Before considering which drone is correct for you, the best course of action is to determine what will be your most frequent type of activity. For instance, aerial photography, land surveys, airborne surveillance, aerial videography, etc.. Once you've locked on the activity then its a lot easier to pick the perfect unmanned vehicle for you. For a few example applications, those desiring to perform aerial videography or cinematography require a gimbal in order to get ultra smooth video. In that case, just about any drone capable of supporting a gimbal will be a great choice. From there, selection becomes just figuring out what price you can afford and required flight time.
Yes! Government agencies at levels can in fact use drones according to FAA. However, FAA does require a COA before use can commence. Getting a COA from FAA does require submitting request to the FAA for specific use and locations. It's the experience of the UAVDirect team that COA's should be submitted for training first and later submissions for mission related task such as environmental studies, search & rescue, scene documentation, etc..
Drones are inherently easy to fly due to automation afforded by autopilots a.k.a. flight controllers which provide guidance in the absence of pilot commands, waypoint navigation and even safety features such as low battery auto-landing and return-home-and-land. However, despite these advanced features the UAVDirect team strongly encourages new pilots to undergo proper training, be familiar with all facets of their aircraft and graduate activities slowing from just performing basic maneuvers to advance. Proper training and instruction will help pilots should mistakes occur or an unforeseen equipment failure occurs.
In general pre-teens and teenagers make excellent pilots. Kids today have the luxury of developed hand-eye coordination and muscle memory from video games that translates very well to pilot unmanned aerial vehicles. Of course any activity such as this should always be done under the careful observation and control of an adult who is proficient pilot and apt at providing instruction. At UAVDirect we have many cases to where parents are introducing their kids to piloting drones quite safely which provides them with renewed friendship (priceless!) and possibly, a future career in the drone industry.
As implied in other FAQ entries, piloting drones are easy. However, there are activities especially in the realm of videography that do require finesse and flare that can only come from a seasoned pilot. To gain such skills the UAVDirect team recommends making use of RC simulators and inexpensive RC aircraft. RC simulators give pilots that chance to push aircraft to the absolute limits and beyond with no consequences. Currently, our favorite RC sim for drones is Aerofly developed by Icarus from Germany, which offers target training and indoor flying.
Aside from simulators, using inexpensive RC aircraft is also a great way to foster perfect muscle memory as most RC aircraft have little to no computer assistance. With the lack of computers, RC aircraft tend to be very affordable and some are so small that indoor flight is relatively safe. One of our favorites to fly on rainy days is the ProtoX by Estes which is a micro quadcopter that fits in the palm of your hand and flies up to five minutes.
Unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with FPV downlink gear make great tools for inspecting objects from home roofs, to bridge including towering buildings. However, a very dangerous item for drones to inspect are live radio towers due to the potential for EMI (electromagnetic interference). Even if the radio tower is transmitting in a portion of bandwidth far from what the UAV is using, because the immense power from the tower, interference and loss of control of the aircraft can occur. Likewise, drones should not be flown near any source of radio emissions to include but limited to electrical substations, radio relay facilities, high voltage lines and radar.
First person viewing goggles are a great item to experience virtual flight. Some operators using FPV goggles even report experiencing levels of vertigo similar to actual flight. FPV goggles are indeed fun and in some cases are necessary to wear due to extreme sunlight where the drone is operated or in certain cases, the glow of a normal video monitor could compromise a pilots location. It is recommended when pilots use and wear goggles to always recommended to have at least one person to serve as a spotter to help ensure safe operation.
For most applications such as aerial photography and videography, most pilots recommend using a FPV monitor. An FPV monitor allows pilots to quickly glance at the screen to obtain camera perspective and then resume line-of-sight piloting of the aircraft.
Most drones do provide a very low level of moisture protection due to a conformal coating applied at the factory. Even with this coating, it is not recommended to intentionally subject drones to moisture and of course inclement weather. If drones have been exposed to moisture, the UAVDirect team recommends immediately removing the aircraft power source, move it to a dry area, ensuring all water has been removed from the fuselage and parts that may likely cup water. Additionally, operators should use forced and dehumidified air over a twenty-four hour period to minimize chances of condensation and corrosion forming on critical flight components.
In general, pilots should always adhere to precautions and specifications published by manufactures of a given UAS. Many operators of drones report routine and safe operation even in 20MPH winds. However, operators new to such high winds should keep in mind several factors: