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Choosing the Right Drone for Your Project

The global market for drones and their commercial applications are booming.  A recent projection by Price Waterhouse Coopers estimates the global market for commercial drone applications at $2 billion, rising to $127 billion by 2020. Restrictive regulations that have held the industry back within the United States are being scaled back and large numbers of pilots, photographers, and businesses are considering adding drone projects to their operations.

Companies across the globe are starting to use drones as a way of monitoring traffic, search & rescue missions, ensuring employee safety, training, and much more. Popular commercial applications currently in use include:

  • Land Surveying
  • Aerial Photography
  • Monitoring & Surveillance
  • Infrastructure Inspection
  • Agriculture & Crop Monitoring
  • Livestock Management

So you want to join the fray, but you don’t know where to start? There are a number of things to consider when determining which drone is best suited for you and the volumes of available options can create a challenge for beginners. Companies interested in adding drones to their operations should consider a variety of factors, including usability, camera requirements, equipment requirements, durability, and cost.

Operability & Ease of Use

Obviously, you want a drone that is easy for you and your employees to use. Understand that it might take a considerable time and training investment to get fully up to speed. Drones featuring all of the latest bells & whistles can produce premium output, but can also take longer to master. If you want to be up and running quickly, choose a simpler model. Once you and your staff have gained more experience and are comfortable flying the drone, you can move up to more advanced drones to test your abilities.

You will also need to consider the intended purpose of your drone. If you are simply looking to capture basic aerial photographs, a small-sized drone may be sufficient. On the other hand, if you are looking for a drone that can be flown at high speeds and for long distances, you will need a large or mid-sized drone. Such a drone will likely be somewhat more expensive, but it is worth the extra cost for the additional features.

Cameras & Mounts

If you are a professional photographer or a real estate agent who hopes to shoot videos or take pictures with your drone, you will need a drone that comes equipped with an installed camera or one with a mount that will allow a camera to be attached.

Camera Options

Camera selection can be one of the most important considerations of your evaluation and it is critical to know what to look for and what questions to ask.

1. What kind of camera comes included?

Many newer drones including the DJI Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 4 come equipped with a camera able to capture footage in 4K Ultra HD.

2. How can the camera be rotated during flight?

Some drone models make use of a 180-degree wide-angle lens, while others mount the camera on a swiveling gimbal that allows for a full 360-degree rotation.

3. Does the drone have live streaming capabilities?

Some models allow live video to a LED screen on the controller or to a smartphone. Live streaming allows the operator to make adjustments on the fly and to immediately upload footage to the internet. Some models can live stream from more than a mile away.

No Camera Included

sony-alpha-7sIf your drone does not come equipped with a camera, you can find a number of cameras specifically designed to be used with drones. Many of these are lightweight and provide the high resolution you need to be able to go high up while capturing as much of the fine details as needed.

On the high end, the Phase One iXU 180 is a drone camera that’s priced at around $60,000. It’s a medium-format camera that can be valuable for land surveying.

The Sony A7S is priced at around $3,000. It doesn’t have the best low light shooting capabilities, but can provide the high quality images needed for an array of industries.

The Ricoh GR Drone Camera has a fixed lens of 18mm, is lightweight, and is one of the more affordable premium cameras on the market.


Drones crash. You must consider the durability of the drone. It’s possible to get a drone that has all the perfect specifications and features that you need, but is not capable of handling a lot of wear and tear. It could be devastating to lose an expensive drone in one single intense crash, so you should look for a model capable of withstanding a few bumps and bruises. You should also consider how easy it would be to replace its parts should you be required to perform maintenance.


Just like when you are buying any other product, you have to consider your budget. First determine how much you are willing to spend on the drone. When planning your budget, include the expenses you might require to cover replacement parts or upgrades. Find a drone that is well suited for your purpose and within your desired price range. Take your time to get recommendations from other people in your industry on what has worked for them. A little time can save you a lot of money if you search for discounts and deals.
If you are thinking about purchasing one of the high-end, more expensive drones, see if you can find a way to test it first. If you know someone who has one, ask them to show you how it works. You can often find videos online to see specific drones in action. If you are unable to test one in person, locate a video online and observe exactly how well it behaves.

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About the Author

Adam Shore

Adam is a Central Florida alum who recently left the Orlando area to relocate to Denver, where he enjoys shooting aerial photography of the Rocky Mountains. And to ski. He is a member of the AMA and was been a drone photographer since the early days of the industry. Follow him @dronegenuity.