It’s that time of year again. The weather’s getting colder. Obscure relatives loom on the horizon. A tidal wave of food and good will is headed your way. All you have to do is buy a few gifts for your nearest and dearest. But sometimes inspiration can be hard to come by in that department. To help you out, we’ve put together the ultimate Christmas list, packed with accessories and hints on what to look out for. Disclaimer: This will only be helpful if you’re buying for a drone pilot / enthusiast.
Spares, spares, spares
In at number one we have the drone accessory equivalent of that pair of socks you always get for Christmas. Practical, but not exactly exciting. We’re talking about Spares, of course. These could be spare batteries, spare props, or even spare prop guards. Drone crashes happen, and when they do, propellers invariably go flying never to be found again.
Spare propellers are a perfect stocking filler for the drone pilot in the family. Just make sure the spare props you buy are for the right drone, obviously. It doesn’t tend to be a one-size-fits-all kind of thing, so your best bet is to go straight to the drone manufacturer in question and buy them directly.
The same goes for spare batteries, which are becoming increasingly important as drone technology evolves but flight times remain restricted. Serious aerial photographers will never leave for a shoot without a bunch of spare batteries, so think about adding to the pile of spares or even getting an on-the-go car charger.
Looking to go one step further? Check out Voltaic – They sell solar chargers and external batteries that can refill your empty drone batteries while you’re out on a shoot.
Oh, and did we mention prop guards? Technically they’re not spares, but they’re also not exciting enough to justify having their own heading.
No drone Christmas list would be complete with FPV goggles. First person view is quickly moving beyond the realms of drone racing, as more and more pilots fly as much for the feeling of being in the cockpit as they do for photography. Many manufacturers now allow you to combine the two, such as Parrot, with the new(ish) Disco fixed-wing drone, and GoPro, whose Karma can be used with a ‘Passenger’ app, which allows a friend to don a pair of FPV goggles and go along for the ride.
The same deal goes for FPV systems as it does for propellers – many manufacturers, including DJI, GoPro and Yuneec, are now producing their own first person view goggles. If none of those take your fancy, Fat Shark has long been the first choice for serious racers.
Maybe the drone pilot in your life spent so much money on the drone itself that most of the accessories on this list were well beyond the budget. That’s fair enough, but one thing that should always be included in a drone purchase is a case. Most manufacturers will offer one as part of a standard purchase, but plenty of others will make you pay extra for an official one.
There are two solutions to this. First, pilots can pop an official case or carry bag on their Christmas list and hope for the best. Here are quick links to cases/bags for the DJI Phantom series, the new Mavic Pro, and the GoPro Karma. Or, you could look elsewhere and buy one of the many (often cheaper) cases built to be tailored to any drone you like. An example of this would be the super versatile drone case from Quadra Box.
Video Editing Software
The best presents don’t have to be wrapped. At least that’s the mantra with this suggestion. Software packages are a premium option for aerial photographers this Christmas, but you can bet that they will get plenty of use out of them. We recently featured a few software packages you might want to consider for video editing purposes.
If you want to edit videos like a pro or build an aerial photography business, investing in some post-processing software is the way to go. For that reason, it makes our list of potential drone accessories for pilots this Christmas.
A Drone Insurance Plan
Maybe this is another slightly boring, practical gift idea, but there’s no denying that it’ll probably come in handy for any drone pilot. Apart from (almost) inevitable crashes, who knows what kind of legal quarrel you might accidentally get drawn into (They just banned camera drones in Sweden unless pilots have a special license, you know). Commercial pilots should definitely look to sort out some cover, so why not help them out and buy them a policy? Try Coverdrone or on demand insurance from Verifly. We haven’t checked, but maybe they do vouchers…
Alternatively, many manufacturers offer care plans and ongoing cover for damages while flying. They will repair your drone in the event of a crash or fault. DJI, for example, has a range of care plans.
That’s right, drones can be pimped up too. Didn’t you see that gold-plated Phantom 4 we featured earlier this week? While a $24,000 drone might be going a bit too far, there are some other options to help any drone stand out from the crowd.
You might want to kit a drone out with an LED light set, pretend it’s a UFO and scare the hell out of the neighbors. We don’t condone this kind of behavior… but feel free to send in the resulting footage.
What about a new drone for Christmas?
Now we’re talking. But buying a new drone for a current pilot is a risky business. Chances are they know a little bit more about the drone industry than you do, so it’s best to search around and make sure whatever you choose fits their needs. We won’t get into this now, but look out for our upcoming post on the best drones across different price brackets this Christmas. It’ll be up soon.