Double check my drone gift plan
December 12, 2015 1:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm choosing a drone for a Christmas present and I could use some input. Total budget is $550-600 and that is a pretty hard limit. The intended use would be aerial photography, flying for fun and just poking around looking at things from above. The recipient is a novice and does not already have a GoPro or similar camera. They would be comfortable with minor repairs (props, battery, etc) but not with a complete DIY option.

From reading the Wire Cutter guide there seems to be a gap in available drones at this price point - everything is either $300 (eg Parrot AR Drone 2.0) or $700+ (eg DJI Phantom 3). The DJI Phantom 2 Vision ($600) seems like it would have been good but it was discontinued and if I could find one I worry about the availability of replacement parts. The Parrot Bebop original got pretty bad reviews and while the Bebop 2 ($550) is supposed to be better it isn't actually released yet (supposedly 12/14/2015 but I haven't seen any confirmation of that since early November) and I hesitate to saddle a gift recipient with an untested $500 device that might suck.

So I'm left with no really clear option and I'm leaning towards the Parrot AR Drone 2.0. The live streaming video and camera, while not super great quality, will probably suffice for poking around the property and the lower cost allows room for replacement parts, extra batteries, etc and perhaps a $50 Syma X5C to use as a trainer. What do you think?

Other options include something non-name brand from HobbyKing - any opinions on those options?
posted by ChrisHartley to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not so much an opinion as a question: does the intended recipient have experience with flying drones? If not, I'd be very hesitant to recommend learning with a $500+ model. I'd strongly recommend starting with one of the popular cheap drones, e.g. a Hubsan X4, which is 10% of that price. If you need to buy a $500+ drone for a novice, at least throw the cheaper drone in as a route to learning to fly the more expensive one. Everybody I know has destroyed their first drone within a week - at least with the Hubsan you can replace everything for peanuts.
posted by pipeski at 2:08 PM on December 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is this for a teenager, child, or older adult?
posted by amtho at 2:09 PM on December 12, 2015

Response by poster: The recipient is an adult.
posted by ChrisHartley at 2:53 PM on December 12, 2015

I recently went through this for a couple of friends. In the end I got them each a $75 system with no FPV (although that sum included spare blades and additional batteries). Also, the drones were generally considered large enough to stand some chance of surviving an outdoor flight. Each had an HD camera, too.

Sure, an expensive set of drones with GPS and HD FPV would have been cool. But my friends and I are complete newbs. Maybe not as sexy, but figured an "introductory lesson on drones" is what we really needed. And so far, everyone's been super-happy with them.
posted by doctor tough love at 12:11 AM on December 13, 2015

The Phantom 3 was just on sale for $500 at a number of places. You may be able to call the dealers who were selling at that price to see if they'll offer you that deal if you want to keep that model on the table.
posted by Candleman at 3:59 PM on December 13, 2015

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