A gift guide for drone lovers

Are you doing some Christmas shopping for a drone owner, or wannabe drone owner, and don’t know where to start? Or are you the droner and need some ideas to give Santa [your family] for your Christmas wish list? From the drone itself for those with bigger budgets down to SD cards and filters for your Secret Santa, here are the items you can add to your list.

A drone.

The first thing any drone owner needs is a drone. There are hundreds of options on the market and the first question should always be what do they want to use it for? Photography? Racing? Keeping an eye on the dog? Here are some options and resources for choosing the right one. Please note prices listed are those at the time of publication and you know that holiday deals change.

The market-leader, DJI:

DJI represents over 60% of the drone market, and for good reason. They have quality products and run the spectrum for user needs. And Black Friday deals are the time to make the bigger purchase – DJI is offering up to $150 off and extras with new devices.

Which to choose? It probably boils down to three choices:

  • Starter ($399): the Spark. The Spark is a great starter drone that takes incredible quality footage and doesn’t even require a remote. You can buy the remote if you want (recommended), but can always start without it and add on later.
  • For travel ($1049): the Mavic Pro (or Pro Platinum). For those looking to travel and want something sturdier than the Spark, the Mavic is the way to go. It has a bit more body and handles weather (wind) better. The arms also fold down, making it great for travel. Pro or Platinum? The new Platinum boasts longer flight times and quieter propellers, so if it’s a new purchase, go Platinum.
  • For more advanced photography and video ($1499): Phantom 4 Pro. With the bigger body and more advanced control, the Phantom series are better for those who can take on the pack size. There are two models – advanced and pro – and you can read about the differences here.

Non-DJI options:

If you don’t want to go the DJI route, Amazon is your best place to start. This is where you’ll find anything from $17 toys to $22,000 thermal survey drones. The main drone page even has a convenient guide to help you find the right device for the right person.

Some popular options are:

BE SURE TO CHECK IF THE DRONE COMES WITH A CAMERA (some are equipped to carry a an action camera like a GoPro, but don’t actually come with the GoPro itself – so double check this before you buy).

Accessories and extras.

You need more than just the drone to get in the air. And there are accessories for every type of drone out there. Some are specific to the model, and some are good things to have.

SD cards ($20+): You can never have enough SD cards; look for highest write speeds and the bigger the better (at least 32 GB). If in doubt about the specs, you can always find the recommended cards for the drone online.

Power adaptors ($20+): If the drone will travel, power adaptors come in handy. This one is great ($20) because it also has two USB slots to charge the remote and a phone (or whatever else) at the same time, and is a power bank.

Bags ($20+): Every drone needs a carrying bag. You can get drone-specific ones, like this one for the Mavic, or to be more practical, go with a bag that can adjust to any needs, like this over-the-shoulder ($40), or this backpack ($50). Just make sure it’s big enough to fit the drone, extra batteries and other accessories.

Decoration ($25+): DecalGirl makes awesome skins for drones. For about $25, you can a custom look for any drone. And for Black Friday, shipping (US) is free!

Filters ($10+): Filters can start really cheap (~$10) and go up. They will be model-specific and are a great way for photographers to hone their skills.

Landing pads ($14+): Landing pads ensure that you can launch and land on any surface, which comes in handy when dealing with sand, grass and snow.

A tracker ($140): The scariest moment is when a drone pilot thinks they may have lost their drone – a tracker additional to the GPS built in gives extra reassurance. Check out this one from trackimo.

DJI accessories: DJI has a whole page dedicated to accessories from goggles to extra batteries – it’s a great place to shop for those who have DJI products. Recommended: if you’re shopping for a Mavic Pro owner, get them the new Platinum propellers ($9!!).

Responsibility.

Responsible flying is a hugely important topic for drones. And some people avoid parts of their responsibility for the cost alone. So here, gifts can be fun AND responsible!

Registration ($50+): Drone registration is country, city, and sometimes county, specific. It will also depend on the model, so we won’t get into details here. But if you have a new pilot, research the costs for registering in your area and give cash or a gift card in that amount (telling them what it’s for, obviously). So much more thoughtful than regular cash.

Training ($100+): Most drones are easy to get out of the box and in the air. But beyond just basic flying, training courses can prepare you for FAA certification, teach video and photo editing and so on. UAV Coach offers several courses from FAA prep to thermal mapping. Drone Pilot Ground School offers an online course that will prepare anyone for an FAA certification, designed in partnership with a Gold Seal Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and former Chief Pilot of a Part 141 Flight School.

Happy (and safe) flying!

About the Author: Jessica is a full-time traveler on a mission to visit every country in world, sharing her trip, pictures, video, stories and observations at How Dare She. Follow her on Instagram to see the whole world through her eyes [slash camera]. She travels with Dolly, her Mavic Pro, sharing aerial photography on Instagram (Art of Aerial), and runs the Facebook group Art of Aerial, a community for lovers of aerial photography and videography.

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