As technology has advanced, drones have become a favourite accessory for photographers, outdoor enthusiasts, or anyone who wants to play around with a radio-controlled plane. The latest drones are more affordable than models from a few years ago, so there are drones for everyone from hobbyists to photography drones and much more.
If you’re just beginning your search for a drone, the first thing you’ll notice is that there are a lot of options available. Before you begin shopping, take a few minutes to look over this drone buying guide and check out the types of drones you can find, the features they have, and how to choose the best drone for you.
Table of contents
What is a drone?
When you think of the term ‘drone,’ does your mind immediately flash to a military aircraft of some type? You’re not alone. Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), were used in combat for a long time before they hit the mainstream.
These days a drone can be loosely described as a radio-controlled airplane, but drones have features that make them so much more than that. The drone you choose may have a Full HD or 4K camera on board to capture photos and videos, it could be controlled by a remote that connects to your smartphone, and it can have features designed to help it soar high in the sky, hover low over the ground, or navigate its way around obstacles.
The most common type of drone is a quadcopter. This style of drone has 4 rotors with wings attached. You’ll also find 6 rotor drones as well as fixed-wing drones.
Main types of drones
It’s easy to get caught up while deciding between all the different features of a drone, but if you’re just starting to shop for one there is an easy way to narrow down your initial options by deciding on how you will mainly use the drone. Once you know that, you can choose one of the following types of drones.
Drones for general fun and RC fans
A lot of people choose a drone just for fun or because they are RC fans. These types of drones are considered hobby drones or toy drones. You’ll find drones in this category are less expensive than other types. Some models of toy drones are ready to fly right out of the box. When choosing a hobby drone you’ll want to keep in mind that it won’t have as many features as other types of drones. It may not have shorter battery life or shorter fly time, or it may not have a camera on board.
Videographer and photography drones
A photography drone or a drone for a videographer will have a spectacular camera on board, and some drone cameras can capture video and images at up to 5K resolution. They have longer battery life and faster max speeds, and they will also have features built into the drone that are designed to capture unique images and video.
Outdoor and sports enthusiast drones
If you’re a fan of hiking, biking, rock climbing, surfing, or another type of outdoor activity that could be captured from the air, a drone can cruise over you while you’re in the middle of the action. Drones designed for outdoor and sports enthusiasts have some overlap with photography drones, but they may come in packs with extra batteries and other accessories or they have features like Follow me or obstacle avoidance.
Drones for content creators
There’s a growing category of serious drone users who aren’t specifically professional photographers and may also be outside or sports enthusiasts – content creators. Content creators of all types use drones to capture spectacular aerial images, interesting follow me videos of trails, hikes, or exploring, or selfies captured at unique locations. Content creators love drones because they give them an easy way to provide content for their YouTube channel, Instagram feed, TikTok, or Twitch stream.
Content creators will look for drones with 4K cameras, Wi-Fi built-in for easy transfer of their footage, and compatible apps that transfer video or photos straight to their social media channels.
Features of different types of drones
Different types of drones have different features. Here’s a quick rundown of the features of drones designed for general fun or hobby, photography drones, and drones for outdoor sports enthusiasts.
Features on hobby drones
Drones designed for general fun and RC fans are entry-level hobby drones. They are typically less expensive than other drone categories and some models are designed for a younger demographic. This is a good category to look at if you’re choosing a toy drone for a child or you’re just becoming interested in drones.
- Simple style – Drones that are considered toys may be brightly coloured to appeal to children or they have a simple quadcopter design. You’ll find some models have lights on board so you can see it in the sky at night, while others can only be flown during the day
- Ready to fly – An entry-level drone doesn’t usually require any building on your part. You can pull it out of the box, charge the battery, and it’s ready to fly
- Basic flight capabilities – Many drones in the RC fan category can fly backwards, forwards, up, and down, and some may be able to perform stunts like flips or rolls
- Flight time and range – With a hobby drone you’ll have a shorter flight time before you need to add a new battery or charge your existing battery. Some drones in this category have an average of 8 to 10 minutes of flight time and can only fly a short distance from your remote control or smartphone
- Cameras – Not all drones in this category have cameras on board, but you can find HD, Full HD, or 4K cameras on some types of hobby drones. The drone may also have a small amount of onboard storage or a spot for a memory card to store your photos and videos
Videography and photography drone features
Photographers and videographers use drones to capture the best shot or offer a unique view of a person, place, or landscape. Some videographers also use drones to shoot movies, and some professional-grade drones have replaced the camera and crane combo often used to film blockbuster movies.
A videographer or photography drone has many of the same features as a hobby drone including the standard quadcopter style, but drones designed for this category have better cameras, longer battery life, improved range, and built-in camera modes to capture unique images.
- Auto features and flight modes – This type of drone has features like auto-takeoff and auto-landing so you can focus on photography, and they can generally perform complex flight manoeuvres like flips and rolls
- 1 inch image sensor – You’ll find onboard cameras with ½ inch to 1-inch image sensors with up to 48MP to capture JPG and raw images in low light
- 4k/60fps video – Photography drones can shoot 4K/30fps, 4K/60fps, and 5K/30fps with a variable transmission distance of 9 ½ km to 11 km
- 10-bit Dlog-M color profile – Depending on the model you choose, some photography drones can shoot in billions of colours so every image is crisp and detailed
- The best shot, everywhere you fly – Some models have ActiveTrack to track the subject or Point of Interest that circles your subject
- Smart photography – If you want to be sure you capture the best photos, some drones have built-in features to adjust the camera automatically for the perfect shot
- Cine packages – Photography drones often come with perks like large built-in solid-state drives (SSD) and may offer high-end encoding like Apple ProRes 422 HQ
- Obstacle avoidance – This type of drone can fly up to 70 km/hr while staying connected to your controller and it has features like environment sensing or obstacle avoidance
- Long battery life – A photography drone will have anywhere from 30 minutes to 40 minutes of flight time per charge and often comes as part of a package that includes extra batteries, a carrying case, and additional accessories
Outdoor and sports enthusiast drones
When you’re interested in recording an overhead view of action sports, only the best will do. The best choice of drone for an outdoor or sports enthusiast will have many of the same features as a photography drone, but there will be added importance on flight options, battery life, and obstacle avoidance.
- Completely automated flight options – With auto-takeoff and integrated GPS for return to home flight options, flying this type of drone couldn’t be easier
- Stability for every flight – Both a photography drone and an outdoor sports drone have built-in features like accelerometers, gyroscopes, and pressure sensors to ensure a stable flight over bumpy skies
- Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance – When you are cruising through the trees or hiking through a forest, your drone will be able to completely manoeuvre itself around trees and other obstacles
- Follow me feature – One of the more important features of an outdoor sports drone is a Follow me feature, where the drone can capture video while following its subject at high speed while still avoiding obstacles
- 4K cameras – Just like a photography drone, the best drones for outdoor sports are those with 4K/30fps, 4K/60fps, or 5K/30fps video options
- App control – Drones in this category use remotes to control the drone, but they also plug into your smartphone and have a compatible app you can use to view or edit video, share photos, and store footage
- Long battery life and long flight range – When you’re in the outdoors with no opportunity to charge a battery, you’ll appreciate having a drone with long battery life. This type of drone has an average of 30 minutes per charge and can fly 10 km or further away from the remote control
- Dual-band remote control – You’ll find outdoor sports drones with built-in Wi-Fi for a live stream view and remote controls that run dual-channel transmission 2.4GHz and 5GHz
- Integrated gimbal – This type of drone often has an integrated gimbal to keep the camera steady for video and photos
- Brushless motor – For the quietest operation and the longest drone lifespan, you may want to choose a drone with a brushless motor
If you need parts or accessories for your drone, there is a wide variety available. You can choose propeller guards, full accessory kits, or extra propellers. There are also carrying bags to securely hold your drone, batteries, and chargers. A must-have when using your drone for photography or to capture outdoor sports is an extra memory card.
To make the most of your drone camera, there are drone filters you can place on the drone before you take off. Adding filters will help photographers shoot unique images from the sky.
What to know before you fly a drone in Canada
One thing to keep in mind when choosing the best drone for you is that some drones are required to be registered with Transport Canada. If your drone weighs between 250 grams and 25 kg, you’ll need to register it and mark your drone with the registration number before you take it to the skies
You’ll also need to obtain a drone pilot certificate to fly a drone over 250 grams and you must be 14 years old to obtain a basic operation drone pilot certificate. If you’d like to just have a drone you can fly without taking steps to register it with Transport Canada, take a look at the lightweight drone category. This type of drone weighs under the 250-gram threshold, but it may not have all of the features of larger drones.
Take the next step
Now that you’ve narrowed down which is the best drone for you, check out the full range of drones available at Best Buy.