I don’t know if youv’e heard, but it’s Christmas soon. Considering buying a drone for you loved one? This is my Christmas drone buying guide for the DJI drone range. You need it because, frankly, if I were you I couldn’t be arsed to work out the difference between the models, so I thought, let’s keep this real and give you something you can use. Your’e lucky because I am a total geek. I still know the shape and silhouette of the entire Soviet airforce with their attendant NATO code names.
Not all drones are the same or can do the same thing. The first thing you need to know is that if you spend between £50 and £200 on a drone it is likely to get destroyed very quickly. My first drone cost £50 and lasted 48 hrs. It was not only a waste of money, but also sufficient to get me completely hooked on flying. Soon I started to use drones in my film making. 6 months later I started to run a business making videos where drones are a key component.
So be careful if you get a cheap drone, they can ruin your life.
Before we go any further have a look at the Drone Code and work out if you will be able to comply with it. If you can’t, just get a new telly or something cos you could get in bother.
Christmas Drone Buying Guide: What You Haven’t Considered
To make your new drone fly, you will need phone or a tablet. Basically your drone speaks to a remote controller, which is attached to a tablet or phone. You can ‘live view’ the image coming from the drone and see what is going on up there in this way. You also control the camera and safety pre setting like this. It’s pretty magic actually.
I thought I would be able to use my iPad mini to fly my first drone. It was out of date and I had to get another one (love Apple for that, Love it). I then made a mistake with my tablet choice and I got a NVIDIA Shield because I read online that it was ace. It is ace. However it constantly crashed and I had to get an iPad to fly it properly. I wasted money in this way so make sure you have a compatible device. I’ve heard that DJI are moving over to Android as a software platform, but so far as I can tell DJI make their products work best with Apple computer stuff, which is a pain because Apple are not exactly the cheapest.
Also, if you are considering travelling with your drone bear in mind that the batteries are highly explosive. Airlines state that you need to carry them in you hand luggage. There are also restrictions on carrying such powerful batteries and if you care taking more then 2 (you need to) you need to consider airline restrictions.
Also – your drone generally comes with 2 batteries which will last between 10 and 22 minutes each (depending on model). You will probably find that you want 3 batteries…and guess what? They aren’t cheap.
DJI Drones: Start with the Spark
Starting at the bottom of the pile is the DJI Spark. However I rank it as number 1 on Christmas Drone Buying Guide for the beginner. The Spark is a tiny little cute drone with a 4K gimbal stabilised camera that costs about £500. It can fly for quite a while to quite a distance and you can use it inside. It’s really a toy, but it’s got some great features on it, like collision detection. If you really want to start out in the world of droning, I would get one of these. It’s also handy if you live in a town as it’s relatively unobtrusive.
The DJI Mavic: Probably the Most Desirable Prosumer Drone
Second on the Christmas Drone Buying Guide is the little green one which looks like a frog. This is called a Mavic. Not a Maverick, or a goose. It folds up and for this reason its probably a bit better than a Phantom. It’s a little more expensive than a Phantom but it’s probably a bit better. It’s got all the same camera stuff on board but you can throw it in your bag and go on holiday with it easily. I got a Phantom but I would rather have had a Mavic on reflection. That’s because most of my first drone efforts were in beauty spots and having to lug the Phantom around was a bit of an effort.
Such first world problems have been a constant feature of my life and a source of GREAT irritation.
The Phantom Range: The gift That Keeps On Giving To The Daily Mail
Number 3 on the Christmas Drone Buying Guide is the slightly bigger white one. This is the one which is always in the papers because dickheads fly them into prisons to deliver drugs or momentarily close down major hub airports. There are various types of Phantom. In general they have a small fixed aperture camera which can record in 4k at 25FPS. Phantoms are ace. Phantoms (Phanti?) are great at most things and they look and feel well designed. There are versions of the Phantom which can record at 4K and 60FPS – but unless you are running a super computer for fun I wouldn’t bother getting one.
It’s the drone equivalent of putting a large exhaust on a Citroen Saxo.
Phantoms are cack at doing some things a film maker would want, like, erm, composing shots, or doing complex movements to create parallax effects. That’s because the camera is fixed in position, though it can move downwards and upwards and of course the drone can spin around. However it is a really cool bit of kit. It’s a bit ungainly to carry around but it is great to fly. You can also use it for industrial purposes if you decide you want get a commercial permission from the CAA. Additionally, if you are already a photographer then this drone could be a fitting addition to your already expensive arsenal of kit for the odd shot here and there. There is a film in my portfolio on the bottom right which I made with my Phantom.
The next step up is a DJI Inspire, the current iteration of which is called the Inspire 2. The DJI Inspire series look like a really massive mosquito, and has a dangly SLR camera underneath it. Most people who see an Inspire say it looks like a ‘serious piece of kit’ or ‘like a terminator’.
For this reason I have called my Inspire 2 ‘Big Tony’, because it seems suitably threatening. My Phantom is called ‘Steve’, because he’s just an average guy, doing an everyday job.
The Inspire 2 can fly for between 20 and 27 minutes whereas the Inspire 1 can fly for about 20-27 seconds. It costs about £6K with camera, bag and enough batteries to fly around a large field filming combine harvesters, which is what most people do with drones, though it’s a long wait for summer every year. The Inspire can also fly in cold conditions and is a professional tool. It’s bigger, heavier and basically minter than most other drones which is why most professional film making operators use them. The Inspire 2 is a fearsome beast, can do 58MPh and its camera can move independently of the aircraft which means its pictures look ace. Don’t get this drone unless you know you are going to go pro or you have money to burn.
If you want any more advice on drones, feel free to contact me and I’ll happily talk you through it.