Buying A Drone - What You Need to Know

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Hello! My name is Jacob Shipley and I’m one of the owners of Unveiled Media, a video production company in Kansas City, and I’m stoked you stumbled across this post. I by no means have every answer to every question, but I hope that my experience in drone videography can help you make the decision easier when it comes time for your next drone purchase!

Drones are absolutely incredible. The ability to have an aerial view is simply a game-changer when it comes to not just wedding videography, but commercial and corporate videography as well. However before we dive in, if you’re reading this, you should know that I’m assuming two things. One - you’re planning on abiding by all city, state and federal laws (Studying for the FAA Part 107 drone pilot test? Check out our blog post here). And, two - you’re not looking to drop $10,000 on a drone. The drone selection I cover ranges from high-end consumer drones to low-end professional drones. I’ll be leaving out the ones they use and Hollywood, but know that if you want to spend a fortune on a really cool drone, the option is out there.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I currently own and fly with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro.

 

BRAND OF DRONE

Times when brand name DOES NOT matter: Sandwich bread (.99 cent loaf all day), cookies (all cookies are created equal), cameras (... to a point. There are a few great brands and honestly, personal preference is often the deciding factor).

Times when brand name DOES matter: Breakfast toaster pastries (Pop-Tarts or bust), contraceptives, drones.

I hate to say it, but when it comes to drones, you get what you pay for. For the foreseeable future, I will only be flying with a DJI. They were one of the first brands in this arena, and in my opinion they are still the best. While the price point is high, so is the quality. That being said, GoPro is another brand that I trust. They are still figuring out exactly how they fit into this space, but if the DJI price point is too high, I wouldn’t worry about buying with GoPro.

 

YOUR OPTIONS

Let’s get straight to it. We’re starting with the cheaper options and going up from there. I’m only including the drones that are currently in production so some older models will be left out. Browse through the specs of each option or skip straight to the bottom where I outline which drone is best for your situation!

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Specs: Max Flight Time (16 minutes), Stabilization (2-axis), Sensor (12 MP), Video Resolution (1920X1080), ISO (100-3200).

Long story short: This is DJI’s introductory level drone. The price point matches the quality/features, but it’s super small and portable.

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Specs: Max Flight Time (21 minutes), Stabilization (3-axis), Sensor (12 MP), Video Resolution (4K), ISO (100-3200), Internal Storage (8GB)

Long story short: Certainly a couple notches up from the Spark, the Mavic Air is still incredibly light and portable, but with the benefits of 4K, 3-axis stabilization and internal storage.

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Specs: Max Flight Time (20 minutes), Stabilization (3-axis), Sensor (12MP), Video Resolution (4K up to 60 frames per second)

Long story short: GoPro has some pretty cool features in their drone. You need to buy a GoPro to go with the drone, but right now they have a sale that includes a GoPro Hero 6 Black for only $799 (essentially half off the camera). You’re also getting the Karma Grip which is equivalent to the DJI Osmo Mobile except for a GoPro instead of a phone.  

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Specs: Max Flight Time (27 minutes), Stabilization (3-axis), Sensor (12.71MP), Video Resolution (4K), ISO (100-3200).

Long story short: This is going to be slightly bigger and heavier than the Mavic Air, but you’re getting up to 7KM video transmission and RAW format photos.

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Specs: Max Flight Time (30 minutes), Stabilization (3-axis), Sensor (12MP),Video Resolution (4K), ISO (100-3200)

Long Story Short: The only real differences here are the flight time and the slightly quieter decibel level of the Platinum.

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Specs: Max Flight Time (30 minutes), Stabilization (3-axis), Sensor (20MP), Video Resolution (4K), ISO (100-6400)

Long Story Short: The big step up here is the sensor. You’re jumping from 12MP to 20MP. The Phantom also has the ability to shoot in 4K at 60 frames per second.

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Specs: Max Flight Time (30 minutes), Stabilization (3-axis), Sensor (20MP), Video Resolution (4K), ISO (100-6400)

Long Story Short: The price here is an insurance policy. Instead of only having forward obstacle sensing in the Advanced, you get 5-direction obstacle avoidance, making your aircraft significantly harder to crash.

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Specs: Max Flight Time (18 minutes), Stabilization (3-axis), Sensor (12MP), Video Resolution (4K up to 30fps), ISO (100-3200)

Long Story Short: This has some super cool features the the Phantom series lacks. Indoor flying is much easier and you have the ability to connect two controllers, one for flying the aircraft and one for controlling the camera. However, some of the specs are actually a step down from the cheaper Phantom 4 Pro v2.0.

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Specs: Max Flight Time (27 minutes)

Long Story Short: This has all the amazing features of the Inspire 1 v2.0 plus some. The kicker? The price point does not include one of the Zenmuse cameras that you need to actually capture video. These cameras vary a ton, but range in price from $599 to $2,999.

 

MAKING A DECISION

Lots of options, but do not fear. Below, I’ve narrowed it down to three options and described why I’ve excluded the others.

  • Option 1: Mavic Air - $799

You’re intrigued by the idea of a drone and think it would really add to your arsenal of equipment. You don’t want to drop a fortune, but you want to get something that will give you great results.

To me, the Spark isn’t even worth bothering with. The stabilization will be crummy and the resolution is only 1080p. The GoPro Karma is neat, but I just think the image quality is going to be better with DJI. The Mavic Pro is also really great, but I don’t believe the specs make it worth the jump in price.

  • Option 2: Phantom 4 Pro - $1,499

You would consider yourself an experienced-amateur or even a professional videographer. Your wedding or commercial videos could benefit from an aerial perspective and you want the quality to be as great as what you’re doing on the ground.

When it comes to the Phantom series, you are getting a bigger sensor and increased video resolution. The reason I’d go with the Pro over the advanced is that the extra $300 for the enhanced obstacle avoidance is worth every penny if it saves you from having to buy another drone.

  • Option 3: Inspire 2 - $2,999

You make a significant amount of money doing videography, have serious aspirations for your company or you are looking for an expensive hobby and have some spare cash lying under your mattress.

If you’re going to drop this kind of money it just makes sense to get the Inspire 2 and invest in a camera. If you are in Inspire 1 v2.0 price range, I honestly would grab the Phantom 4 Pro instead.

 

FURTHER RESOURCES

  • FAA Drone Test

If you have any intention of flying a drone to further your business you NEED to be Part 107 certified. Check out our blog on studying for the FAA exam here.

  • AirMap

This app is super useful for planning your flights. It gives you insights into what rules, regulations and recommendations stand in the way of your flight. More importantly, this app lets you submit waivers to get airspace approval. If you are filming an event within 5 miles of an airport (Class D Airspace), this app is incredibly handy!

https://www.airmap.com

  • Verifly

Insurance is never fun, but sometimes clients and event venues require it. This little app is incredibly helpful for those situations. Starting at only $10/hour you can insure your company for up to $1,000,000 in damages to people and property. We use this almost every time we film and have no complaints!

https://www.verifly.com/drone.html

  • Missouri Drone Journalism

As a grad of the University of Missouri, I had to throw this one in. My old professor, Judd Slivka, now the director of aerial journalism at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, is a great thought leader in the field and is constantly posting great information. Check out their website for the latest news and tips.

http://www.missouridronejournalism.com

  • Unveiled Media

If you find yourself in need of a drone video in the Kansas City or Mid-Missouri area, please contact us (https://unveiledmedia.video/contact-us/) and let us know how we can help!