What You Need To Know Before You Buy A Drone

By @TheMarkDalton

Everyone wants to have a drone these days and for arial photography and video footage – well there is no easier time than now to get up into the sky and grab those shots. 

Lets tell it the way it is, drones are awesome. I love my Phantom 3, I wish I could get out with it more than what I do at the moment and without doubt I will be investing in a Mavic in the future. I’m sold on what they can do and for a photographer the fun is endless.

The number of drones being sold is rising, that means quite simply that there is a sharp rise in the number of small aircraft taking to the sky and remember, we are sharing the airspace with others such as commercial passenger aircraft.

Don’t be an arsehole, drones are fun but if you want to fly them you should at the very least educate yourself on the basic drone regulations of your country. They are not complex, they are not overly strict in Ireland and the least you can do is look over them, it seriously takes 10 minutes tops.

We don’t want to paint a picture of doom and gloom for drones, we don’t want to be killjoys but just more a reminder that while you are at the controls, you are responsible for the actions of how that drone operates. So, here are some things I think you should know before you go and buy your first drone.

Not all drones are easy to fly

Anything that goes up in the sky and flies around is going to take time to get used to, you needs to adapt to the controls and every drone will handle slightly different depending on the setup.

There seems to be a misconception that drones such as the DJI series are easy to fly. The reality is they are not so much easy to fly it is just that you adapt and get used to flying them, it can still all go horribly wrong. Anyone who brags about them being so easy to fly is full of shit. There is a level of skill here and the learning curve is not steep so anyone can master it with practice.

However don’t be fooled into thinking that they are easy to fly right out of the box, keep in mind also that as you go up in price with drones you also tend to go up in difficulty level when it comes to flight.

Commercial operation

You may work in client services and want to use your fancy new drone to grab some epic shots for a client video. Lets face it, most clients will be amazed, they will love it and you get the credit for coming up with something so stunning.

Commercial operation of a drone technically makes you a pilot. You don’t need a permit from the IAA if you intend to fly your drone within the regulations of the Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) & Rockets Order however if you want to fly outside of these regulations then you will require a Specific Operating Permission.

This is a permit issued by the IAA for commercial drone flight and in order to obtain it you will need to take a drone safety course and then produce an operations manual that is acceptable to the IAA.

Play by the rules

As mentioned at the start, familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations. These are in place by the IAA for good reason, take note of no-fly zones and restrictions. Whether you are a hobbyist or a commercial pilot, you must register your drone if it weighs over more than 1kg. The Phantom 3 weighs in around 1.3kg meaning that I had to register with the IAA when I received it, if yours is over that weight including battery pack then you must also register. When you do this you will be issued with a decal from the IAA with an individual identity code.

There is no minimum legal age to own or operate a drone however the IAA does maintain a person must be over 16 years old to register. Also take note of where you can fly your drone, take note of the no-fly zones in place around aerodromes. Do not fly your drone over civil or military controlled airspace and drone flight over any site listed as a national monument is also not permitted.

Consider your mobile device performance

Most drones now are controlled by mobile devices rather than a drone specific controller which is awesome unless you have an outdated phone. Software may only work with certain newer smartphones with modern operating systems.

Also, the bigger screen size you have then the easier it will be to see the information displayed as well as operate and control the drone. Check the drones desired specifications before you buy.

Flying in poor weather can put your new toy at risk

Confidence when flying a drone comes over time and is great, just try not to get too confident. There are certain conditions that the drone just won’t place nice with.

If you fly in poor conditions you run the risk of crashing your drone and losing it completely. Drones are light, consult the manual and it will tell you what the limit is for windspeed when flying. Even if you are within the max wind speed, if you are still not feeling confident then don’t risk it.

Equipment and batteries

Try go for a drone which has a return to home feature. This is a feature becoming more commonplace now in drones and it means that should you lose signal during your flight or should your batteries run critically low – the drone will automatically return and land itself when you took off from.

Quickly check the drone before take off, make sure nothing is loose and everything is in place as it should be. If you are planning on shooting a lot of footage then make sure you have batteries on hand and ready to go so you can get back into the air.

Batteries typically last between 25-35 minutes for many drones now and will of course vary based on how you fly your drone.

Good flying etiquette

Flying in residential areas or built up urban areas should be done with caution. People are growing ever concerned with the privacy implications around drones and may cause a fuss if they spot you flying one. Don’t be the arsehole who starts giving drone pilots a bad name. Don’t start flying next to houses and pointing the camera at them, stick to to open areas.

Avoid flying within a close range to houses and public areas, fly high over these areas and if you do encounter people which you more than likely will as people tend to be inquisitive when they see someone flying a drone – make sure you fly responsibly and don’t fly recklessly around them.

Do your homework, know what you are getting into. Make sure you are familiar with the rules, enjoy flying and don’t give the rest of us a bad name.

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