Whether you want to capture those moments in the sun or record your sporting achievements, you’re going to want something that’s compact, light, and durable. Some features to look out for are:
- Camera quality Video quality has come on a long way in a few years, and in truth most camera will record video well in excess of the quality you need to enjoy some holiday memories. The limit is often the speed that the video can be recorded to memory cards, so 4k recording is often limited to 30 frames per second, while 1080p (HDTV) can be a silk-smooth 60 frames, or even more.
- Gimbal A gimbal is a motorised device which will mechanically keep the camera level as your drone is buffeted by the wind and its own vibrations. They are delicate, but with one you can be sure that you’ll be able to view smooth video straight from the camera. The DJI Mavic has the option to fly with the gimbal tucked inside a plastic shield. Gimbals add technical complexity and weight; the alternative is to use software to eliminate the vibrations; this will cost you some resolution but give you a lighter aircraft.
- Flight time If you’re new to drones, you might be surprised to learn that they generally burn through their batteries in around 15-25 minutes, and then you’ll needs a mains outlet to recharge them. If you’re going hiking check the price and weight of spares.
- Controller The DJI Spark is all about Gesture control (you wave at it to tell it where to go) and a series of pre-defined shots started using an app; for more clinical accuracy (rather more reassuring for photographers, says Adam), you might prefer the Mavic Pro’s joystick-based controller (a far more common approach in the land of drones).
- Collision avoidance Manufacturers can add a number of different ways of helping you avoid crashing; sonar detectors can tall the drone when it’s near the ground or (in the case of the pricey Inspire 2) the ceiling. Additionally detectors can point in other directions, and intelligent software can even interpret what the camera sees. Nothing is perfect though; at this point it should be thought of as very much
- Follow-me mode Drones
- FPV Goggles There is a big community of people who fly home-made drones at speed through abandoned buildings or in remote locations, and this has not escaped the off-the-shelf manufacturers attention. Now both Parrot and DJI offer FPV, or First Person View goggles offering you the chance to take a virtual seat in the cockpit. If you are flying like this, always have a second person, called a ‘spotter’, with you to make sure the whole area around you is safe.
If you want to look at your choices from a broader perspective, why not consider spending a tiny fraction of the cost of a new drone on a copy of Adam Juniper’s Complete Guide to Drones, which handles problems like this from an impartial perspective?