The Ultimate Guide to Buying A Drone In 2015

drones for sale guide 2015 header picture

You have probably arrived on this page because you are looking for drones for sale. You’ve seen those flying drones, quadcopters, hexacopters or whatever else you want to call them and you thought it would be fun to own one. Maybe you’ve seen them on TV, in the park or your friend or co-worker was bragging about how much fun he is having with his new ‘toy’. So read on to find out what your options are in terms of buying a new drone.

Why do you want a drone?

The most important question you must ask yourself before purchasing a drone is “Why do I want one?”. There are hundreds of different types of drones for sale out there. Only by answering this question will you know where to start looking and be ultimately satisfied with your purchase. It’s a bit like buying a car; there are sport cars, sedans, hatchbacks, vans, SUVs, etc. It would be impractical to buy a 3-door sport car as your main car if you have a family with 5 children now wouldn’t it?

The main mission of Drones Den is to help you choose the right drone for you and we are hoping the following article will help you make the right decision!

We have split this article into different sections depending on your main intended use for your new drone:

  1. Professional Aerial Photography
  2. Aerial video filming
  3. Travelling & Travel Photography
  4. Racing
  5. Sports
  6. Amateur short distance flying 
  7. Development

Professional Aerial Photography

If you are looking to shoot some amazing aerial photos that will gain you a lot of Flickr comments, or that you may be able to sell as prints, then you want a drone for professional photography. You may be a professional digital photographer already, or maybe you are just getting started. Drone aerial photography is  exciting.

Various businesses such as real estate drone photography and wedding/ even photography are now starting up offering these kind of drone hire services to anyone. Whether it’s your main business or just a hobby, you must have the best gear out there in order to get ahead of the competition.

There are four drones with camera that we recommend:

DJI Phantom 3 Advanced Quadcopter with 1080p HD Camera – Drones for Sale | Drones Den

1) DJI Phantom 3 Advanced ($999)

This drone was released earlier this year and is an absolute beauty. It comes with a fully integrated 12MP camera with an enhanced sensor, f/2.8 lens, reduced noise and a 94o field of view, eliminating any fish eye effects you used to get with previous versions of the Phantom. DJI has also done a great job at the new 3-axis gimbal with improved stabilisation and less vibrations conducted through from the motors.

Although very advanced as a drone, the camera does not compare to a professional DSLR as it is not nearly as customisable. However, at the price tag of $999 for both a very advanced drone and an integrated camera, this is the one to go for if you are looking to add aerial photography to your portfolio.

Some of you may be wondering why we haven’t yet mentioned the DJI Phantom 3 Professional version which retails at about $300 more. The reason is that the only difference between these two versions is the video quality. The Professional version can shoot 4K video whilst the Phantom 3 Advanced is limited to 1080p. This is great if you are looking to make aerial videos, but will not greatly affect the quality of your photos.

inspire8
2) DJI Inspire 1 ($2,899)

The DJI Inspire 1 is a drone made for professional aerial videos. if you are a film maker, then this high end drone is the one for you. Regarding the camera aspect, it features exactly the same lens, sensor and resolution capabilities as the Phantom 3 Advanced mentioned above. The difference comes in the way the drone gimbal is assembled. DJI calls this the Zenmuse X3 gimbal and it does indeed provide extra stability when compared to other drones with integrated cameras.
The camera is also able to rotate 360 and -90 degree to +30 degree tilt, with a very high level of accuracy. You can also buy an extra controller for the drone if you want one person to be flying it and another to be controlling the camera at the same time. The camera itself is also detachable, in contrast to the integrated camera on the Phantom drones. These are the features that distinguish this quadcopter from any other, in terms of the camera.

Does it justify the price tag if you only want to take stills? If you think you may wish to take 4K videos at any point in the future, then you should probably go for this, otherwise you’ll be stuck with 1080p videos on the P3 Advanced. It is also more aerodynamic which makes the drone more stable in windy conditions. Otherwise, it “probably” doesn’t justify buying it and paying triple for the improved digital camera alone.

spreading wings s900 for sale

3) Spreading Wings S900 ($3,400 with gimbal)

If you want to take your DSLR camera to air, then you need one of these Spreading Wings S900 big boys (click to buy). The Spreading Wings models are hexacopters significantly larger than the two aforementioned drones. We have chosen the S900 because although priced at $1,400, it is significantly cheaper than the more professional S1000 and S1000+ versions (~$2,000). It is worth noting that the main difference between these different models is the take-off weight. The S900 weighs about 3.3kg in total and it can lift off a maximum of 8.2kg. The S1000 has a maximum take off weight of 11.0kg, making it more appropriate for the heavy duty video cameras used for cinematography. These are the drones to go for if you are very fond of your DSLR and don’t trust the integrated cameras on the DJI Phantom 3 and the DJI Inspire 1.

On top of the drone, you would also have to buy a special drone gimbal that needs to be compatible with your own camera. DJI does different bundles on their website with different gimbals and the WooKong-M flight controller included. When factoring all these in, buying a S900 could cost you upwards of $3,400.

3d robotics solo drone

4) 3D Robotics Solo ($1,400 with gimbal)

The Solo has been released as a direct competitor to the DJI Phantom 3. There are a few key features that make this drone a good choice, although the main caveat is that only a few people have gotten their hands on one yet and it has not been properly tested en masse. I haven’t yet managed to fly one, so I can’t write a full review, but here is what sets this drone apart from the rest.

Quite possibly the largest improvement is in terms of service and guarantees. 3D Robotics offers a 30 day money back guarantee. As simple as that. If you fly it and you don’t like it, you can simply send it back for a full refund. There will be some terms & conditions, but that’s the gist of it. They are also offering a Flyaway Replacement. In other words, if it can be shown that it was a true flyaway, they will assume full responsibility and replace the whole drone, including the gimbal and the GoPro if it is damaged. The reason they can offer this guarantee is because of the integrated flight recorder into the drone which is able to detect any errors in connecting to the controller as well as any erratic flying patterns. You will of course have to first find the drone and return it to them so they can download the flight data and assess the damage.

The Solo is being marketed as the first intelligent drone, meaning that it is powered by two 1GHz processors running Linux. This is meant to make flying more easy and allow programable flying paths and a ”follow me” mode. They also worked closely with GoPro to make it possible to access the GoPro controls whilst the drone is in-flight without interfering with the drone controller. We are going to soon do a feature on this drone, but for now there is plenty of info on the 3D Robotics website.

There are a lot more known unknowns and unknown unknowns with this drone than with the DJI products, hence why it comes last in our list.

Summary of the best photography drones for sale:
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced: Beginners AND professional aerial photographers

DJI Inspire 1: Professional aerial photographers

Spreading Wings S900: Professionals who wish to use their DSLR to take aerial photos

3D Robotics Solo: Beginners/ pro if you are willing to ‘beta’ test the new intelligent drone concept

Video

Several aerial drone videos have gone viral on YouTube over the past 2-3 years. Just like drone photography, shooting an aerial video has now become accessible to anyone for as little as $50. Probably the cheapest decent drone worthy of shooting aerial videos is the Hubsan X4. We won’t be recommending it however as the videos are comparable to the first phone camera that was released a decade ago. However, it has a camera, it won’t break the bank and it’s decent at flying around.

Not surprisingly, the selection of drones made for aerial video is almost identical to those designed for aerial photography.


Buy The DJI Phantom 3 Professional with 4K Camera

4K Camera Lightbridge digital streaming 720p HD video to controller Vision Positioning system allowing for stable flight indoors/ outdoors

1) DJI Phantom 3 Professional ($1,259)

The first drone with video camera we recommend is the DJI Phantom 3 Professional. We have already mentioned above a lot of the features this revolutionary new drone model has (as other than the camera, the build is exacdji_phantom3_2tly the same as the DJI P3 Advanced). The main reason it’s the top in our list for aerial videos is the 4K Camera, the Lightbridge equipment (sold on its own by DJI for $1000+) and the superior stability.

The drone, priced at $1,259 can be used for both aerial photography and videos, but the latter is where it exceeds expectations. Take a look at this video making sure you turn the resolution up to 2160p and you’ll see what I mean. It is currently the cheapest drone featuring an integrated 4K camera and Lightbridge technology.

2) DJI Inspire 1 ($2,899)

The Insdji inspire 1 for sale picturepire 1 was DJI’s first drone with a 4K camera and it was released a few months before the Phantom 3 Professional. At a price tag of $2,899 it is aimed at professional video and film makers. We have already covered some of its main features in the aerial photography drones for sale section above.

It has been used to shoot numerous live concerts, races and movies where a helicopter would have been required in the past. Compared to other drones, the cool fact about this one is that the 4K camera is removable and you can buy a special holder for it. This means that you can use it as a normal camera even when you don’t feel like taking your drone with you.

 

Traveling

Are you planning to take your drone everywhere you go? Lots of overseas trips coming up? The most important factor here is probably portability. The good thing is that you only slightly have to compromise in terms of video or photo quality with these two options:


Buy The Bepop Drone – $469.99

Most advanced Parrot drone yet 14MP 1080p HD Fish eye wide-angle camera. Film 180° field videos. High altitude flight control + GPS ‘return home’ mode

1) Parrot Bebop drone ($469.99)

Parrot launched the Bebop drone late last year. It’s an incredibly lightweight, but durable and safe drone to fly and take with you in your suitcase. That’s the best thing about it; It weighs only 400g and measures 28(L) x 32(W) x 3.6(D) cm. Can that easily fit in your backpack? It sure can! And what about the controller? You’re already carrying the controller… in your pocket. The Bebop drone is controlled by the FreeFlight 3 app running on your smartphone or tablet. It comes with 2 batteries and will each give you a flying time of about 20-22 minutes.

The camera on the Bebop drone takes 14MP undistorted photos (flat horizon), giving you 180o field of vision, and 1080p video with remarkable quality. Although small, it’s also a very stable drone, comprising numerous sensors such as a 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, ultrasound sensor and a pressure sensor all of which contribute to make it easy to fly and stable in-flight.

2) Blade 350 QX3 ($399.99)

blade-350qxBlade is one of the smaller players in the drone market, but this little drone is worth mentioning. The drone does not come with an integrated camera. However, the drone gimbal lets you attach your own GoPro camera to it, so it is only suitable if you are a GoPro owner. The Blade 350 QX3 drone has all the common features you would expect such as GPS mode, self-leveling and return to home. You can get a flying time of about 15 minutes out of it, making it inferior to the Bebop.

These are at the moment the only two drones we recommend for travelling. You can forget the selfie stick and replace the photos with something original and much more impressive for your friends to admire!

Racing

We have recently written a post on racing drones for sale so check out the post if you wish to learn more. In summary, the TBS Gemini is the top drone for racing, with top speeds of 90km/h (YES, no typos here!). Unfortunately the first batch has sold out really fast so you may need to wait to get one of these FPV Racers. There are however lots of other racing drones available to buy, and we have covered them all in our racing drones post.

Sports

If you are after a drone that will follow you around autonomously whilst performing your BMX or skiing tricks, you will have to wait. There are three promising drones in the pipeline but none of them have been released yet. They all have autonomous following and have all been initially funded through Kickstarter.

Please note our paragraph at the end of the article with regarding to Kickstarter projects. Although we felt we should mention the following three drones as they are geared specifically towards sporting events, we cannot recommend any of them as we have not yet had the pleasure of testing.

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 13.19.06

1) AirDog ($1,295)

AirDog is a foldable quadcopter designed to go with your GoPro camera. It has so far raised over $2m in funding and is aiming to be the top drone in autonomous flight by following whoever wears the wrist band it comes with. The obvious disadvantage is that the drone cannot be actively controlled.

This makes it useless at taking aerial photographs or videos of anything other than you! They have so far shipped out three batches to the public and you can pre-order your drone for from the fourth batch, with an estimated delivery time by the end of this year. (website)

hexo1

2) Hexo+ ($1,349)

Hexo+ was one of the most exciting drones featured at CES this year. It stands out from the crowd by having five propellers and is yet again designed to go with a GoPro camera. It is due to start shipping out in September 2015 and has so far raised over $5m in funding from both Kickstarter and various other investors.

You can pre-order it from their website for $1,349 but you may be waiting for several months until you get your device. Just like the AirDog, it is not possible to actively control the drone. All it can do is follow and film you on its own.

Flying around in your garden/ amateur flying

If you have never flown a quadcopter before, and you simply want to see what it’s like, then you should probably start out by doing this. This can be fun for the whole family and some high quality drones can be had for under $20.
The Cheerson CX-10 which we have recently reviewed costs $17-$20 on Amazon and is an extremely easy to fly quadcopter. My 12 year old sister had no problem flying it after a few practice runs under supervision. I guarantee that if you are a new drone flyer, you will crash your drone at least a few times.

At <$20, it is the best drone out there to practice your flying and ensure that you don’t crash your $1,000+ drone on the first flight once you decide to upgrade. Perhaps DJI should give out one of these drones with every new Phantom they sell to practice before flying the bigger drone as it can be very handy to know how the drone responds to your controller.

Development

dji matrice 100 two batteries picture

1) DJI Matrice 100

The DJI Matrice 100 for sale, recently released by DJI is the ultimate drone for developers. If you are a Matrice 100 owner, join the Facebook group to share your tips or ask other owners and developers for advice.

Not many of these have shipped out yet and we are yet to see any new uses developed by these developers. However, Intel has recently announced a partnership with DJI which is looking promising for the near future!

spiri camera drone

2) Spiri

Spiri is another drone that made its debut at CES 2015 and was funded through Kickstarter. It is a pretty cool programmable drone with obstacle avoidance built in. Spiri already features an integrated HD camera in the front. It is a drone that can respond to pre-programmed coordinates and it can also be programmed to respond to other patterns such as music, colours etc if you were wondering about things you can do with a drone… Now it’s easier than ever to come up with something original. Shipping is supposed to start in August 2015 provided there are no delays.

Please note:

Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms have recently been innundated with new drone prototypes and new drone startups looking to get funding in return for a discounted drone when they start shipping. We advise you to be cautious when investing in these models. The following example explains why. The widely known Pocket Drone that raised almost $1m from Kickstarter ceased operation due to bankruptcy in May 2015. During the Kickstarter fundraising campaign, the drone featured as the smallest and most portable drone on all the major websites and it had gained a lot of publicity. The drone they had built however, was extremely flimsy, unreliable and a lot of customers had requested refunds, resulting in the company declaring bankruptcy.

Although there are a lot of promising new drones out there that promise to do a lot of new things and seem attractive, we simply cannot recommend any of these, due to the lack of user testing and potential lack of quality. It may therefore appear that we have only focused on the large companies such as DJI, Parrot and 3D Robotics in this guide, but that is solely because we believe these are the most reliable products at this moment in time. The products are suitable for any drone user out there looking for drones for sale.

We hope the article above has helped you in determining which drone is most suitable for your needs. Check out our drone store to browse through all our available drones for sale.

Matt Larson

Editor at Drones Den
Matt Larson is a drone enthusiast currently writing for several drone flying blogs and websites, adding his knowledge to amateur flyers and drone owners.

Latest posts by Matt Larson (see all)

Matt Larson is a drone enthusiast currently writing for several drone flying blogs and websites, adding his knowledge to amateur flyers and drone owners.