Drones Accessories – The Must Haves in 2016
Drones are taking over the skies, rapidly gaining popularity, further distancing the industry from niche and pushing towards mass production of a widely popular, mainstream product. They are used as a hobby, a sport, in professional business, as an art form in terms of aerial photography and videography.
Before they entered consumer market, quadcopter drones were being built in basements of DIY enthusiasts. Custom-built drones allowed for experimentation with different technologies. Today, there is quite a number of different usages for a drone, especially when one is paired with different accessories such as sensors, cameras, remote control systems, etc. Driven by a enthusiast-oriented culture of drone pilots, fueled by professional demand of the open market, the drone industry has taken a rather interesting turn, producing simple but flexible products with an abundance of possible upgrades and drones accessories.
Most of these drones accessories are optional, but some are simply a “must-have” for any serious drone owner. Our list of must-have drones accessories is a guide on how to get the most out your drone, ensuring you get the best upgrade in performance, safety, flexibility, mobility and camera performance.
The vast majority of drone accidents occur due to exposed drone propellers. The damage that a propeller rotating at high speeds can cause depends on the material. Cheaper, stock propellers are made of plastic, but some are made using carbon fiber, which is stronger and therefore more dangerous. In any case, we also have to consider the speed they’re rotating at – up to 10000 RPM (Revolutions per Minute). As you can imagine, that is very fast, and enough to cause some serious injuries either for the pilot, or a bystander, not to mention to the drone itself.
Some RTF (Ready to Fly) and BTF (Bind to Fly) drone packages come with propeller guards included, either as fixed part of the drone or as an accessory. But for those who are flying without propeller guards, you should consider the following reasons for acquiring some protection:
Safety – Number one concern in any action sport, especially in drone flying. Using propeller guards, you will both protect yourself and other people. Guards are a must-have for any responsible drone pilot!
Drone protection – Drones, being flying robots, tend to crash, a lot, for different reasons and in different ways. This is mostly due to human error – accidentally flying into a house or a tree, making a bad landing, etc. But it can also happen due to technical problems, such as running out of battery juice, getting out of signal range or other possible drone failures which causes you to lose control.
If you have your propeller guards on, all these crashes become drastically less damaging, both for the drone and other objects. Propellers are the most sensitive part of the a drone, so make sure you protect them!
Improved visibility, esthetics and grip – With propeller guards installed, your drone becomes more visible during nighttime, which may not sound like a big deal, but if you’ve ever flown a drone during nightime, especially without LEDs, you’ll know this is important.
Guards come in a variety of colors and designs, so you can further customize your drone’s looks by choosing desired propeller guards.
Grip is also improved – with guards, you now have something to grab on to while carrying your drone.
We’ve already talked about propeller guards, an accessory that is used to protect propellers, among other things. If you have propeller guards you will have less need for extra propellers, but even so, its still very smart to have some extras ready for replacement. Propellers are among the cheapest of replaceable drone parts, so having replacement parts can save you a lot of trouble.
Propellers are very fragile and no matter how careful you are, props will get a beating sooner or later. Guards may protect the flank, but props can still be damaged in various ways from the top and bottom sides.
These drones accessories are very inexpensive and having at least one reserve pack is a must-have!
While the vast majority of drones come with an included battery pack, having extra batteries is highly recommended. Depending on UAV type and class, most of them will be able to fly anywhere between 6 and 30 minutes on a single battery charge. Very cheap drones flight times range between 6 and 11 minutes, mid-range drones with cameras usually stay in the air in the range of 10 – 20 minutes, while some higher-end drones can fly for as long as 20-30 minutes or more.
Add to this the time it takes to charge a single pack of batteries, which can last up to few hours. It becomes apparent that flight time is not very long and can be a serious problem for any drone pilot.
Image yourself making a trip to the mountains where you would like to create some aerial footage with your drone. Even if it takes only an hour or two to reach your destination, being able to record for only 15 minutes would not be very worthwhile.
When you have extra batteries, it is easy to replace them on-the-go. That is why buying yourself a few extra battery packs is a must-have.
There is nothing more crucial to night-time drone flying than LED lights. Unless you have a POV night vision camera connected to your controller/smartphone, you will have hard time flying your drone during night.
LED lights are cheap and easy to install on any drone, and they provide a much needed visual signal of your drone’s position when it is too dark to see it on its own.
Using LED lights of different colors is another way of customizing your drone’s appearance and making it look cool.
Drone carrying case
If you own a high-end drone which costs money, it would be very wise to protect it with a dedicated drone case.
There are all kinds of cases, bags and backpacks made especially for the purpose of carrying drones. Some are universal, while other are made for specific drone brands.
Drones are fun and useful tools, but much less so if your drone does not have a camera installed. As you might imagine, being able to record and review first-person footage of the flight in high definition has its merits. When we say high definition we mean everything between 720p HD and 4K video resolution.
Having a camera mounted on your drone does add more weight, thus reducing flight time, but the footage you get out of it is nothing short of amazing!
There is a huge variety of drone cameras to choose from. From camera drones which feature built-in cameras, to standalone cameras such as GoPro which are than mounted on drones.
Drone cameras are generally on-par with action cameras when it comes to image quality. Low-end drones will feature 480p – 720p cameras, mid-range drones move around the 720p – 1080p, while high-end drones start at 1080p moving all the way up to 4K cameras.
These cameras generally come with wide-angle lens, sometimes with fish-eye effect. Most mid-to-high range drone cameras are capable of slow-motion video, from 60 to 120 fps.
Not all drones are camera drones, and not all camera drones come with an included camera. Some drones feature a camera-ready mount, usually intended for GoPro cameras. In any case, it is possible to mount some sort of camera on almost any drone.
If you would like to do aerial videos and photography, drone camera is a must-have!
FPV stands for First Person View. Usign Wi-Fi, this feature connects drone’s camera to a remote controller with an LCD screen. Live video footage is streamed directly to the receiving device (usually a dedicated remote controller, a smartphone or some other, custom built FPV system).
FPV is extremely useful as you can actually see where you’re flying in real time (with is a small delay).
This is also very useful for aerial videographers and photographers as it enables them to view and frame the shot at a right angle.
If you would like to take a step further for additional immersion during flight, you should think about buying a pair of FPV goggles. These provide a surreal experience, as you get the full first-person view in real-time of the environment from a bird-eye perspective.
Gimbals are an important addition to any camera drone because they stabilize the camera, removing or substantially reducing any camera shake, vibration or jittery movements.
This is extremely useful for producing smooth, shake-free aerial videos, but also useful for aerial photography, as the stabilization system enables capturing still shots at lower shutter speeds.
When it comes to drone camera gimbals, there are basically two types; 3-axis gimbal and 2-axis gimbal.
The 3-axis gimbal stabilizes the camera on all 3 axis – yaw, roll and pitch, while the 2-axis gimbal only stabilizes only on 2 axis – roll and pitch. This makes gimbal with 3-axis stabilization a better choice when it comes to recording videos. However, 2-axis gimbals are considerably cheaper and lighter, thus reducing the amount of battery usage. In case you intend to primarily take still aerial photos, and don’t really need professional-grade smooth video for TV or cinema, maybe you should go with the 2-axis gimbal because when it comes to still photos, both gimbal types do the job equally well.
Comparison between 2-axis and 3-axis gimbal is best demonstrated in this video:
MicroSD cards for drones are the same type of memory cards we use with modern smartphones. They are obviously very important for camera drones, as they provide storage for recorded video and photos. After getting a camera drone you will undoubtedly be doing a lot of aerial videography and photography, and unless you want the regular hassle of having to transfer all your material to a computer, in order to free up space for more recordings, you should get a high capacity MicroSD card, and than some more of them.
MicroSD cards come in various classes featuring different read/write speeds. You should choose the appropriate class based on video resolution of your drone’s camera. If your camera records sub-HD, HD (720p) and/or FullHD (1080p) video, you will probably do fine with a Class 10 MicroSD card, but if you want to be safe or aim for higher resolution video, like 4K, it is our recommendation to buy an UHS-I class 3 MicroSD card.
When landing gear is installed on a drone, landing becomes easier and safer because of the added physical space between the drone and the ground. Landing gear is designed in such a way to partially absorb the shock caused by landing, thus minimizing chances of damaging the drone.
The downside is of course the added weight of the craft, causing more battery consumption and reduced air time.
If you plan on landing your drone on challenging ground, such as wet, muddy surface, or an uneven, rocky surface, we’d say landing gear is a definitely a must-have!
Ideally, the gear should be made out of carbon fiber, which has a great strength-to-weight ratio, thus providing sufficient ruggedness without adding too much weight.
One thing to beware of is width of the landing gear. Gear should be wide enough not to be picked by camera at extreme angles.
Drones are powerful devices and you should use them with responsibility. Drones accessories can make your flying experience much smoother. Which upgrades should you choose, depends on how you’re planning on using your drone. In case of a professional aerial video producer, 3-axis gimbal, FPV system and extra batteries are a must.
Propeller guards, extra propellers and landing gear are a must for any beginner, but come highly recommended for all pilots.
There are other types of drones accessories which we haven’t mentioned here, such as a drone life perserver, telemetry system, FPV goggles and night vision cameras.