Choosing a Drone for Traveling

    Choosing the right drone for your travels can be a big deal. In 2018 drones come in all shapes and sizes, and span a large range of prices. From $300 to over $2,000 finding the right drone for traveling, and fitting your needs is going to be one of the biggest, and possibly most expensive decisions that you make if you are looking to make travel videos, are into photography, or just want a unique perspective of wherever you travel. The top four things to remember when looking for a drone to use while traveling are size/portability, camera, accessory cost, and features.

Size and Portability

     At first, you might think that this is a no brainer, you want the smallest drone possible for your travels, because that will be the easiest drone to travel with. What most people don't realize though is that due to some drones folding for storage, a bigger drone might actually be the better option for travel. Take a look at the DJI Spark and the DJI Mavic Air. Both are great drones for traveling, and the Spark is slightly smaller when flying than the Mavic Air. If you look closer though when you pack the drone into their supplied cases, the Spark will actually take up more room, since it does not fold, and the Mavic Air does. With a footprint that is slightly larger than the iPhone 7 Plus, and only 2 to 3 inches tall, the Mavic Air is very easy to pack in a backpack, sweatshirt pocket, or even a purse.

Camera

     Depending on what you are doing, you probably don't need that fancy 4K camera. Take a look across the internet these days, and even the big name YouTubers like Casey Neistat aren't even using 4K cameras anymore. Most people don't have the equipment to properly view a 4K video. So when I look for a drone, I typically try to see what features the camera has for its 1080 settings. Whether that be really high frame rates for awesome slow motion, or anything else that these camera manufacturers can think of these days, I would personally focus on finding a drone that has better 1080 features than 4K. If you're into photography with your drone though, then I would highly recommend finding the highest megapixel camera for the drone that you can, while weighing the other three considerations for each option.

Accessory Cost

     This one might not be a deal breaker for most people, but depending on how long you want to fly in a day, it could be. Most consumer grade drones have flight times ranging from 18-25 minutes, and that can be easily lowered by high winds and constant movement during your flights. So if you plan on flying longer than 20 minutes at a time, you are going to need extra batteries and those cost money, many are priced just shy of $100 each, so the price tag can add up. That doesn't even take into account the extra propellers, in case of a crash, cases for the drones, chargers for the spare batteries, or sometimes a controller. Add up the price of your ideal package and all of the gear you might want, and factor that into your decision. After all, when you are traveling with a drone, that could be well over $2,000 of equipment on your back that could easily get stolen, lost, or damaged.

Features

    The features that a drone has these days usually comes down to if the drone has obstacle avoidance, If it does, that can be a major plus, but if you don't know what you are doing, it can also be a huge pain when you try to get close to the object you are filming only to have the drone stop in its tracks. Other features can also include easy to set up shots that once setup the drone will film and fly on its own, allowing you to look your best in the shot. After all who doesn't love a good "dronie" (yes that is a drone selfie, courtesy of the 3DR Solo). The features that a drone has should be a minimal factor in your decision. After all, nothing beats practicing your flying skills, and being able to capture the shot on your own.

          Thank you for reading my tips for choosing a drone for your travels. Drones are an exciting new way to capture the beauty of the planet, and offer a whole new perspective when traveling. One thing I encourage anyone to do that is thinking of traveling with a drone is to check the local laws where you are going to be traveling. Some countries do not allow drone fights at all, and some require special permits or you could face fines or even jail time, and have your drone confiscated if you do not comply with local laws. That goes for flying in the US as well, where you also need a commercial drone pilots license if you are planning on publishing your content anywhere where you make money from it.
     Fly safe, and have fun.

Joseph Hallgren

Boston, MA

Full time student, adrenaline junkie, and traveller.