You’ve done your homework – Googled UAV resources, spoken with drone owners, read our Tips for First-time Buyers, and found a few candidates for your first drone purchase with the Drone Configurator. Now you’re ready to put your money where your drone is and take the first step into the friendly skies of unmanned aircraft ownership. How can your protect yourself from poor decision-making when buying a drone? By being weary of these 5 “no-no’s.”
1. Don’t buy without understanding import fees:Like any product, drones and drone parts are manufactured all over the world. And, depending on where you live, you may face unexpected taxes or import fees. While this danger mostly applies to European or Canadian buyers, hidden taxes and fees can be found in all nations. A commentator at the DIYDrones online community learned the lesson the hard way. “I spent 329.99 on 3DR products nearly two months ago. I received the package … now today, a month and a half after FedEx dropped off the parts I get billed for $100 in import and customs fees!”
2. Don’t take the plunge with just any seller: Drone sales are skyrocketing and as with any boom, scammers will begin to show up on the market (and already have). Although specific cases of widespread scams have not yet surfaced in great numbers, you can expect the “usual suspects” to use drone sales as an excuse to send shoddy products (or no product at all) not to mention phishing scams and the use of your e-mail as a spambot. Probably the best way to find out if your drone vendor is legit is via a simple Google search. If a company has only sporadic mentions within popular Web sources like DroneLife and others, you should think twice before sending them your hard earned coin.
3. Don’t overestimate your technical expertise: Remember what it was like to set up a new PC in 1996? Or a new cell-phone in 2001? The technology space has gotten better at designing extremely complex gadgets that are ready to Tweet as soon as you take them out of the box, but it took a few generations to develop these machines into idiot-proof packages. Drones are no exception.
So, when you are buying your first UAS, make sure you understand the level of technical knowledge required to actually get the thing off the ground. Some models require multiple wired connections and sensor calibrations before each flight; failing to follow these preparations can be a one-way trip to waiting in line for weeks for a back ordered part from a manufacturer (I’m not saying we have first hand experience with this, but I am also not not saying that either).
4. Understand there will be a learning curve and expect crashes. Even if you get the most user friendly drone money can buy, it is still going to take practice to become a competent pilot and at some point you will crash your drone. It should go without saying then that your first flight should not be over a childrens playground or Times Square.
Go to an open field on a day with no wind and practice taking off and landing a few times before you try anything fancy.
For an extra level of preparedness, outfit your drone with propellor guards when possible and buy extra propellers.
5. Don’t assume your friends and neighbors will like your new drone: Every potential drone buyer has no doubt imagined how much fun he or she will have with their new purchase. Imagine being able to captured high-quality video at events and even around your own neighborhood. However, your neighbors and even close friends may not share your aerial enthusiasm. Whether it’s fears of governmental misuse, privacy violations or potential job loss, the rise of the drone market – like the rise of the Internet in the 90s – has raised concerns both valid and imagined. In fact, a counter-market is slowly gaining popularity: anti-drone technology. Oregon start-up Domestic Drone Countermeasures recently launched a product that can allegedly block drones from capturing images or video.
Perhaps the best way to avoid pitfalls in the drone consumer markets is to stay informed. We can help you with that: sign up for the DroneLife newsletter here.
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
Beginning his career as a journalist in 1996, Jason has since written and edited thousands of engaging news articles, blog posts, press releases and online content.
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