose a basic quadcopter to build. This does not mean selecting a boring or cheap drone. Instead, you should be able to find light weight, agile, small, and reliable quadcopters to put together. You can even find acrobatic quadcopters that are still simple to put together for beginners. The key is to locate a quadcopter that will allow you to get into the drone building hobby without feeling overwhelming or complicated.
Once you become more familiar with building a drone, you can add features to the drones you have already built, or gradually select more complicated quadcopters to put together. With time and practice, you may find yourself building functional, complex quadcopters entirely on your own. The key is to start where your ability level is, select a drone that has the features you want but is still manageable for you to build within your current skill level, and then decide what areas you want to challenge yourself in for your next drone build.
- Make sure you have all the pieces.
Once you have selected a quadcopter to build, you will need to make sure you have all the pieces necessary to put it together. If you have chosen an RTF quadcopter kit, you might be able to skip this step and go directly to collecting the tools for your build. However, familiarize yourself with your kit first. Even some RTF kits have small parts that might be missing or need to be purchased (such as connectors).
If you have chosen an ARF quadcopter kit, you will need to look at the kit carefully to determine which pieces you need. For example, many ARF kits require you to purchase a controller separately. Make sure that you note not only which pieces are needed but also what requirements they should meet in order to be compatible with the rest of the kit. Otherwise, you might have difficulty building or operating your drone properly.
If you are building your quadcopter from scratch, you will need all of the major pieces listed below, and, possibly, additional items if you choose to add functionality like a camera or FPV. In fact, you will need to purchase every single item for your quadcopter separately. In order to do so successfully, you will need to make sure all of the parts are compatible with each other, and that they provide you with the specific functionality you are looking for in your drone. Consulting an exhaustive online tutorial or video can help you identify parts beyond the major ones listed below that will help you build your ideal quadcopter from scratch.
Following is a basic list of the parts you will have to have regardless of the type of drone you build. Other pieces might be required depending upon the specific drone you construct, but you should be able to find a list of these extra pieces on your tutorial or in the instructions for your kit. The specific types of these parts (for example, the specific type of battery that will work best) will depend upon the quadcopter you are putting together.
- Motors (4)
- Propellers (4)
- Electronic speed controls (4)
- Flight control board
- Radio transmitter and receiver
- Battery and charger
- Connectors and adaptors
- Hex screws
- Propeller spinners
- Propeller bolts
- Selective parts (Camera, FPV, propeller guards, LED lights, etc.)
- Select quality parts.
Regardless of whether you purchase your parts separately or buy a quadcopter kit, you need to choose quality parts. For instance, many quadcopter parts come from China, which is known for shipping lower quality pieces simply because these pieces can be made and sent for less. Instead of choosing the least expensive parts, think instead about how strong, durable, easy to use, and well-reviewed they are. You can find solid parts from China, and from other places, but you may have to do your research.
The same applies when you are researching quadcopter kits. Instead of choosing the least expensive kit, consider selecting a kit based on its proven quality and durability. Choose something that not only matches your skill level but that also has reviews that support its claims to being a quality product that will last you for the long term. The result in the end should be a stronger and longer-lasting quadcopter to enjoy.
Following is an overview of some of the other qualities you should look for in each part of your quadcopter. These characteristics will make it easier for you to put together a quadcopter that is easy to use and flies reliably.
While it is possible to build a frame from scratch, it is very difficult to do so. The reason is that the frame requires precise engineering in order to provide stable flight and in order to withstand crashes. With many high quality frames available for purchase, you would be wise to start with a fully constructed frame. Look for one that is light weight and durable. And, because all of your parts are going to be placed in or on the frame, select one that is easy to build on.
- Motors (4)
Consider purchasing a motor that is neither inexpensive or very pricey. Motors in this price range tend to be reliable without costing you lots of money. Typically, a motor that is around 1000kV will suffice. Use the information that comes with the motor to decide what type of propellers and what kind of electronic speed controls (ESCs) you will need.
- Propellers (4)
The motors you purchase should tell you what size and type of propellers will work best with them.
- Control Board
The control board is the brain behind the quadcopter. As such, the type you buy will determine how much functionality and performance your quadcopter has. However, instead of purchasing the most expensive, and complex, control board out there, you should once again try to balance ease of use, cost, and functionality. As a beginning drone builder, you want a board that is easy to install, but also versatile enough to handle modifications you might make to the quadcopter later on. And while spending top dollar on a control board might be tempting, saving some money by purchasing a less expensive board can still leave you with a high quality and reliable part.
- Electronic Speed Controls (4)
Again, the motors you purchase should tell you what type of electronic speed controls to buy.
- Radio transmitter and receiver
Choose a transmitter that has at least 4 channels. If you foresee yourself making modifications on your quadcopter as your skill level increases, select a transmitter that has more than 4 channels so it can handle any changes you make later on.
- Battery and Charger
The power the battery provides is described in a term called mAH. The higher the mAH, the more powerful the battery is. However, the higher the power, the heavier the battery tends to be. So, make sure that you select a battery that your quadcopter can handle, while providing enough power to give you a satisfactory flight.
As far as battery chargers go, choose a balance charger that will charge the cells in your battery at an even rate. The battery charger is also one area where the cost really does matter. Invest in a quality charger in order to reduce the risk of fire caused by poorly charging batteries.
Of course, if you select an RTF or ARF quadcopter kit, many of these parts will have been selected for you already. You can ensure the quality of these parts by buying a highly-rated quadcopter kit that has proven itself through solid reviews to deliver a high quality quadcopter. If you are building a drone from scratch, you will need to individually analyze the quality and suitability of each part.
- Collect the tools you will need to build the quadcopter.
Of course, simply collecting the parts of the quadcopter will not be enough to put your drone together. You will also need an assortment of tools and accessories that will allow you to construct the drone correctly. These tools might be things you already have around the house, but you may find that there are certain tools you need to purchase especially for your drone building project. Following is a list of some of the tools you should select for your drone building project:
- Zip ties
- Heavy gauge wire
- Small screwdrivers
- Soldering iron
- Battery strap
- Jumping wires
- Set of Allen keys
- Wire cutters
- Utility knife
- Electrical tape
- Wire strippers
- Wire cutters
- Propeller balance
- Mount the Motors
If you select not to build your frame, the first step you will take to build a drone (after choosing your drone and gathering your tools) will be to mount the rotors to the frame. The motors connect to the power distribution board on the frame. This board should have a round location with four holes where the motor will mount.
Mounting the motor typically involves screwing the motors onto the motor mounting plates. To accomplish this step, screw four hex screws through the motor and into the plates in the designated areas. Once you have placed the motors on the mounting plates, you can attach the motor shaft (again using hex screws) and then attach the entire set onto the power distribution board.
In order for the motors to be mounted correctly, you must mount them with the wires facing toward the center of the frame. Remember that this step involves four motors for a quadcopter, so you will need to repeat these steps four times for each quadcopter you build. Once you are finished, each of the four arms of the frame should have a motor mounted to it.
- Solder the ESCs to the power distribution board.
Soldering the ESCs means connecting them to the power distribution board through the use of solder (a metal that melts easily when exposed to heat). First you need to determine where each ESC wire goes on the power distribution board. The red wires are soldered to the points on the outside of the power distribution board, while the black wires are soldered to the points on the inside of the power distribution board. Occasionally, you will have three differently-colored wires and three rings labeled A, B, and C. Place the yellow wires at A, the red at B, and the black at C.
Locate the proper point for each of your wires, and then cut them so that they reach to that point and no further. Zip tie your ESC’s to their proper location on the arm of the quadcopter so they do not move while you are soldering them. Next apply your solder to the attachment point on the power distribution board and to the wire which will connect to it. Using your soldering iron, melt the solder on the wire, then place the wire on the attachment point and melt the solder on the attachment point until the wire and the power distribution board are joined.
Check the strength of the solder by tugging on the wire. Once you are satisfied with the quality of the solder, wrap your work in electrical tap in order to prevent short circuits and other electrical problems.
- Mount the flight control board to the quadcopter.
As mentioned earlier, the flight control board is the brain of the quadcopter. As a result, getting it installed correctly is essential if you are going to enjoy a properly working drone. You may choose to mount the board in its box in order to prevent damage from static charge. If you select this option, you will need to remove the corners of the box and glue the corners of the flight control board to the box for added stability. Alternatively, you can simply remove the flight control board from the box and mount it to your quadcopter that way.
The process of mounting the flight control board is relatively simple. All you need to do is to super glue it in the center of the power distribution board. Just make sure that the board is facing the correct way, with the buttons on the bottom of the board. Also make sure your glue is strong enough to hold the board securely on the drone, otherwise, you risk losing your drone mid-flight or in a crash that dislodges the board.
- Mount the receiver to the quadcopter.
You should have in your possession both a radio transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter will allow you to control the flight of the quadcopter by adjusting its height, direction, tilt, and more. However, in order for the transmitter to work, the quadcopter needs to include a receiver that, as its name suggests, receives the signal from the transmitter. Once you have the motors, ESCs, and control board in place, you will need to secure this receiver to the power distribution board of your quadcopter.
Again, this is a relatively simple step (gluing) that is important to the operation of your quadcopter. The receiver should be positioned wherever you wish on the quadcopter. The only requirement is that the wires from the receiver be able to reach the control board, where you will connect them so they can properly direct the quadcopter in response to your command through the transmitter.
- Add the battery.
The battery is the power source for the quadcopter. Without it, your quadcopter will not go anywhere. Fortunately, installing the battery is a relatively simple process. Just make sure you begin with a charged battery so you can test your quadcopter right away to make sure that everything is working correctly. Simply attach the battery to the underside of the quadcopter using Velcro or zip ties. Place it in the front if you are not planning to add a camera later. Otherwise, add it to the back to better distribute the weight. Once your battery is in place, you will be ready to move on to the propellers.
- Balance the propellers.
Of course, a quadcopter cannot go anywhere without its propellers, no matter how expertly you have hooked up the motors, ESCs, control board, or receiver. As a result, the next step you need to take is to add the propellers to the quadcopter. In order to allow the propellers to keep the quadcopter upright in the air, they first need to be balanced. This means that you need to make sure that each side of the propeller is equally weighted. Otherwise, one side of the propeller will drop lower than the other, and your quadcopter will be unbalanced in the air.
In order to successfully balance your propellers, you need to use a propeller balance. This tool allows you to lay the propeller between two grooves. You should then see the propeller either lean to one side or the other, if it is unbalanced, or rest equally in the balancer, if it is properly balanced. Many high quality propellers (such as those purchased with the right quadcopter kit) will already be well balanced. However, checking is an important step in making sure that your quadcopter will fly correctly.
If one side or another of the propellers is drooping, you can add some tape to the opposite side. This small bit of weight should be enough to bring the drooping side up. When you have added enough weight to the high side, the propeller’s two sides should sit evenly together in the balance. Then you are ready to mount the propellers to the quadcopter.
- Prepare to mount the propellers to the quadcopter.
Once you have ensured that the propellers are properly balanced, you can mount them to the quadcopter. Mounting the propellers is a bit more complicated than simply gluing pieces into place, as you did with the control board and the receiver. Instead, you first need to identify which propellers are which. Every quadcopter possesses two propellers that spin in a clockwise direction and two that spin in a counterclockwise direction. You can tell which is which by looking at the labels on the propeller.
Some have the letters L or R on them, meaning Left and Right. The left-spinning ones are counterclockwise propellers, while the right-spinning ones are clockwise propellers. Others label the clockwise propellers with P, while leaving the counterclockwise propellers unlabeled. Finally, still others label the clockwise propellers with R, while leaving the counterclockwise propellers unlabeled.
Once you have identified which propellers move clockwise and which counterclockwise, you need to determine which end of the propeller they go on. The propellers alternate, beginning with a clockwise propeller in the top left hand corner, and moving clockwise around the quadcopter. You should mount your propellers beginning with the one in the top left hand corner, moving to the one in the top right hand corner, then down to the bottom right, then over to the bottom left.
You should also make sure that the motors are installed correctly and are spinning in the right directions. The movement of the motors should reflect the movement of the propeller which will eventually sit on top of it. If you find that a motor is moving in the wrong direction, you should switch the wires to reverse its direction.
- Mount the propellers to the quadcopter.
Once you have identified your propellers, the order in which you need to install them, and the proper operation of the motors, you will be ready for the actual installation. Before you begin the installation, turn off the quadcopter so that nothing is running. Then you will need to select a large threaded bolt and place it on the motor. Screw it onto the motor through the screw holes provided on the bolt and the motor.
Once the bolt is securely in place, screw the propeller onto the bolt. The key is to make the propeller as tight as possible onto the bolt. Then, add the spinner to the top of the propeller. Also tighten this as much as possible to make sure that nothing moves when your quadcopter is flying. Once you have completed this step, you are almost done with your quadcopter. You only have some configuration and syncing to do to get all of the parts of the quadcopter working smoothly together.
- Configure the flight control board.
Once your drone build is almost complete, you can take the time to configure the flight control board. This term refers to the process of setting up the board to perform the functions you want it to perform. It also means you must link the flight control board to the controller so they communicate with each other. The exact process of configuration will depend upon the flight controller and the board that you use. You should be able to consult your manual to determine the steps to take to complete this process.
Once you have completed these steps, you should be in a position to begin using your quadcopter. Enjoy the opportunity to learn how to use a quadcopter that you yourself have built. And, over time, as your skill level increases, consider building more complex quadcopters or adding to the one you have already finished.
The field of quadcopters is expanding rapidly. It seems that drone leaders are coming out with more advanced quadcopters every day. Nowadays, you can find a quadcopter for any need you have, from a simple kids’ toy to a sophisticated piece of technology that allows you to take professional videos and photography.
In addition to the great leaps in diversity and technological sophistication, quadcopters are making great leaps in quality. Today, you can find features such as FPV, usable cameras, headless mode, and more in drones that are less than $100. These features make it possible for almost anyone, regardless of budget, to enjoy a reliable, and fun, quadcopter hobby.
In addition to drones becoming accessible to almost everyone, there have been new regulations put in place by the FAA. Though these regulations may bother some, their intent is to make drone flying safer and more available to everyone. As a result of these regulations, it is necessary for many drone owners to register their quadcopters with the FAA. While this regulation means owners must pay more attention to the type of drone they possess, there are still many drones available that do not fall into this category, and even those that must be registered can be done so inexpensively.
Perhaps the best thing about quadcopters is that they provide a wealth of opportunities for fun and recreation. You can build a drone if you like to get a hands on look at the technology. You can start with a basic quadcopter and modify it. You can purchase numerous quadcopters as your skill level increases. You can show off for friends, take photos and videos, use them professionally or recreationally, bond with your children, buy them as gifts, or use them as stress relief. The possibilities are limited only by your preferences. If you want to get into the drone hobby, jump in. Start with one of the quadcopters reviewed above, and see where the excitement and fun of flying these machines takes you.