Evaluate Your Needs
The first step in buying a drone starts with a frank
conversation with yourself. Before you go and look at any
of the displays or read online reviews for hours, you need
to know exactly what you’re looking for. What aspect of
this hobby interests you? What kind of piloting skills do you
have or want to develop? What’s a realistic budget?
There are four basic types of drones in my mind:
For someone wanting to get into the hobby to get
beautiful and stunning video from high above, the
photo/video category is what you’ll be looking for. These
are often larger airframes to produce more stable video and
accommodate larger motors/propellers for a higher lifting
capacity as you upgrade to bulkier cameras.
The control loops for these drones are often tuned for
high stability and slower response times for smoother
movements that won’t jar viewer’s stomachs. You’ll also
often notice that these airframes stand higher off the
ground to allow room for the camera/gimbal assembly to
The beginner/toy category encompasses the lowest
cost and most basic drones on the market. These
range from the $19 Cheerson CX- 10 (Figure 1;
http://amzn.to/2kgEJlM) which we’ve hacked
before in this column, to the few hundred dollar
semi-intelligent models like the Parrot BeeBop
(Figure 2; http://amzn.to/2nObVpV).
The lowest end toy drones have little in the way
of automatic stability, no GPS, and often no camera.
They use a proprietary remote and are really an
advanced toy to play with. Not for the serious
hobbyist, but fun for some backyard time and for
those brand new to flying.
Learning how to fly on a no-frills drone makes
going to advanced systems later easy and a treat.
While the CX- 10 is really meant only for indoor flying, a
good starting point for the outdoors might be the Syma
X5SW-V3 (Figure 3; http://amzn.to/2kRmRSF) or similar.
These pack a lot of punch for under $50, with a Wi-Fi
camera and basic stability control. I started my multi-rotor
hobby with one of these models and got many hours of
fun from it.
Evaluating Your Drone Needs
It’s often difficult to decide what to buy nowadays. There are so many products for every
conceivable need that are just a second day air shipment away from being pressed into service.
In the multi-rotor space, it’s hard to know if we should buy a certain model of aircraft, build our
own from scratch, or if we should own a few different models for different purposes. After the
purchase or build, it’s hard to know what you’ll need to keep your drone happy and healthy.
This month, we’re going to give you the ultimate guide to buying, building, and accessorizing
By John Leeman
SERVO 02.2018 7
Figure 2: The Parrot BeeBop (and newer model 2) are on the high end of
the toy spectrum as they have live camera streams, basic
programmability, and GPS functionality. (Image courtesy of amazon.com.)
Figure 1: The Cheerson CX- 10 is a blast to fly around and is an
inexpensive way to have a lot of fun, but it is far from a
serious hobbyist’s interests.