Have you noticed the globe’s recent fascination with drones? They’re practically everywhere – agriculture, the news, outside your twenty-second story window — and what has essentially become a distinct subculture (similar to GoPro’s preferred demographic, but different in its own right) which has grown far too quickly to be regulated as strictly as one might think.
Practically anyone can obtain a drone these days; thanks to recent developments in this revolutionary technology, you can be part of the aforementioned “anyone.”
Note from the Editor: Before you put a drone in the air, consult local and federal laws (or consult your lawyer).
First, check out the no-fly zone maps
To start, you’ll want a comprehensive app that keeps you updated on flight alerts. Such an app does, indeed, exist – a testament to the prevalence of this subculture in and of itself – and it goes by the elusive name Hover.
Hover provides you with No-Fly Zone maps, both temporary and permanent, as well as consolidated weather and an integrated flight log. If you have the slightest inclination to avoid accidental stalking or becoming a threat to national security, Hover has your back.
Next, you’ll probably want some hardware to accompany your software. In a rapidly expanding drone market, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that absolutely outdoes every other item; however, for your convenience, we have assembled a list of choice picks.
1. A stabilized drone that shoots in 1080p
The Phantom 2 Vision+: A stabilized drone that shoots video in 1080p. Autonomous flight is an option, but the Phantom 2 Vision+ truly excels with its input capability; the option to program in specific coordinates and control each minute movement from the ground makes this drone optimal for shooting long, panoramic videos as well as quick, dynamic angles.
2. Throw the drone up, it follows you around
Lily: Also known as the camera that made third-person action possible, Lily is an autonomous drone that is geared towards extreme sporting fanatics. Lily flies behind you and records in 1080p, with the advertised option of slow-motion recording in 720p. Lily is also waterproof, as well as being surprisingly portable.
3. Durable drone controlled by your phone
Hexo+: Approximately the same functionality as Lily, with a few key differences: Hexo+ comes with a dedicated app to consolidate all of the drone’s functions into your preferred smartphone, as well as much more in-depth controls than Lily. Hexo+ is described on its site as “a drone specifically designed to follow and film you—in any situation,” which suggests extreme durability.
4. A waterproof, emergency-ready drone
Splash Drone: Still in prototype with a tentative release date of August 28, this drone is worth keeping an eye on. Besides being built around a reliable waterproof chassis, the Splash Drone comes with an emergency flare system, a payload release system (literally taking autonomous delivery to a new level), and the seemingly obligatory autonomous operational capabilities.
5. Buy footage or hire an operator
Airstoc Footage: Recently, we wrote about GoPro’s campaign to create the equivalent of Shutterstock for video marketing. While there were definitive pros and cons, the overall idea was fairly solid. Airstoc Footage is the drone version of that campaign, offering both the ability to buy footage or hire an operator for a more personal touch — something GoPro’s campaign lacked. Keep an eye on this site as well.
6. Hire a drone operator pro on the fly
Animal Robo: The “Uber of drones,” Animal Robo is an app that allows you to hire drone pilots on demand. Though not terribly revolutionary in and of itself, the concept opens up a job market for anyone with the cash and expertise to own and pilot a drone competently. Brave new world that this is, it seems likely that this is a market that will also eventually see the rise of its own subculture.
So there you have it, folks. If you’re thinking of purchasing a drone, we would strongly advise you to consider the above information when finalizing your purchase — especially the apps, which will probably make your operation easier and definitely spare you significant legal trouble.
Bonus: to learn more about the drone ecosystem, read Greylock Partners’ Chris McCann’s brief visual overview.