Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Best beginner drone to buy Christmas 2019?

I think that has to be my most clickbaity title of 2019!

Three times I have been asked this question this December, and three times I have had the same answer. So I might as well pop it on here so I can send anyone else here!

We are talking about something that is to be used by somebody with no experience that is not setting out to be the next drone startup unicorn (at the moment)

Most importantly, it’s something you can have in hand on Christmas day 2019. I would have had to think about Skydio 2 as a choice, but as we know it is made of pure unobtanium, a testament to its success! I digress.

Something that offers bang for buck and will to a certain extent, keep the regulators away.

Regular readers must know what I am going to say.

The Mavic Mini (Get the fly more package)

No affiliate link to buy one as I don’t do that sort of thing. Available everywhere.

So why the Mavic Mini?

The primary reason, weight. It is less than 250g and in many places that excludes you from registration, just as long as you keep the prop guards off.

My second reason, the flight performance from such a small package is astounding. Pull up a sandbag, back in the day 10 minutes flight time was a target even for electric model aircraft. The Mavic Mini claims 30 minutes just as long as you don’t fly faster than 14kph on a windless day. So 20 minutes in the air is assured.

Reason number C. You are joining an established proven ecosystem of apps for control and dealers for help.

I am not going to pretend this is a cheap Christmas present for a young adult, but at least there is support available from many quarters. A really cheap, or if you are unlucky expensive cheap drone may leave you devoid of knowledge the second you get it home. All drones are not equal.

If you can’t find a forum talking about the machine you are interested in buying then avoid it.

The camera is certainly more than good enough with a gimbal to boot. Once the shine has rubbed off the new toy, the Mavic Mini is still adequate and small enough to have in a bag to capture off the cuff moments.

Even though regulation avoiding weight was my primary reason to buy, the Mavic Mini, is an allrounder the best bang for buck starter system for dipping your toes into drone waters.

Now the but, not much of a but.

In order to reduce weight, some sensors, ones that stop you hitting things are not included. If you come from back in the day you know that is not an issue because we didn’t have them then either!

The mitigation for this is simple, fly in an open space. That is good advice all around until you are very happy with the craft. Your back garden may not be big enough.

Some other things to consider when flying any new drone.

If the trees are bending, it is too windy to fly. You should avoid winds above 10 knots (about 18kmh)

Should it be windy and your drone blows out of sight you can always rely on the return to home function.

This, of course, means you should have set it up correctly! If there are trees or buildings around your flying site it needs to be set high enough to avoid them on it’s return to you.

For it to properly come back to where it started it needed to get a great position fix, the GPS is receiving weak signals from miles away, don’t take off the second it gets a fix, wait a minute to make sure it’s solid. If you leap into the air and it gets a proper fix a minute or two into the flight, that is the spot that will be home. Bad news if its over water or trees.

Give up early, often said about all sorts of aviation. Make your way back to landing in plenty of time. Personally I am nervous below 30% battery and am certainly paying close attention from then on. Poor battery management is a sure-fire way to lose a machine.

This is turning into a rant!

In summary, wide-open spaces, far from trees and a calm day.

If you are buying a drone as a gift, enjoy it!

Very shortly, how to find a lost drone searches will start popping up in Google. Don’t be one of them!

Gary Mortimer
Founder and Editor of sUAS News | Gary Mortimer has been a commercial balloon pilot for 25 years and also flies full-size helicopters. Prior to that, he made tea and coffee in air traffic control towers across the UK as a member of the Royal Air Force.