If you love sharing photos and videos with your social media communities, capturing them from a drone’s unique perspective will truly separate yours from the rest—you can even live-stream your videos directly to Facebook, Periscope and YouTube. But with so many shapes, sizes, and prices to choose from, and laws to be aware of, choosing the best drone for you can be overwhelming. Whether you’re after an entry-level or hobby drone, here are some helpful tips to ease the choice and get your drone soaring through the sky sooner.

Different drones for different uses

Every drone comes with different features depending on a user’s needs. If you just want to play around to see if droning is something you might be more interested in, you could start with an entry-level drone, like the Ryze Tech Tello. For those who want to dive into droning as a hobby, advanced drones, like the DJI Mavic Mini, come with more sophisticated features such as higher definition video, intelligent sensors, and longer flying time and distance. For drone racing enthusiasts, look for drones with higher speeds and better manoeuvrability.


For the ultimate selfie

Seeing the world from above is one of the most exciting things about flying a camera-equipped drone. To ensure your shots are as vivid as possible, choose a drone with high definition video and drone stabilisation technology. Once you’ve captured your footage, you can edit your cinematic masterpiece before sharing on social media. If your drone doesn’t come with its own editing software, you can edit with iMovie for iPhones, or use of one these editing apps for Android phones.


Control range

Whether you use a supplied controller or a smartphone app, how far you can fly will depend on which drone you choose. Smaller and cheaper drones have a shorter range—from as little as 30 metres—while hobby drones can fly 4000 metres and further. Australian drone laws have set the maximum height you can fly your drone in Australia to 120 meters—check the Civil Aviation Safety Authority website for details. And you should always keep your drone in sight while flying, but for extra safety, make sure your drone has a ‘return to home’ function that when activated will make the drone automatically self-fly back to where it took off.


Flying time

Battery time for all drones is relatively short. Entry-level drones fly for as little as 5-8 minutes before needing recharging, while hobby drones can last 15-30 minutes. Look for drones with removable batteries so you can carry extras and fly and film longer. And make sure you charge all your batteries and controller the night before you fly.


Preparation for flight

Rules for recreational drone operators in Australia must be followed to ensure safety for all—you can familiarise yourself with all of them on the Civil Aviation Safety Authority website. If you plan to drone in another country, always check the drone laws for that country before flying. Also check for rain and wind for the day you plan to fly— higher winds can play havoc with flight control and use up more battery power.


Learning to fly

Most manufacturers have how-to videos on YouTube, but there’s nothing like just having a go in a safe area. Take your time getting familiar with the basics before diving into tricky moves — pitching forward and back, flying up and down, and rotating. A two-stick control is almost universal now, whether you use an included controller or a touch-based equivalent in the drone’s app. Once you’re feeling comfortable, try out any of the drone’s pre-programmed manoeuvres to capture Hollywood film-style shots.

Choosing your drone can be as exciting as flying one, so take your time and enjoy the process. Then you’ll be ready to livestream your awesome drone skills to the delight of all your social media friends and followers.

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Damien Lutz

Senior UX/UI Designer at Vodafone

Damien Lutz,
Senior UX/UI Designer at Vodafone

Damien Lutz is a Senior UX Designer for Vodafone and a contributor to Red Wire. He has published two science fiction novels, and his short stories have been included in several anthologies. Damien writes about future tech to explore its potential and pitfalls, and so he might design better human-machine experiences today.