How to choose a holiday drone

Practical guide

 

 Hi, I'm the pilot, designer and manufacturer of multirotor drones, PhD. Ing. Mihai Dragu, with over 6 years experience in the field.

 

   I write these articles to educate the market, both merchants and potential buyers of drones. I'm not talking about a few hundred lei toy drones in the supermarket. I saw many merchants who do not understand what they sell and far more numerous buyers who buy drones, that can not use. I will not try to sell anything and I will not advertise for a manufacturer or another.      Articles will focus on specific market segments, from entry level to the professional drones, still a niche in activity industries of various fields.

 

   Because it is the first article in this series, let's define what is a drone? Contrary to popular belief, the drone is an autonomous system with the capability to collect data from the environment in which it travels. That includes underwater drones, air, land Patrol Mars Rover type satellites in orbit. Data can be of photos, film, concentrations of substances, various electromagnetic radiation spectrum. Until recently access to drone was limited to organizations with budgets with many zeros and governmental institutions.

  Fortunately, with the advent of integrated IMU sensor as small chips of a few millimeters, chips for mobile smartphones, they could rely on AutoPilot build IMU and GPS sensors on planes or ordinary. Simultaneously, the evolution of rechargeable Lithium, which made efficient power supply of drones, streamlined their capability to lift heavier payloads, and also the cost of operating and construction.

   So the drones that we know, are more model airplane than drones.
Although there may also be the aircraft type of drones (fixed wing), the most popular due to the simplicity in use is the multirotor rotary wing, the most common model is the Quadcopter.

 

   A special category is a combination of the two. Fixed wings with fixed engines, and take off vertically, are called quadplane. Steerable motors attached to fix wings, are called tilt-rotor.
Quadcopter' s popularity comes from the fact that it has a minimum number of engines, that can cancel each other's torque, of the rotary engines rigidly fixed. There are pentacopters, hexacopters, octocopters, virtually any configuration, but let's start with the entry level - holiday drones .

 

   The holiday / entry level drone must have the following minimum characteristics:

  1. Record an HD image vibration-free;
  2. Be able to transmit the ground in real time the image recorded on the camera;
  3. Can stay at a fix point;
  4. Automatically return to the landing point in case of battery consumption or loss of connection between the transmitter and the drone;
  5. The compact drone with all accessories, must fit easily in your luggage for holidays;
  6. A total mass (with camera and battery) flying, up to 1500g
  7. Have plastic or wood propeller  (not carbon)

 

 Such a drone can be found on the Romanian market at a price of 500 euros upwards. Everything below this boundary probably has a design glitch or simply is an expensive toy.

 

 The most common construction mistakes, I've met personally at the drones brought to us by third parties, to repair them, are:

  1. The drone doesn't rise from the ground because of various technical reasons, reversed factory wires , defective components or installed wrong.
  2. The drone's undersized engines, can not raise any small sized camera.
  3. Picture unusable due to lack of vibration damper at the camera
  4. Chaotic flight, due to rudimentary software and / or lack of vibration dampers, to stabilize IMU sensors

 

   Avoid the drones that:

  1. Have propellers, driven through a gear - because that mechanism will be destroyed immediately; there are, power losses in gear, the motors used are short term life - brushed motors, and with reduced energy efficiency, i.e. flying time under 10 minutes at best.
  2. Flight time provided by the manufacturer is less than 20 minutes. We all know that the real flight time in the field and the writing on the box is different. There are objective factors such as the fact that the battery is discharged to 70% just to return safely, and with time the battery wears out, by downloading it increasingly faster. But if the battery is discharged faster than 15 minutes, this battery will overheat and most likely will not withstand the load capacity, more than two to three flights.
  3. The drones are built by manufacturers, new entrants, which nobody heard of. Small businesses in the PRC, build drones that imitate the big brands with great speed. Though it looks similar, imitation drones' software is rudimentary at best, and often with all sorts of bugs, that makes it impossible to use.
  4. Have edge protection propellers. These margins make the drone heavier and they decrease substantially the flying time. They protect the propeller only on the sides, and the protection is limited to light touch, not impact. Toy drones have generally these "protections" more psychological, as mothers to buy them.

 

  As a conclusion, I recommend you to choose a drone on the basis of impartial reviews (not the manufacturer's). An amateur film with a flying drone, is more relevant than a hundred professional photos of items on the table. Do not choose drones as products on the table!

  There are too many Manufacturer's marketing movies  with drones, who do not rise up to the expectations of customers, and there are big names in this category. It would be a good idea to ask for a shooting, made with that drone, or even search a youtube clip made with the drone,  which ideally, haven't been post-processed with stabilization.
  There's your part of the user, to read the manual. I guarantee you, that if you don't read the manual, you will damage the drone during the first flights. You will have to learn how to use it, you need to create the necessary skills and pay attention to technical details. Ideally, the drone manufacturers have to provide flying courses. Otherwise it would be a good idea that will save investment, to resort to a professional in the field for a few hours of flying courses with your drone. He will give you information that could have been omitted in the user manual.


   I take this opportunity to give you some tips unwritten in the handbook, you will fly safely as follows:

  • not over groups of people;
  • not near airports, especially in the areas of take-off and landing. In these "take-off and landing" areas, a minimum distance of 5 km is needed to avoid collision;
  • no higher than 150m from the ground;
  • not near power lines or drone will be destroyed;
  • not near massive steel structures (bridges, cranes) or the drone will become uncontrollable due to magnetic field disturbances;
  • not near objectives marked with the sign "photography forbidden" ;
  • not near the state border;
  • not if you have consumed substances which prevents you operate the machine;
  • not at night;
  • only in the field of view directly drone

   If you follow everything I wrote above, you will have an enjoyable experience with your first drone.

   Do not be miserly budget, if you want to use the drone on professional level, because otherwise you're going to spend extra time and money . In the next article I will address the semi-professional and professional level of shooting  using the drone, with its challenges and satisfactions.
  If you have any questions about buying a drone, please leave a comment on this article and I will respond.

PhD. Ing. Mihai Dragu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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