Some kids (and even adult-age ones) want a drone or quadcopter for the holidays. Here are a few tips to keep you on the right flight path.
- It’s rare to get as burned as the OnagoFly situation presented. But some research can help avoid that. First off, in hindsight I’d say don’t ‘crowd-fund’ anything. Even though it’s proven technology, it’s still someone else’s interpretation of that, and subject to their manufacturing, testing, design and ultimately, their ethics.
- Stick to a reputable online site or brick-and-mortar. They should have posted return and refund policies that don’t change on a whim, and are willing to protect you, the customer. Read the fine print at the store though, and if in doubt, ask.
- Know the warranty policy. If it’s not on a website or easily findable, that’s a red flag. PRINT IT OUT. And keep in mind, no warranty will cover hard crashes caused by you, or inexperienced operations. A ‘good’ warranty should be 6-12 months of repair or replacement if it’s defective. PS-no warranty covers parts like rotors…which leads me to the next point.
- Replacement parts and accessories availability. Look closely at the entire drone. Are parts, like rotors, prop guards and extra batteries easily available? Are they affordable and in-line with the cost of the drone? For larger brands like DJI and Parrot, you can get them directly online or in stores like Target and Best Buy. But for smaller, more obscure brands, you may be stuck into buying online only, which adds time and shipping to your purchase.
- Read reviews*. Lots of them. On different sites. Look for the positive, but also the negative. Let Google be your friend and see what you can find. Search Twitter for happy and unhappy campers…and most importantly, see if those issues are being replied to or addressed ON A CONSISTENT BASIS by the company. So, if you find a lot of calls for help being dumped into a vacuum, without responses or acknowledgement, walk away.
*A common trick is glowing reviews where the writer says amazing things about an amazing product that they say they amazingly received for free for honest, true feedback. HUGE red flag. They’ll give it 5 stars, among others who give it 1. Also, when you see similarly worded reviews with lots of full mention of the product name, that’s a common SEO trick. Trust your spidey sense.
6. Set expectations. This one’s hard…for many, they thought an almost $300 drone would be pretty spectacular, when we come to find out there are sub-$100 kids toys that are even better. So, research, ask questions, check social media, etc. A $1000 drone with GPS, 4k video, intelligent flight operations and long flight time is obviously going to be better than a $60 drone with 480p video and 5 minute flight time. Who are you buying it for? Knowing the expectations of the user can make a smarter purchase.
7. READ. THE. INSTRUCTIONS. Practice in a wide, open space, away from people, pets and property. If you’re going to fly indoors, use prop guards if they’re available. they’ll protect you, your walls, people and the drone itself.
8. Lastly, if you’re in the US*, see if you need to register the drone with the FAA. If it’s over .55 pounds (250 grams), you need to register and label the drone. Visit registermyuas.faa.gov to register, and check out apps like B4UFly to find out about No Fly Zones. Remember, always keep it within sight, don’t fly above 400 feet, and don’t fly above or around people. Help keep the skies and the ground below safe.
*Check local rules and regulations before flying!
Best of luck!