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What you should know about rc drones
In addition to remote-controlled cars and ships, models of airplanes and helicopters are also popular with children and adults. A relatively new innovation in the field of remote-controlled aircraft are RC drones. The number of these aircraft amounts to over 1,400,000 and has doubled annually since 2011. Compared to helicopters, these toys are easier to control thanks to the design. In this guide you will find out what you should consider when buying an RC drone and which variants are available.
1. What is a drone?
The abbreviation RC stands for remote or radio-controlled, which describes the control of the devices by means of remote control. Toy drones consist of the body in the center, in which the electronics are housed, and the rotors that drive the drone using several motors. In contrast to remote-controlled aircraft, the devices are classified as vertical take-offs and can also be kept floating in the air without moving.
Most frequently found in this context are so-called quadrocopters, in which four motors are used. Drones are controlled either with remote control included in the scope of delivery or by means of an app on a tablet or smartphone. Many models include or can be retrofitted with a camera so that you can take impressive aerial photos.
2. Kit, RTF or outdoor model?
The first question that you should ask yourself when looking for a suitable drone is whether you prefer a kit or a so-called ready-to-fly model (RTF): This variant can be put into operation immediately after the battery has been charged. Kits are usually larger, more powerful and expandable. In addition, you can repair these variants more easily in the event of damage, as appropriate spare parts are available. However, due to their complexity, the models are more suitable for older children or adults. For this reason, it is advisable to first develop a feeling for the controls with an RTF model before deciding on a kit.
The question of the environment in which you want to use the aircraft is also essential for the nature of the drone: Drones for outdoor use are made more robust and are usually not suitable for indoor flight due to the risk of injury and damage.
Note: The rotor blades in particular are prone to damage. For this reason, many RTF models include replacement rotor blades or are available separately so that you can replace them if necessary. Please note the information in the product description.
3. Important properties and components
In addition to some basic properties such as the number of motors, RC drones differ in aspects such as the flight time or the other equipment, which we will explain below.
Amount of channels
The higher the number of control channels on the remote control, the more maneuvers can be flown with the drone. At the same time, however, this also increases the complexity of the control. One channel is required for each function. For example, the elevator and rudder controls each occupy one channel.
Number of engines
The number of motors corresponds to the number of rotors. With remote-controlled aircraft, the operation of the rotors results in a special feature: The rotary movement of the main rotor in remote-controlled helicopters is compensated for by the tail rotor, as otherwise the toy would rotate on its own axis. With drones, this effect is avoided by rotors rotating in opposite directions, which has a positive effect on controllability: half of the existing rotors move in opposite directions.
A gyroscope is a sensor connected to the flight controller, which is important for stable flight or the hovering state of the drone. Since the propellers rotate at different speeds depending on the maneuver, this must be registered by the gyroscope and appropriate automatic stabilization mechanisms initiated. Otherwise the drone would spin around its own axis in an uncontrolled manner.
Depending on the complexity of the gyroscope, some drone models have different levels of control sensitivity.
High-quality drone models have a built-in GPS sensor which, in conjunction with a so-called magnetometer, enables independent flight: This technology enables the drone to determine its position itself and, for example, fly to certain locations.
In the product description of the drone, pay attention to whether a camera is integrated. In particular, variants from the model making sector usually allow the installation of external cameras that are of higher quality than pre-assembled models. The resolution is particularly important for the properties of the camera. For more information on drones with cameras, see the relevant guide.
The flight time depends on the nature of the battery and the energy requirements of the motors. With commercially available drones, this is five to ten minutes before the battery has to be recharged.
4. Remote control and battery
Since the drone is controlled with the remote control, you should make sure that it is intuitive to use and includes all the important elements. Most drones use a 2.4 gigahertz radio link to transmit the control commands.
Please note: 2.4 gigahertz are used by many devices for signal transmission. Depending on the environment, signal overlap or interference can occur while the drone is being controlled.
Most drones use so-called lithium polymer batteries (LiPo for short). These variants have the advantage that they cannot leak due to the solid electrolyte they contain. This means that a housing can be dispensed with in the production of LiPo batteries, which has a positive effect on weight.
Only use the device included with your drone to charge the battery.
Always charge the battery when it has cooled down.
Ideally, store the battery in a cool, dry place.
5. Popular manufacturers
The Chinese manufacturer DJI, headquartered in Shenzhen, is considered a leader in the field of RC camera drones. The company now has branches in Germany, the USA and Japan, among others. Special stabilization technologies ensure that the images and videos recorded by the drones meet the highest standards.
The products of the German manufacturer Jamara Germany are particularly popular with beginners and children. This company also offers models with cameras so that you can take pictures during flights.
6. Tips and guidelines
To avoid the annoyance and to prevent injuries and damage, there are a few tips and guidelines you should follow when controlling your drone, especially outdoors:
Do not fly the drone near busy roads, nature reserves, high-voltage lines, or power plants.
Do not start the drone at night, in fog, in rain, or in strong winds.
Never control the device directly from people.
Make sure that you always keep an eye on the drone during the flight.
7. Drones for teenagers and professional photographers
Different manufacturers offer drones with different equipment and performance. Models for beginners have fun, with drones from the middle price segment succeeding impressive aerial photography and the aircraft of the upper-class play in a very own league.
8. Small quadrocopters for flights in the apartment and garden
For children over the age of 10, the mini-quadrocopters are suitable, they grab the budding pilot with the start and land assistant under my arms. Even the inexpensive offers for drone pilots from 14 years usually integrate a camera that can even be coupled to virtual reality glasses. The controller is optional via app or transmitter. These aircraft sets new standards in terms of flight fun and reach airspeeds of around 25mp/h / 40km/h.
Drones with 4K ultra-HD camera for ambitious and professional drone pilots
With the airlines of the medium price range, high-resolution photo and video recordings in capturing quality succeed. They can remain approximately wind strength 5 in the air, are ultralight and comfortable transportable. Professionals serve drones with a maximum airspeed of about 44mp/h / 70km/h and a maximum altitude of around 6,000 meters. Smart sensors avoid automatically dangerous situations and sophisticated technology ensures the outstanding quality of the recordings. A connection can also be used to connect special cameras such as thermal cameras.
Drone accessories for longer flight times
A second battery is usually mandatory so that the excursion is worthwhile with the drone. The manufacturers sell them individually and in sets with multiple batteries. Look at the technical characteristics of the offered drones in detail and order the model of your choice now in the online shop!