Written by Michael Karp
Camera drones come in all shapes and sizes. These days, you can get cameras on extremely small micro drones, racing drones, and all the way up to expensive octocopters.
But when you’re looking for quality, there are a few attributes you should pay attention to. These attributes define the difference between a quality camera drone and one that’s simply for recreation.
Let’s break them down:
When you’re researching camera drones, pay attention to the camera’s quality.
Many camera drones come with a camera that shoots video in 4K resolution. This is more than good enough. You will also find a lot of cameras that can take 10-12 megapixel still photos.
These two features are quickly becoming a staple in the drone world, but if the camera shoots video in a little less than 4K and/or takes a little less than 10-12MP stills, you still have a pretty good camera on your hands.
Next, find out if the camera built-in, if can you switch it out, or if you need to buy one separately.
What you want will depend on your goals and the equipment you already have. Most camera drones come with a built-in camera that’s pretty powerful, but some photographers and videographers like to use their own equipment.
Finally, figure out if you can attach filters to the camera. This could drastically broaden the type of shots you can get.
In-Flight Camera Adjustment
It’s a big plus if the drone allows you to adjust your camera’s setting mid-flight. This can save you a lot of time, because you won’t need to land every time you want to change settings or re-adjust the camera.
Look for drones that allow you to adjust the camera’s angle and basic settings, at a minimum. Then see if you can adjust exposure, focus, and other more advanced settings from the ground, as well.
When camera drones first came out, you had to shoot all of your footage and download it to a computer before you could review it and see what types of shots you were getting.
Today, you can find models that allow you to review your footage directly from the controller or a mobile device. This is a huge time-saver, and it lets you get the shots you’re looking for faster.
Drone flight times typically range from 8 minutes up to 30 minutes.
Flight time on the lower-end drones (like the models under $100) isn’t crucially important. These models are more for having fun, and their batteries usually recharge in 30-45 minutes and you’re back in the air again.
For professional pilots and more serious photographers/videographers, flight time is a big deal. It means you have more time in the air to get your shots, and you need less replacement batteries to extend your sessions.
Go for a drone with a flight time of at least 18 minutes. If you can get into the 22+ minute range, you should be golden.
Autonomous Flight Modes
Autonomous flight modes are excellent features to have at your disposal. They allow you to get expert quality shots without having to control the drone manually.
Here are a few examples:
Follow Me – The drone automatically follows you and captures what you’re doing.
Course Lock – Lets you fly in a set direction.
Waypoints – Let’ you set multiple GPS points for the drone to fly between, while you control the camera.
Home Lock – Fix your controls to be relative to the Home Point.
Point of Interest – Set a specific point for the drone to orbit around.
Journey Mode – The drone flies out away from you to capture a selfie.
Return Home – With push of a button, the drone returns to you.
These types of flight modes can make it a lot easier to maneuver your drone and get amazing aerial shots.
Control distance refers to the distance between your controller and the drone before it loses signal.
It’s an important characteristic, because it tells you how far away you can fly your drone before losing control of it.
You want this distance to be as long as possible (to be safe), but anything around 1500 meters or more should be fine. Most higher-end camera drones have a more than long enough control distance.
Next, FPV (first person view) capability is a huge advantage when taking aerial photos and videos. You can see what your camera sees in real time, so you can make sure you’re getting the most accurate shots possible.
Find a camera drone that can relay a live FPV feed to a screen on the controller or to a mobile device.
Finally, this isn’t a must-have, but it’s definitely helpful:
This feature gives your drone the ability to bounce away from any object that comes in its path. This includes both manual flight and automated flight.
If you tend to fly in obstacle-rich areas (lots of trees or buildings) obstacle avoidance can come in handy.
Over to You
As long as you keep these attributes in mind, you should be able to find a quality camera drone to meet your needs.
What drone are you flying right now? How do you like it? Let me know in the comments below.