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What Are the Best Drones for Beginners

by Jason Pedersen March 10, 2016

What Are the Best Drones for Beginners


Phantom 3 Drone in FlightInterested in purchasing a drone but not sure where to start? If you’re a beginner with this technology, Nano drones could be a smart option. However, there are also other possibilities for outdoor enthusiasts who want to capture spectacular shots. Let’s review the differences between nano drones and their bigger, badder counterparts to help you determine what your quadcopter needs involve.

Nano Drones: Tiny and (Usually) Crash-Prone

Nano drones are small quadcopters exclusively for indoor use. Some are barely larger than insects, and most fit easily in the palm of your hand. They also offer practical applications, with researchers at the University of Pennsylvania releasing a video of nano drones swarming the skies in 2012. The nano drones did flips, avoided obstacles, and fell into figure-eight formation on command. If you’re looking to fly a small drone around your house, a higher-quality nano drone is probably worth the cost. The are fun to fly around and tease your family with.  Plus most have three settings that you can switch from, beginner, intermediate and pro. Each level changes the sensitivity of the controls. So for beginners, leave it at the basic level and learn to maneuver it, master those flips and make sure you can land it safely before graduating yourself to the next level of fun.  Nano drone are great gift idea for kids.  My eight and nine year old have them and love then - but they are also kind of hard on the drones and have had to send their nano's to the Drone Doc for some repair.  Pick the nano drone that fits your style.  If you want to capture stunning aerial images and videos, consider making an investment. Fun Fact about Nano Drones: Scientists at UPenn were hopeful the tiny drones would eventually replace human research and surveillance teams that perform services following natural disasters. Nano drones utilized for scientific research may be high quality, however most commercial options available for purchase are poorly made. Perform a search for nano drones on a shopping site such as Amazon, and you’ll likely find many reviews complaining of technical issues, including loss of radio control, stabilization problems, and difficulty flying various distances. Accessories such as propeller protector rings are often recommended due to assorted issues with the drones crashing. Yes, nano drones can be helpful when learning how to control and fly unmanned aerial vehicles, but the fact that they’re usually so cheaply made is actually detrimental to the drone learning curve. Working with a poorly built drone that crashes every 15 seconds won’t help you become a better pilot, nor will it help you learn how to take aerial images and videos, as nano drones are rarely equipped with cameras.

The REAL Beginner Drones

Drones offer a wide variety of practical applications for many industries. Should your drone dreams include the aforementioned glorious images and videos, the $500 Phantom 3 Standard from DJI is well worth the money. It might seem like a lot to invest in a beginner drone, but this product is highly recommended if your goal is to capture (images) and create (videos).  So for my birthday, my wonderful wife thought she would surprise me with a $170 drone from BestBuy. She came home so excited that  she found a unique gift that I would love.  I don't remember which drone it was, but it was a larger drone (more than 12" wide), it had video and camera capabilities but for the life of me I couldn't fly it.  I spent hours trying to learn how to do a smooth take off, hover it in front of me and I couldn't do it.  The trim controls felt like they had minimal impact and as soon as it took of, it was smashing into a dog or the baby.  Trying not to show my discouragement in front of my wife, I packaged it up and took it back to BestBuy. This probably sounds very familiar to a lot of beginner drone pilots, so yes I understand your frustrations.  But my story doesn't end there.  I knew that there had to be something better out there, something that I could easily fly and had all the "bells and whistles" that satisfied my techy-nerd cravings.  After not a lot of research, I stumbled upon the DJI Phantom 3 Standard.  It seemed perfect for me, except for the price.  Remember, when I bought it I was looking at paying nearly $700 for it which was a HUGE jump in price from the lame-ass drone I got from from BestBuy.   So guess what I did????  I cleaned up after dinner, did the dishes, got the kids bathed and ready for bed - and then I asked my wife if I could go to Park City in the morning and check out "this new drone" at best buy.  You know what? She said "sure" - What???   I can???  Thank you!! Lets get to the important part of this story, the moment I got home and took out the drone - I feel in love it with.  My first take off, all I had to do was click a button on my smart phone and it lifted off and hovered in front of me about 3 feet in the air.  My jaw dropped in amazement.  I immediately turned on the video recording and flew my first real drone in 12 degree weather.  I was addicted from that moment on.  Check out this amateur video I made of my first flight.

This was the perfect drone for me. Although it was more expensive than I wanted to pay, it allowed me to get a feel of a high quality drone without breaking the bank.  The Phantom 3 Standard is a great starter drone if you are considering doing anything with aerial photography.  Note, you are going to crash your drone multiple times learning to fly it.  Better said - learning what stupid thing not to do while flying your drone.  The first week I had my, I crashed my into a tree in the front yard - lesson 1: DON'T FLY AT NIGHT. I also crashed it in my orchard when using the Phantom to check on my bees - lesson 2: BEES AND DRONES DON'T GO WELL TOGETHER.  I also crashed it while chasing my ducks - lesson 3: DON'T BE DUMB LIKE ME.  Oh did I mention - don't fly this in your house.  It like a tornado, or some kind of evil hurricane when it flies around. I had the papers blown all over the kitchen, cups were knocked over, baby screaming, and the dogs were scared of me for days after that.  Each of those crashes required new propellers and a lot of fixing, but all well worth it to me.  This was my second video I created, and I had so much fun making it and sharing it with my friends and family.  

The Phantom 3 Standard and similar beginner drones are actually much less expensive than the more advanced options, which easily cost thousands of dollars. So, what makes the Phantom 3 Standard a great choice for the beginner drone enthusiast looking to fly outdoors? It’s silly-easy to fly, thanks to a built-in GPS that records takeoff point and remembers your route. The quadcopter also comes back to you with the simple push of a button, which is helpful should you ever lose your signal. The drone offers many other excellent features in addition to automatic flight assistance, including intuitive controls, built-in Wi-Fi, live HD view, high-quality camera, autopilot, simplistic video editor, and more.

Your Needs and Goals

Take a moment to consider what you really want out of a drone, and what you hope to accomplish with your quadcopter. If you’re truly serious about your drone-flying experience, you’d do well to skip the nanos and go for the real beginner drones.
Jason Pedersen
Jason Pedersen


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