Ask Drone Girl: how do I even get started with drones?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about getting started with drones. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I was wondering if you have any recommendations on where to start in learning about drones? I’m totally new to this, and looking for a maybe a new career change. What would be a good drone to get to start out, and where would you recommend getting a drone pilot license if I got that route?

-Nicole

Hey Nicole,

Welcome to the drone world! Rules are constantly changing, and it could be difficult to know where to look.

Here’s where I suggest you start:

    1. Buy a cheap, toy drone.  Never flown a drone before? Don’t just drop $1,000 on a quality drone. Buy a $30 drone to see how you like it. These drones can be hard to fly, but they’ll ensure you actually like flying. Mastering flying a cheap, toy drone, also ensures you’ll be a pro pilot by the time you get your fancy, advanced drone. You would way rather fly the $30 toy drone into the pool than your new DJI Mavic, right? Trust me, I’ve heard way too many stories of this happening. Here’s an excellent guide from UAV Coach explaining the basics of flying.
tdr spider
Learn to fly on something you can afford to crash, like this $25 TDR Spider drone.

2. Learn the rules. There are different rules depending on whether you intend to fly for hobby (you are simply flying to have fun) vs. for business (you are making money off your flying). The best site to get this information is on the Know Before You Fly site, which was created by AUVSI and the AMA in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration. On this site, you’ll learn requirements about having to register your drone, the rules about where you can fly, and more.

These include things like:

  • Yield right of way to manned aircraft
  • Keep the aircraft in sight (visual line-of-sight)
  • Notify airport and air traffic control tower before flying within 5 miles of an airport

3. On that note, get a Part 107 unmanned pilot’s license if you intend to fly drones commercially. This is imperative if you intend to sell the videos you take from it or use it for some other sort of paid service. You need a commercial license, which you can get by passing a written test — similar to the permit test you took when you were 15 before getting a driver’s license. Here’s my guide to everything you need to know about the Part 107 test. If you’re looking to take a Part 107 online study course, I personally used (and highly recommend!) Drone Pilot Ground School. But, here’s a list of other training courses if you’re interested.

4. Figure out which drone you want to buy. This depends on a lot of factors, including budget and use case. My favorite drone at the moment is the $999 DJI Mavic, which is excellent for prosumers. The biggest plus about this drone is how portable it is. Though, the camera could be better for people who are looking to use their drones for photography. If you’re a seriously photographer or videographer, I recommend the Inspire. Maybe you’re looking to use a drone for something like mapping. Then I would recommend you purchase a drone that easily integrates with software like Skycatch.

5. Register your drone. The FAA’s site makes it pretty clear what you have to do. All drones over 0.55 pounds need to be registered, and the registration fee is just $5.

That should be a pretty solid start. Have fun, and happy flying!

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