Ten years ago it was not easy to just walk into a shop and buy a drone. There is a very good reason for this. Initially, they were seen as devices that could only be owned by the military, airlines or other large corporations and security firms that actually needed them. As a matter of fact, one of the few places they could be spotted is in a robotics lab! Many people were unfamiliar with the concept of not just camera drones but any type of drone camera altogether. Over the past few years, drones have become more and more popular globally. Considering how easy it is to purchase a drone today, it is important that you understand what makes a good drone. Being a robot, a drone has lots of components — all of which need to be described in detail including but not limited to size, speed, flight time, range, controller type and drone camera. As such, we shall take a look at the key attributes that you should always look for in a drone camera.
First of all, before purchasing a drone, you need to clearly identify your purpose for using it. It could be a toy for a child or an adult just for fun (trick drones). These typically do not have cameras and in case they do, the cameras are very small with below average resolution at best — perhaps in the realm of 2-5 megapixels. It could be a pro-sumer drone which is basically a hybrid between a consumer drone and a professional drone — often used by photographers to get those unique angles on photographs. This type of drone usually comes with a pretty decent inbuilt drone camera or some adequate room to carry an average size camera such a GoPro. Others drones are very purpose specific such as those used for racing purposes (for example in the infamous drone racing league) and they fall under their own category altogether. Their design is often very aerodynamic and may not include bulky components such as heavy cameras as this would completely defeat its purpose. The last and most expensive type is the professional, or the heavy payload drone, which is used for a myriad of purposes including high resolution surveillance, GPS mapping, shooting movies and even actual delivery of items such as pizza. Some companies such as DHL and Amazon are actually using such drones for courier purposes.
The second thing you need to consider is to rate your prowess/experience in flying drones. If you are a newbie, it would be wise to get an entry level drone which can be relatively cheap because there is a very high probability you will crash it as you learn the ropes. There would be no sense in totaling an expensive professional drone camera before you even learn how to use it! Plus some of the advanced drones have very complicated control mechanisms which would not be a good place to start. At this point, you can select a drone camera based on the type of photography/videography you intend to carry out. Some people prefer to buy a drone that has an inbuilt drone camera while others prefer to purchase the drones that allow them to attach a drone camera of their choice. The latter sounds pretty convenient if you intend to engage in different types of photography such as landscape photography, event photography or even action photography/videography. While experimenting with aerial photography, it is likely that you will need to have a few additional components on the drone to ensure you get the best results. For example you might need to attach a video transmitter to allow live viewing. You might need to change lenses and perhaps even have more than one camera to give you different perspectives. It is wise to select a drone that gives you this wiggle room. Depending on the type of photography you choose, it is also important to the consider flight time of the drone as the last thing you would want is to run out of juice at the wrong time.
Some of the most popular camera drones include the DJI Phantom 2 Vison quadcopter whose camera gives is 14MP and gives you a resolution of 1080p HD video recording and vision expansion of up to 140 degrees. The Yuneec line of camera drones also comes with some pretty impressive features. For example the Typhoon H has a 12.4MP, 360 degree gimbal camera. It’s video resolution is 4000 at 30FPS and it also has retractable landing gear which means that the nothing will compromise the 360 degree field of view. Even though a drone camera like these will definitely cost a lot of money (in the range of $900 to $1200) you can be sure that you will get good value for your money. Be sure to also get extra accessories for the camera drone (especially if you are purchasing it online) as there is a very good chance you will need to replace some parts with time.
As you begin your journey in aerial photography, it is important to plan well in advance and to operate the drone within your skill level. Make sure to first familiarize yourself with the laws surrounding unmanned aerial vehicles within your area. In most areas, drones are not allowed to ascend above 400 feet or fly above other people’s property as this is considered trespassing. Safety is one of the major concerns before you allow your drone to take off. Make sure to scope out the area in which you intend to fly the drone. Consider what your drone might crash into in the event that something goes wrong. Before becoming a professional pilot, it is wise to avoid flying over crowds of people as you can imagine the kind of collision that would take place if the drone fell on someone.
Remember, that just like a pilot learning to fly an actual aircraft, hours and hours of experience are what will make you a seasoned pilot. Take your time to consider which drone camera suits you best based on the above factors and by doing this, you will most probably be guaranteed an enjoyable and successful aerial photography experience.
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