Whether you own a drone or are thinking of buying a drone, one of the biggest issues every pilot has to worry about is controlling the drone. That brings me to this week’s ‘Ask the Drone Guys’ topic and question: “How hard is it to fly a drone?”
The simple answer to the question is how much are you paying for it.
Many people see the large price tags of the most popular consumer and commercial drones, like the DJI Phantom 3 or 4 that retails between $500-$1500 and decide to settle for a less expensive model. Here lies the answer to that question. You really do get what you pay for.
Let’s talk about the “economy” models of drones. These are very difficult to fly. You must constantly provide input to the controls or the drone will veer off to a place you probably don’t want it to go, most likely a tree. If you don’t already have excellent hand-eye coordination, it can be very discouraging and makes flying a drone an unpleasant experience.
Recreational fliers I talk to say they are glad they didn’t spend a lot of money on a drone because they keep crashing theirs. To be honest, I was the same way when I started flying drones. I wanted to hone my skills on a “cheap” drone that, not if but when I crash I don’t end up paying thousands of dollars in replacement drones or repairs.
Then I bought my first commercial drone, a DJI Phantom 3 Professional. The struggles over control disappeared. User input was very minimal. It can takeoff and land by itself. I could literally put the controller down, walk away and it would remain in the same spot (within a few feet or so, not dead-on, but close enough).
The transition between the economy model and the professional model were – to me – well worth the additional money. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t made some critical mistakes that ended up breaking props and things! Making mistakes is how we learn. By the way, don’t fly with overhead obstructions with a low battery if your drone has a return-to-home safety feature. It will automatically ascend and fly into whatever is above you and crash down to the ground. Sometimes technology can bite you in the you-know-what.
As you ponder wether to drop a nice chunk of change into a drone, keep in mind that there are many drones out there and each has their own redeeming qualities. Do some research on user reviews before you buy. Look for drone video that may be posted online from the model you are looking to buy to see if it’s going to provide you with the quality you need for whatever you want to use it for. Lastly, if you already have an economy drone, don’t get discouraged. As difficult as it is, you are building useful skills in the event that there is a GPS antenna failure and you need to revert back to fully manual mode.