Whether you're just getting into the world of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) because you want to take awesome video of your community, do some neighborhood mapping, or just fly something cool looking through the skies, you have tons of great options. This week we're looking at some of the best, based on your nominations.
Last week we asked you which drones you thought were the best—and by "drone," we're using the popular term for any remote controlled flier, from simple plastic R/C helicopters to more advanced quadcopters and hexcopters that are powerful enough to fly for miles with HD cameras strapped to their bodies. You offered up tons of nominations, most serious and some silly, but there are still plenty of great choices. Here are your top five, in no particular order:
The Lumenier QAV250 may not be a beginner's drone, but if you're a hobbyist, a DIY-er, love FPV (first-person view) flying, or just like to get hands on, you'll love this. This the the kind of UAV that encourages you to make your own modifications to the equipment you buy to tweak it for exactly what you need it to do. The QAV250 is a unibody quadcopter frame that you can buy either on its own, or as part of a kit with everything else you'll need to get it flying. Depending on the type of flying you want to do, you can buy different components and parts to get your custom model to handle the way you want it to—whether you're interested in acrobatic, trick flying, pure speed, long range, or beautiful video. The frame can fully support an HD camera too—in fact, the QAV250 has multiple camera mounts, so you can choose. It's also a light airframe, at less than a half-pound before you start loading it up with gear, and only about a pound or so after that. It has its own landing gear, LED strips to help keep your oriented, and more. The base kit will set you back $130 from Amazon or $150 for a carbon fiber version. An "almost ready to fly" version will cost you $310 direct (it's more expensive on Amazon) and a fully flight capable model (you just need to supply a receiver) ill set you back $520 direct (also more expensive on Amazon, so buy direct.)
Parrot Bebop Drone
Parrot's maker of some of the most recognizable drones (like the Parrot AR Drone, for example) recently released the Parrot Bebop, a medium-sized drone with an integrated camera that's easy to fly and versatile, but also offers FPV piloting and support for Parrot's own SkyController unit or using your smartphone or tablet to pilot the Bebop while you fly. It's small enough to fly indoors, and the 14MP integrated fisheye HD camera on the front captures great detail of anything you pass over (or through.) It's a lightweight drone, built for stability, not necessarily agility, and the discrete controls allow you to pan your camera view while keeping the drone itself level and steady. The drone even generates its own Wi-Fi hotspot, which is a fairly impressive feat. If you want one, it'll set you back $500 at Amazon for the unit, ready to fly, but if you want the SkyController custom receiver, you'll need to grab the $900 bundle instead. Despite its price, the Bebop is designed to be a nice middle ground between more expensive, high-end models that take skill to pilot, and the lower-end plastic models for beginners. If you have the cash to blow, this could be a solid beginner's model, albeit pricey for an entry point.