Cheap Drones: Are They Worth Buying?

Cheap drones multirotor type

Drones are unmanned aircrafts piloted by a long-range remote control within a specific range.  The UAV (Unmanned Arial Vehicle) technology is the core system of drone.  This technology has applied to the concept of aerodynamic of the drone, materials design, and software to control the aircraft.  Drone technology was first developed for the military purpose and finally extended to commerce, delivery, and cinematography as of what we have seen today.

The most widely used type of Drones is called Multirotor or Multi-copter drones which are available from bicopter (2 fixed-pitch propellers) to octocopter (8 fixed-pitch propellers).  The quadcopter and hexacopter are among the most popular types of drones in the market.

Cheap Multirotor: a drone for beginners

Flying the drone is definitely not an easy task for beginners.  Without practice and patience, you may easily crash your expensive drone right at the first flight.  It is also dangerous to pilot your drone in a relatively congested area as your drone may hit any objects around the area.  Therefore, it is advisable to fly your drone in a large, open area with less or without any obstacles. A soft or grassy ground is highly recommended because crashing drone is inevitable for beginners.

Crashing or hitting your US$3,000 drone for multiple times is not a pleasant experience for you at all.  Even though your drone may equip with several high technology features such as GPS, Gyroscope sensor, gimbal for image stabilization, high-resolution built-in camera, or wind resistance, it doesn’t guarantee that you will not lose your drone on the first flight.

Cheap drone is the answer for beginners.  Among hundreds of drones available in the market, you can pay as low as US$25 for acquiring cheap drones or mini multirotor (mostly made-in-China products).  In fact, it is much more difficult to get cheap drones airborne than the expensive one because cheap drones often come with less high-end functions.  In other words, you have to rely on your controlling skill to the aircraft airborne.  Once you have become skillful in piloting cheap drones like mini multirotor, you are ready to move up to more expensive yet high-performance drone without worrying about crashing it on the ground or unexpectedly hitting objects.

Recommended Model for Beginners

Less than US$ 35

cheap drones

Novice pilots may start with mini-drone like M9911 Nano Quadcopter drone.  The name speaks for itself.  This model is probably the smallest cheap drone in the market at this moment.  Being a lighter-size cheap drone, the 4-channels M9911 Nano Quadcopter can easily fit into your palm.  This aircraft is powered by 4 fixed-pitch propellers with individual motor and sensed by 6 axis gyroscope sensor for accurate recognition of movement in 3D space.  The frame and propellers are made from shock-resistance elastic plastic with a rechargeable USB port.  The Nano-size cheap drone is capable of rolling a full rotation of 360 degrees.

Less than US$ 75

cheap drones

With this price range, you can find many decent mid-size cheap drones with the built-in camera in some models.  The first contender in this price range is an X5C-1 drone.  The X5C-1 drone is the mid-size 4 channels cheap drone with elastic fiber body frame.  This multirotor is powered by 4 fixed-pitch propellers and sensed by 6 axis gyroscope sensor.  It can navigate up to 50 m away from remote control.  On the top of that, the aircraft is equipped with 2 megapixels built-in HD video camera.

The second contender is a much bigger size drone like 6.5 channels Wltoys V262 2.4G quadcopter. This big boy is made from shock-resistance high-density foam frame.  It is powered by 4 fixed pitch propellers and sensed by 6 axis gyroscope sensor for accurate recognition of movement in 3D space.  Thanks to its stunt tumbling design, Wltoys V262 2.4G can withstand heavy wind gusts.  Unlike X5C-1, Wltoy V262 2.4G has decided to exclude built-in camera as an option.

5 factors you need to know before buying your cheap drone

  1. Set of propellers Most types of drone available in the market is a multicopter-type drone. The bicopter-type drone is the smallest type of drone and probably the cheapest one. This type of drone is not suitable for flying in the open area because a strong wind can easily throw it away.  On the other hand, the quadcopter-type drone is the right choice for cinematography work since it can pitch to deliver a smooth video recording and maintain its stability during the flight.  The hexacopter-type drone is considered to be more wind resistant but less flexible in cinematography.
  2. The maximum altitude How high the drone can fly? In fact, each type of drone is capable of reaching the different altitude depending on weight and propeller’s rotational speed. A drone with the maximum altitude of 80 meters (262 feet) is good for self-portrait or group-portrait while drone enthusiasts may need a high altitude drone for bird-eye view shot. Any drone with the maximum altitude of 120 meters (394 feet) up would do the job well.
  3. The maximum flight time How long is a drone up in the air? The airborne duration is very critical for cinematography or photography work. Unfortunately, the current drone’s technology can achieve less than 30 minutes of maximum flight time.  A drone for cinematography work may require a longer flight time than that of photography work.
  4. Built-in Camera Most drone enthusiasts prefer drones with a built-in camera over drones without a camera. The suggested resolution of a built-in camera must be at least 2 M pixel for good quality image and video recording. Alternatively, you may opt for a drone without a built-in camera and install a high-resolution GoPro camera for optimum result.  Watch out for weight calculation.  If the drone gets too heavy, it may not get airborne.
  5. More advanced functions With current technology, drones have equipped with impressive functions such as 360-degree flip & roll function, live broadcast, mobile device’s control interface, return-home function, auto-altitude mobilization, and wind resistance function, to name just a few. Of course, premium models often have more advanced functions than budget models. Ultimately, you don’t need all fancy functions to do your job.  Just get the model that suits you best.                     
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