A Great Success as a Hobby, but a Fail for Some Companies: Drones

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Benjam

An image of FWCD’s beautiful pond from a birds-eye view.

Benjamin Hoppe, News Editor

   To make it clear, no, I’m not talking about government drones in this story. That is a completely different topic that, frankly, I don’t really want to get into. The drones I’m thinking of are either fun toys for children, the coolest tech for teenagers, or a hobby for many adults. Drones have been constantly improving for the past ten years, and now have a wide variety of uses, including being used in Hollywood filmmaking. So, why are drones so popular for such a wide variety of people?

Drones for kids (Beginner drones) (approximately ages 6-12) :

   For all of these categories, the age ranges provided are merely guidelines. Say someone has been flying drones since they were six, then by the time they are 12, there is no reason they should be flying the same drones they were flying six years ago.

   Drones for kids are typically the most basic drones. They do not have many special features, they typically don’t have cameras, and they are pretty inexpensive, and for good reason. Nobody wants to trust a six-year-old who still does their business on the playground (trust me, I know from personal experience) with a $3,000 drone. These drones are meant to introduce kids to the basic controls of flying recreational drones and possibly professional drones. These are the drones that are typically found in the toy aisle next to Hexbugs if those are even still a thing. You can find them in most stores you go to, like Target, Walmart, Bestbuy, etc. They’re meant to be flown indoors, with caution, but are still great due to their typically small size, thus not doing much, if any, damage if a kid were to accidentally crash the drone. 

   There aren’t really any specific drones of this type that stand out as the one to buy, but for older kids who are maybe 10-12 years old, there is one that stands out in its class. That would be the Ryze Tello 

   The Ryze Tello is in between beginner drones and recreational drones. The drone is controlled by phone, can take videos, and can even be programmed to fly in the path that it is told. The Tello is primarily sold by DJI, the leading seller of drones and most popular, at the price of $99 at base price. It is one of the pricier beginner drones, but if its capability to record videos isn’t enticing enough, its several other features might be.

Drones for teenagers (Recreational drones) (approximately ages 13-19):

   Recreational drones are the next step up from beginner drones. Almost all recreational drones have a camera on them, typically the lowest quality for videos being 1080p and the highest at 4k. Most of these drones have a camera on either a two or three-axis gimbal, which really just means that the video will be more stable than if the camera were planted on the drone. That would make the footage shaky whenever the drone turned or accelerated in the air. Some, but not all, recreational drones have what’s called obstacle avoidance. Obstacle avoidance means that if a drone gets near an obstacle, say a tree, then the drone will stop midair and ignore any commands the pilot does in order to not hit the obstacle. 

   The most popular recreational drones, although pricey, are the DJI Mini 2 and Mini SE as well as the DJI Mavic Air 2 and 2S. These drones are primarily sold on DJI’s website, but the Mini 2 and Mavic Air 2 are also sold at Costco. Between these two, the two Mini drones are probably the most popular drones, and cheaper. This does not mean they are bad drones, but lack a few of the features that the Airs have to offer. The Mini drones both weigh under 250 grams, which is actually a pretty big deal. The reason is that when the FAA made drone regulations, they made them for any drones weighing more than 250 grams, meaning that the Mini drones do not have as many restrictions on them that the Airs do, such as having more freedom on where the drone can be flown. The Mini still has regulations that need to be followed, but the pilots of these drones just have a little bit more freedom.

A picture taken by the DJI Mavic Mini of the FWCD Middle School and Round Gym with the Downtown skyline in the background. (Benjamin Hoppe)

   Now, the Mavic Air 2 and 2S border on being a professional drone. These drones have almost all of the features that many professional drones have. The Airs have obstacle avoidance, 4k footage for the Air 2 or 5.4k footage for the Air 2S, and can take 48MP photos. For any potential buyers, the Airs sound like great drones, and they are. However, this is the first encounter on this list of a drone that weighs more than 250 grams, which means that there are more regulations on these drones that have to be followed. If anyone were to purchase any of these drones, or any of the many other drones that are out there, they will keep you entertained. You will be able to take some of the coolest photos and videos, and they will give you some really great views from the sky. 

   Before moving on to the professional drones, something has to be said if you see a drone flying, whether it be in your neighborhood or elsewhere. It’s understandable to be a little nervous to see a drone flying, after all you probably don’t know who is flying it and if they are in good control. However, if you see a drone that may be in the air ne

ar you or your house, this does NOT mean whoever is flying the drone is spying on you. I’m going to put it bluntly, nobody’s lives are important enough that a person flying a recreational drone, most likely a teenager, is using the drone to spy on you. 99% of drone pilots are not using drones to spy on people, but rather take really cool videos and photos from an aerial view. So, if you see a drone, do not freak out, it’s the same if you saw someone controlling an RC car, except a drone is in the air.

Drones for Adults (Professional Drones) (approximately ages 20+)

   If you stick with the drone hobby long enough or maybe you have a job that requires using a drone, you will probably be drawn to professional drones. These drones are really expensive. The cheapest one, the DJI Mavic 3, comes in at $2,200 dollars at the base price and only sold on DJI’s website. However, there are many professional drones, such as ones that are used in Hollywood films, that cost over 10,000 dollars. These drones are not meant for the average person, but if you’ve been flying drones for a while, upgrading to a professional-grade drone isn’t out of the question. You will get all of the features with a professional drone, the highest video quality, obstacle avoidance on all sides of the drone, and flight ranges up to nine miles. Purchasing a professional drone is a big investment, but if you find that you need every single one of the features these drones have to offer, there is no reason to not buy one.

A photo of the DJI Mavic Drone. It is one of the higher end drones that DJI sells. (Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

Conclusion:

   A Drones are incredible toys and pieces of technology. If you want to be entertained and awed by what drones can do, but you are a first-time flier, maybe start with a beginner drone. It’s not too big of an investment, and if you enjoy it, then you can move up to a recreational drone. All drones can fit your needs, which makes them pretty universal. For first-time fliers, it may be a little frustrating learning the controls at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have a lot of fun. Just use the drones responsibly, but otherwise, enjoy all of the things these drones have to offer.