For someone new to buying and flying a UAV or as it is still most commonly known a Drone, then having an understanding of the different types available and some of the basic terminology will help you make a more informed choice, and hopefully one that is perfect for you.
For anyone who isn’t aware, a Drone is also known as an “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” which is shortened to UAV and you will see this a lot as you get more involved in the Drone communities. In addition, you may also see UAS – Unmanned Aerial System and RPAS – Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.
You will also come across “RC Drones” – this just simply means Remote Controlled.
In case you are wondering, the main differences between a Drone and say a missile is the Drone is designed to return to the pilot after it’s journey and will be re-used many times.
Whilst Drones have a variety of uses, it ultimately comes down to Military, Commercial and Hobbyist/Recreational. I am going to focus on the Hobbyist/Recreational area in this article.
Know What You Are Getting
Going a little bit more technical, Drones are then further categorized in the following terms;
Ready To Fly (RTF)
This is the complete package with no need to buy and additional equipment or accessories – basically you are ready to set up and go ! For beginners this is normally the most popular and safest option to start.
Bind And Fly (BNF)
This is usually only the Drone itself and importantly does not come with a controller. You would be expected to already have a controller that is compatible or alternatively buy one separately. You would then Bind (connect) the Drone to the controller. The key is making absolutely sure the controller will work with the Drone being bought, so if in doubt always seek advice beforehand. This choice is usually for more experienced Drone operators who still want to buy a completed Drone unit without worrying about assembling the vehicle unit.
Almost Ready to Fly (ARF)
This is where it gets a bit more serious !! These are normally in kit form and will require some assembly. Be aware that not all components needed may also be included (sometimes things like motors, transmitters, receivers, etc) so it’s very important you understand what you are buying and review the list of components included in the package. This is usually for the hobbyist who likes to build their machines as well as fly them.
As you can see it’s important you know what you are buying as you don’t want to end up with bits missing !!
Drones are becoming ever more popular and sophisticated these days and tend to mostly be in Quadcopter format (4 rotors). They come with or without a camera option which is a choice based on your usage and budget. If you are buying a very basic toy Drone like this one, then it probably may not have a camera as these are just for the primary use of flying for enjoyment and are very cheap.
You also need to know that the cheaper and smaller toy Quadcopters are only really designed to fly mainly indoors or in your garden/backyard when there is no wind. They also only have a flight time of around 5 to 8 minutes or so, so if you want to keep the fun going have plenty of rechargeable batteries on hand.
More Advanced Drones with Cameras
If you want to spend a bit more, you can buy one complete with a camera or camera attachment which means in addition to the pleasure of flying, you can take stunning aerial photographs and video.
You can also actually navigate your UAV using the images streamed directly to your controller or visual devices – this is known as First Person View or FPV. As technology becomes more and more cost effective most Drones with camera options should now be in reach of most peoples budgets.
One of the most advanced UAVs with a camera – and not just any old camera either but a 4K one – is the DJI Phantom 4 and to give you a taste of the amazing possibilities take a look at this footage shot in Hawaii – absolutely breathtaking !!