For a long time I considered there to be just 2 main classifications of Drones: hobby grade (or recreational) drones, and professional grade photography models. Then someone pointed out that there was in fact a third category of drones—toy grade models. This seemed like a reasonable distinction to make, so today we’re going to explore these 3 grades of drones to flesh out some useful definitions and hopefully see where the lines should be drawn among them in an attempt to make drone shopping easier.
Note: There’s bound to be a good bit of overlap among the features that define a given classification of drones, so let’s not get too hung up on one or two overlapping features. Instead we want to build broader categories that generally distinguish drone types.
Toy Grade Drones
What constitutes a toy grade drone? In my opinion, the difference is certainly not their price point. With professional photography drones coming further and further down in price all the time, and many of what I would call toy drones overlapping photography drones in cost, this is one area that we may have to throw out. (Note: Shown at right is the RC Quadcopter Racing Mini Drone.)
The presence of a camera is another largely unuseful distinction, as most drones these days are equipped with one. However, the quality of the included camera is worth considering. While photography grade drones possess high quality cameras with super steady gimbals, toy grade drones often include a built-in camera that is generally not of a very high quality, and there may be a basic gimbal included, but usually there’s none at all.
Other qualities of toy grade drones include a very limited flying range (generally within 200-300 metres), the ability to perform flying stunts (flips and rolls), the use of lightweight build materials such as special foams that hold up well in crashes (because these drones aren’t necessarily the easiest things to fly or control and may suffer a large number of crash landings—particularly if I’m doing the piloting), and the inclusion of bright colours or far out designs.
One such example of a cool toy grade drone is the R/C Stay Puft Drone w/Camera. This drone, which weighs just a quarter of a pound, features a fun and unique design that’s based on the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the original Ghostbusters movie, which is sure to appeal both to kids and fans of the classic film. This 12″ x 12″ x 2.75″ quadcopter also features a basic camera, has a flight range of 500 feet, and is ready to fly straight out of the box.
Hobby Grade / Recreational Drones
In the realm of hobby grade (or recreational) drones, what I tend to be looking for is a number of more advanced features than the typical toy grade model would have. Features like auto take-off and landing are not just a nice bonus, they’re an absolute must at this level.
A decent quality camera is also nice to have, but it doesn’t have to be super high end (or even include a gimbal), and the drone itself should be extremely easy to fly. In fact, it should practically fly itself. Hobby grade drones may or may not offer built in stunt flying, but it’s certainly nice when they do.
One such example is the DJI Ryze Tech Tello Quadcopter Drone with Camera. This drone has an auto take-off and landing feature, is smart phone and VR headset compatible, and has a whole slew of other features that you don’t necessarily always get in toy grade drones. To read all about its long list of features, give its Best Buy product page a visit by clicking on the above link.
Blurring the lines between toy and hobby grade drones are the very cool Star Wars themed drones from Propel. For instance, there’s the Propel Star Wars TIE Fighter Advanced Battling Quadcopter Drone.
This drone offers numerous fun features that appeal to Star Wars fans and collectors as much as to drone enthusiasts. If you’re looking for a drone that’s more than just a drone, you’ll find it with any of the Propel Star Wars models. These things not only fly extremely well, but they also come with a free app that allows you to fly virtual versions of them when the weather outside is dreary. The only real problem is deciding whether they’re toy grade or hobby grade drones.
Professional Photography Grade Drones
When it comes to professional photography grade drones, you’re looking to get all of the major drone features, and then some. You’re especially looking to get first rate photography and videography capabilities.
Take for example the Yuneec Mantis Q Quadcopter Drone with Camera & Controller (shown above). This drone pretty much has everything. In addition to a 4K camera that records video at 30 frames per second, it has a 3-axis gimbal to keep your shots smooth, streams footage (in real-time) to your smart phone via a dedicated app, saves that footage to an SD card if you prefer, has an operating range of over 1500 metres, and even has a facial recognition feature that helps it to take great selfies automatically. Add to that a 33 minute flying time on every battery charge, and you’re good to go for a fun session of flying and high quality filming. If you’re interested in getting a high end photography drone, these are the kinds of features you should be looking for.
The key to getting the ideal drone for your needs or wants is to know what you intend to use the drone for. If you’re a real estate agent looking to get ahead making virtual video tours or taking arial photographs of the homes you’re trying to sell, a professional photography drone is probably what you need. If you merely want a drone for some fun backyard flying, a toy grade model may be enough—unless you want to up your game with the additional features that come in a hobby grade model. Either way, the choice is yours.
That’s all for today’s discussion. Do you agree with my premise? In any case, I hope it helps to make your drone shopping experience easier and more productive!
Explore Best Buy’s complete selection of drones by following this link, and then let us know which type of drone you prefer to own below?