We are a family of drone hobbyists and multirotor enthusiasts. I can tell you that just because you are an adult, you don’t get much (if any) advantage over your teenage children. However, many drones for grown-ups (responsible adults) are not suitable for young children who need adult supervision to fly drones.
What should I look for in a drone?
We often get this question, ‘What should I look for in a drone’? The answer depends on why you are buying a drone, the features you want and your budget:
- What is your purpose? Just for fun to zip-around your house? Or, you are a photography enthusiasts looking for a camera drone? Speed and a racing drone on your mind? DIY drones?
- Price. Set a budget for yourself and include in the budget the cost of replacing the quadcopter after you crash it a few times.
- Size. Drones are typically available in certain sizes. Indoor drones – look for a 250 drone (250mm, 9.8 inches) for indoor use. Outdoor drones – a 350 (350mm, 13.8 inches) drone for outdoor use. A 450 (450mm, 17.7 inches) would probably be used when you are buying for commercial projects. If you are planning to join a racing league, find out what their rules say. Most leagues limit the entrants to 250 and some leagues are even more specific.
- Flight time. Typically a 10 minutes per charge for a 250 drone. A 350 quadcopter will get a few more minutes of flight time. Think about removable battery and bring extra battery for an additional set of flight time.
- Standard and special features to consider
-GPS and ‘return to home’, if you want an outdoor drone with long flying range.
-Controls / monitor. Some people prefer the VR (Virtual Reality) goggles, others prefer to have the monitor built into the controller. Also, if you pick the right controller it can be used for more than one rig (quadcopter).
-First Person View (FPV) like the racers use?
-A camera that can look sideways to record the scenery or a particular view in HD.
-Removable battery. This will allow you to swap battery packs and fly another mission.
-Obstacle avoidance capability
Where can I fly my drone?
An open area without obstructions and not near body of waters is a good practice area to fly your quadcopters. Flying in the wind is not advised. Check out our blog on tips to fly your first drone, including things not to do when flying a drone and drone etiquette. You may want to learn about flying responsibly, and no-fly zones by visiting the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) website.
Based on our personal experience, some of the uncommon places to practice your piloting skills including (of course, we obtained permission first before flying):
- High-school gym. It is big enough to practice a lot of move and since there is no wind you can control the flight very well.
- Meeting rooms or the ballroom of the hotel for the business traveler.
- Auditorium of a local church (not the sanctuary, of course)
A quick tip: check the range of the controller. Do not exceed about 80% of specified the range. Most quadcopters that get lost are “flyways”. This happens when the quadcopter is in RC (Radio Control) mode and exceeds the range of the controller. If your controller is good for about 100 feet, make sure that you keep the quadcopter within about 80 feet. Either put new batteries in the controller every time you go out, or get a controller that will alert you when you have a low battery.
FAQ – Drones for Beginners
There are a few families that meet together in this area to fly our quadcopters and small RC craft. It seems that there is almost always a beginner or two there when we meet. We have received several requests to put together a FAQ section for “Drones for Beginners”, here are the questions and answers:
- Question: How can I tell if a drone will be easy to use?
- Question: Indoor drone or outdoors drone?
- Question: Does a beginner need to consider camera quality?
- Question: Does a beginner need to consider flight time?
- Question: Does a beginner need to consider flight range?
- Question: Does a beginner need to know about their plans for their future use of their first drone after they have some flying experience?
- Question: Does a beginner need to know how to operate the transmitter first?
- Question: Does a beginner need to know about the drone orientation?
- Question: Does a beginner need to know where to fly, not to fly, and flying rules?
If you just want “easy” a couple of the lower priced drones are going to be a good product for you, but if you think that you want use the drone as a learning tool, you should not be looking for “easy”, look for one that you can use and can learn on. You want to buy a quadcopter that you will want to continue using for a while. It should have more capabilities than you are ready to use right now.
There are a few factors that go into making a quadcopter easy or difficult to use. The biggest factors deal with controlling the flight of the quadcopter and controlling the camera on the quadcopter. Let’s deal with flight control.
Almost all quadcopters are controlled by two sticks (joy sticks). The few quadcopters that do not require joy sticks are so automated that they are in a different category. The two joy stick controller type quadcopters are all controlled in a standard way. The big difference in these quadcopters is in the degree of responsiveness in each product. Racing quadcopters are very responsive, but a responsive quadcopter being used to shoot videos can result in jerky video. If you are shooting a video you want the quadcopter to move smoothly and gradually. The bigger quadcopters have more mass and tend respond a little slower and with some lag. My suggestion is that a beginner will make mistakes and will want to correct them immediately. The beginner wants something that is light weight and will respond quickly. Any lag will be frustrating. Later you will be looking for smooth flight and lag may be advantageous. Part of the smoothness of the flight will certainly come from the pilot’s ability to control the quadcopter and that takes skill, practice and time.
The second big factor is controlling the camera. Some quadcopters are complex enough that some people actually use two pilots for video shoots, one to control the flight path and one to control the camera. Look for a quadcopter which has “headless” mode. These quadcopters require the least skill in the “camera control” department. After you develop flight control skills, the camera control will be fairly easy.
If you are planning to fly indoors, look for a small, lightweight quadcopter. You want something that will not break things (like a flat-screen TV) when the quadcopter hits them. In general you want to start with an indoor drone because it will cost less. If you select an outdoor type quadcopter to use as your beginner drone, you will need to be mindful of certain restrictions.
If you don’t have a room that is big enough to fly a small quadcopter, you will need to fly outside. An outside quadcopter will be bigger and more expensive. It needs to be able to fly when there is a light breeze. If the quadcopter can’t fly against a 20 MPH head wind you probably shouldn’t fly it outside.
You may not even need a camera on your first quadcopter. Learning how to control the quadcopter is a big enough task without considering the camera. If you do get a camera, the quality of the images will not be important.
Obviously longer flight time will be more fun, but it will increase the cost. Small indoor quadcopters can usually fly 5 to 7 minutes. If you get two batteries, you can fly for a few minutes, swap batteries and get 10 to 15 minutes of flight time before having to put it away for recharge. Smaller, less expensive outdoor quadcopters may fly a bit longer, but not enough to make spectacular difference.
The short answer is no. A beginner needs to keep their quadcopter in sight at all times. In most cases the law requires this.
Quadcopters are fairly fragile. You will probably break a few quadcopters before you will consider yourself “intermediate” level.
Yes. Read through the instructions. You may have a few things to do before you fly it the first time – some as simple as charging the battery, some steps may be more complex.
Drone orientation refers to the direction that the drone flies. For example, I can fly my drone sideways or backward or forward. If you have “headless” mode, it doesn’t matter which direction is “front”. This may be a little confusing, but it really does make it easier to control. When you start using a camera, you will need to be concerned about which direction is “front”.
Maybe. If you are flying outside, a big YES. If you are flying inside, not so much.
Indoors flights – make sure that you have permission to fly in the room or indoor space.
Do not fly near (see FAA regulation for definition of “near”) airports, emergency scenes such as traffic accidents, wild fires or police response. Quadcopters can endanger people’s lives and emergency response air craft.
– Do not fly above 400 feet. Above 400 feet you may endanger people’s lives or emergency response air craft.
– Outdoors flights – FAA regulations apply. In particular that you should understand:
Here are our top picks for beginner’s drone for adults:
|Tenergy Syma X5SW Wifi FPV RC Quadcopter...||147 Reviews||$45.99||Buy on Amazon|
|Syma X8HC With 2MP HD Camera 4CH 6Axis Fixed...||11 Reviews||$86.99||Buy on Amazon|
|GoolRC X8HG 8.0MP HD Camera RC Quadcopter...||55 Reviews||$125.99||Buy on Amazon|
|Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Elite Edition Quadcopter...||250 Reviews||$249.99 from $79.99||Buy on Amazon|
|DJI Spark, Fly More Combo, Alpine White||521 Reviews||$599.00 $547.31||Buy on Amazon|
|DJI Phantom 3 Standard Quadcopter Drone with...||1177 Reviews||from $677.00||Buy on Amazon|
Syma X5SW Explorers2 2.4G 4CH
- The Syma X5SW has the Headless/IOC function. Usually, the forward direction of a...
- Equipped with the latest 6-axis flight control systems, 3D lock, More scheduled...
- X5SW equipped with camera to take photos and videos while flying! Bring a new...
- Wifi FPV X5SW allows you to view photos & video while flying It supports any IOS and...
Syma X5SW Explorers2 2.4G 4CH is one the very best quadcopters to learn on. Read our review for Syma X5SW Explorers2 2.4G 4CH. It is light weight enough so that you can practice indoors without doing a lot of damage. It comes with spares for the parts that a beginner is most likely to break. It has 4CH with 6 Axis, 0.3 MP 480P camera, Ready to fly (just attach and tighten props). The right-hand controller can be configured for left hand throttle. Controller range is about 50 Meters. Flight time is about 7 minutes. It has a plastic body which is designed to be shatter resistant, another good feature for a beginner.
- With 2.0MP HD camera.
- 6-Axis gyro quad-rotorcraft flight, strong stability,can easily implement various...
- The quadcopter can fly both indoor and outdoor.Including 4CH digital proportional RC...
- Rechargeable high performance battery.
Syma X8HC is an excellent rig for flying eversion(360 degree) roll, altitude and position hold. Read our review for Syma X8HC. It can fly indoors and outdoors. It can do photography and videography. The led on-board lighting means that you can fly it at dawn, dusk or after dark. This adult sized copter has a low enough price that the cost of crashing will not break the bank.
Syma X8HG 8MP HD Camera
- 8.0MP HD Camera : The 8.0MP camera works far better than 2.0MP or 0.3MP camera,...
- Barometer Set Height : When you free up the left joystick (Accelerator), the aircraft...
- Two Speed Modes : Which allows you to fly, for instance, in a small spaces with low...
- Headless Mode : By using Headless, the forward direction has nothing to do with nose...
Syma X8HG 8MP HD Camera is an affordable, very good toy-grade aerial photography drone. Read our Syma X8HG review. The camera is 8mp HD and takes 1080P or 720P videos at 30fps. The 6 axis gyro helps to give you a nice stable platform and it has an anti-vibration camera mount. The ground station transmitter can control it up to about 70 – 100 meters (depending on terrain and weather). It has helpful features such as altitude hold, headless mode and a two flight speeds (high and low) for a beginner drone pilot. Syma X8HG is an indoor and outdoor drone. It can do 3D flips, forward/backward, up/down. Left/right sideways flight and it has illuminating LED light for night time flying.
Parrot AR 2.0
- Piloting is easy from a smartphone or tablet
- Remote control quadricopter controlled using an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet
- 720p high-definition live video streaming & recording to smartphone or tablet while...
- Record & share videos & pictures straight from AR. Free Flight piloting app
If you want a drone to fly indoors and outdoors, and to take photography and videography, and assuming you already have a smart phone (iPhone or Android), the Parrot 2.0 is a great first drone. Size: 28.8 inches. Weight: 14.8 oz. Flight time: 12 min. Recharge time: 60-90 minutes. Replaceable battery. Control is via your smart phone (iPhone or Android) to see the drones eye view and control the drone is via a free app. ‘AR.FreeFlight 2.4’. Camera and controller range: 100 feet. (You can increase the range by buying a kit.). It has a return to home feature. If you can write code, you can program to fly the drone autonomously.
DJI Spark quadcopter
- Intelligent Flight ModesSmart, reliable, and incredibly intuitiveQuickShotVideos with...
- High-Performance CameraAmazing images and stabilized videoMechanical Gimbal...
- Flight PerformanceAwesome potential, immersive experiencesPowerful Propulsion Speed...
- Flight SafetyWorry-free flight in the palm of your hand ; Propeller guards are...
DJI Spark is a smart drone for a beginner. Why? The Spark requires no assembly. It is easy to setup after you charge up its battery and download its DJI GO 4 app. You can control this quadcopter using via DJI GO 4 app, or you can control the Spark using hand gesture (a tool we have since we were born). In the Gesture Control mode, Spark will move up, down, left or right, and take a picture of you – all controlled by your hand movement! Hand gesture controls make it easier for the pilot to control the quadcopter. When you are learning how to pilot a quadcopter, features which make it easier to pilot, are important when selecting beginner drones.
A quick glance at the spec of DJI Spark:
- Flight time = 16 minutes
- Control range = 1.2 mile
- Top speed = 31 mph in Sport Mode
- 2-Axis Stabilized Gimbal
- Camera is mounted on a gimbal
- 12MP Still Photos / 1080p/30 Video
- Gesture and TapFly Control
- Flight Autonomy with Obstacle Detection
- Subject Tracking from Various Angles
- GPS- & Vision Position-Based Navigation
- Control, Edit, Share with DJI GO App
DJI Spark is created by one of the leaders in the drone industry, DJI. This smart drone has many of the high-performance drone features such as flight autonomy with obstacle detection, subject tracking, GPS and vision based navigation – features to aid a beginner to learn how to pilot a quadcopter sooner. Its movements by hand gestures include:
- Rocket (shoot straight up, with camera pointing down.)
- Dronie (fly out with the camera aimed back at you.)
- Circle (fly in a circle around a target)
- Helix (Fly upward, spiraling around a subject)
- And up, down, left or right, and take a picture of you – all controlled by your hand gestures!
My neighbors just loved watching me control it with hand movements. A great beginner drone and a great way to make friends.
DJI Phantom 3 Standard with the 2.7 HD Video Camera
- 2.7K video and 12MP stills from the 3-axis stabilized integrated camera makes the...
- View a live image streamed from the drone up to a half mile away on the free DJI Go...
- GPS assisted flight features let you concentrate on getting great images while the...
- Fly up to 25 minutes with the included intelligent battery
Designed to be intuitive and easy to use as a beginner drone. Ready to fly right out of the box. Use the DJI Go app on your smart device to control the quadcopter up to about one half mile. Video is recorded at 2.7K HD on a micro SD chip and you can watch the video being shot at 720p on your smart device.
Intelligent flight modes allow you to concentrate on getting great images, while the drone follows your instructions. You can fly in “follow me” mode or way points to program a path. With up to 25 minutes of battery power, you can shoot most projects on just one battery. This quadcopter is an excellent learning quadcopter for the budding movie director, sporting event videographer or wedding videographer.
A quick glance at the spec of Phantom 3 Standard with the 2.7 HD Video Camera:
- Dimensions: 15 x 14 x 8.2 inches
- Rotors: 4 (2 blades per rotor), replaceable, 9.5 inch diameter
- Battery Size: 4800 mAh Li-ion polymer (quadcopter), Li-ion polymer (remote control)
- Battery Life: 21/20 minutes (claimed/tested)
- Size: 19 x 19 x 8 inches
- Weight: 2 pounds, 11 ounces
- Camera mount: 3 axis gimbal
- Camera: 2.7K irresolution video 12megapixels still
- Range: 1000 Meters
- Control: Smart Device using DJI GO app
Modes and features Phantom 3 Standard:
- GPS mode (P-mode). This means that the drone uses GPS to position itself. This is the default mode.
- Attitude mode (A-mode) – Uses the drone barometer to maintain altitude.
- Intelligent Flight Mode (F-mode). This mode allows you to use some sub-features, such as:
– Course Lock,
– Home Lock,
– Point of Interest
– Follow me
The Phantom 3 Standard has many of the high-end features of DJI high-performance drones (which are in the two-thousand dollar range). This affordable package includes the P3 quadcopter + controller + battery charger + camera. P3 is intuitive, responsive and it has GPS-assisted flight – an accessible way for a beginner to do aerial photography. A beginner pilot will appreciate its Return-to-Home feature with just a press of a button. You can also see what P3 sees via live feed using DJI Go app on your mobile device. This camera drone with intelligent modes is a great way for a beginner to do useful aerial projects and learn more about piloting drones – all at the same time.