Are you interested in buying a drone? Have you browsed around online or in electronics stores and noticed the huge differences in price? Why buy the one behind the display case that’s $1,200 when you can get that one laying on its side on the shelf in a paper-thin cardboard box for $40? What extra “stuff” are you getting for all that extra money?
This is a Syma X5C-1, one of the lower end drones sitting right at the $40 mark. So what features do you get out of this thing? Well…it flies, oh and it’s got a camera. But for $40 you can’t be expecting that much. Really though, for what it is and the price point, it is actually a solid drone. It runs on a 1 cell 3.7V battery and has a surprisingly long battery life in my personal experience it will stay in the air around 8 minutes or so which is longer than some in this price point offer. The camera shoots sub-par videos and pictures but you do have the ability to control the camera from the supplied remote which is pretty cool. I have flown this drone many times and it always flies well. I’ve also never seen a motor burn out, unlike a few others with brushed motors that I’ve owned. At one point my brother-in-law decided he would fly this over his rottweiler, who then bit it out of the air and chewed on it. After cleaning the drool off and counting the tooth marks, the Syma was still able to fly!
So why would you max out your brand new 21% interest rate credit card on an expensive drone when cheap ones like the Syma seem to do just fine?
This is the Phantom 3, the drone that everyone thinks of when they hear the word “drone”. It looks very similar to the Syma but why is it so much more expensive?
To start the list off, it has FPV (First Person View) so the image that the camera sees is sent real-time to your tablet or smart phone, the 4K camera is mounted on a stabilized 3-axis gimbal for ultra stable video/pictures and you can even tilt that camera up and down from the remote. The Phantom 3 has built-in GPS as well as GLONASS, the Russian equivalent of GPS. This allows the Phantom to hold its position in the windiest conditions and reduce human failure. The GPS feature also allows a user to set autonomous way-points. The Phantom also has built in fail-safes such as a “Return to Home” button which will fly the drone back to its original take off position and land its self. The Phantom 3 is an amazing drone and works great, the video is insanely stable and flying it is a DREAM…literally because I’m a broke college student, and if I ever saw $1,200 I would buy 120,000 packets of ramen-noodles instead.
Ok, so now you know a little bit about the Phantom 3, looking back at the Syma X5C-1 you’re thinking “how amateur” but with the Phantom’s price tag you could get a fairly decent used car. Isn’t there anything in the middle of the road? Of course there is!
I forfeit about 60,000 packets of ramen-noodles or roughly $600 USD a few weeks ago to purchase a Xiro Xplorer V.
The Xiro has FPV to a smart phone or tablet, a stabilized 3-axis camera gimbal, and even the GPS/GLONASS and “Return to Home” features found in the Phantom. Going through the list is has everything the Phantom does at half the cost.
This is video I shot with the Xiro at John Stiff Park a few days ago, no modifications required.
Before you decide to buy one, ask yourself. Have you ever flown one before? Do you just want to try one out? Are you going to use it for fun, aerial photography, or drone racing? Are you going to be required to register it with the FAA? The list goes on!
Do you still want one? You don’t have to limit yourself to the drones in my list, these are just a few that I think are worth the price. There are hundreds of options out there at every price point from the micro toy quads for $20 up to high quality, carbon fiber frame, heavy lift DSLR drones which can run $20,000 and up. You can even build your own if you spend the time doing research. No drone is perfect, they all have issues here and there, just remember to enjoy flying whatever you decide to get!