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Drones: Best way to learn - buy or rent?

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Sean Kirkland
Drones: Best way to learn - buy or rent?
on Feb 19, 2015 at 2:15:28 pm


Anyone who's used/owns a drone... I'm wanting to get my hands on one of these and learn how to use it for upcoming productions (real estate videos, mostly). I know if you're going to use it a good bit, it'd be financially wiser to buy one. To get the feel of it, I think renting would be an option. However, prices for these things are relatively cheap. I would like to get a good one, though - quality, both in operation of the drone AND camera/image quality. In that case (Phantom is the one I've seen the most), those are more pricey.

Anyone have feedback on any of these topics? Thank you ahead of your replies!

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Todd Terry
Re: Drones: Best way to learn - buy or rent?
on Feb 19, 2015 at 3:54:39 pm
Last Edited By Todd Terry on Feb 19, 2015 at 3:57:49 pm

Well firstly, maybe you have and maybe they are out there, but I've never heard of any place that will rent a quadcopter. Considering with the lower-end ones and newbie pilots about one out of 10 flights ends in a crash (and that's a generous estimate) I can't imagine anyone having them in rental inventory. If there were, no doubt there would be a very hefty deposit.

As for ease of use and good picture, the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ would be my recommendation (that's the highest-end one in DJI's Phantom lineup). I had one for a while but I sold it recently. The Phantoms are relatively easy to fly and the Vision+ has its own integrated 3-axis gimbal and 4K camera. Gives a very stable and surprisingly good picture.... when everything works right.

I will say though that while DJI is by far the most popular of the smaller consumerish drones, I did have a great deal of frustration with the company. My first Phantom had an "uncontrolled flight" into the top of a fairly tall tree when it suddenly lost all GPS communication (it suddenly went from 22 satellites to zero). It was sent to DJI helicopter hospital in California where it spent 17 weeks. SEVENTEEN WEEKS. It was returned with a new and different problem (a gimbal issue). It was immediately returned to them where it spent THREE MORE WEEKS. It was returned with exactly the same problem. That's when the yelling started, and I insisted that they FedEx overnight me a brand new one. That was met with a little bit of resistance, but they did it.

I like the company, but I do think they have some issues and definitely some customer service problems.

As I said, though, I sold the Vision+... a very fun toy but I didn't think it was quite up to professional broadcast work, which is what I do. I sold it to a buddy who is a wedding videographer, and he had previously had one exactly like mine (until he had an uncontrolled flight into the side of a Holiday Inn).

My next move would probably be an Inspire 1, but since it is about 3x the price of the Phantom I'm waiting to see how people are happy with it (or not), and whether a next generation will follow quickly.

And also waiting to see what happens with the legalities of using them... the news this week about proposed regulations seems like something we could live with, if that all happens.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Drones: Best way to learn - buy or rent?
on Feb 19, 2015 at 5:31:27 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Feb 19, 2015 at 5:32:45 pm

My suggestion is, before you rent OR buy anything else, go buy a flight simulator program and controller, and practice flying the drone virtually. One brand that's up to date for this, very realistic, and works on PC is called RealFlight.

Spend the extra for the optional hand controller that works and feels like the actual units, don't rely on xbox type controllers, because this is also about training muscle memory in your hands, so it needs to be the same two-stick RC controller box.

I guarantee, you will be able to walk away from every landing or crash:-) Seriously, put in 30 or more hours on the sims this winter, and come spring, you will be in good shape for trying out the real thing.

The second thing I would suggest to you is to first buy one of the toy-type quads like the Estes Proto/ nano, (or the Hubsan model it's based on), for forty bucks, and learn by practicing with this indoors and outside when the winds are below 5 MPH. Pre-programmed flight controls and GPS only get you so far; you need to learn the hand-eye coordination and the depth perception skills, as well as general operation and safety practices, no matter what kind of aerial platform you eventually use professionally. The little nano quads are cheap, sturdy, light weight and don't do much if any damage in a crash, to themselves or other things or people. Some come with built-in video cameras and live wifi links back to the controller for fly-by-sight.

Your local hobby shop (if they still exist) can point you to local radio control flying clubs in your area, where you can get expert live one on one tutelage, as well as have a safe, regulated practice area to learn in. Online resources like tower hobbies and hobby king have many choices of drones and all their support gear at good prices. hobby king especially has a huge selection of airplane-style drones as well as quads and helis.

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