Any Drone Pilots Here?

Vaughn McMillan

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I made the mistake of buying a very cheap camera drone from Meh.com a while back. By "very cheap" I mean I got two of them for $20, shipped. The camera is worse than my very first cell phone camera, but now I've got the bug to get a better drone with a better camera. I've been researching what's out there and have just about talked myself into getting a DJI Mavic Mini. It's pretty much at the high end of my budget, but spec-wise and reputation-wise I haven't found anything comparable in the <$500 range. (I like the idea of dealing with a US-based company like DJI, even though their products are made in China, just like every other drone on the market.) I'm looking for something with a 3-axis gimbal, a decent camera, and well-supported software.

I wanted to ask the group here if anyone has a drone and if so, what are they flying and what would they recommend. Also, do you use it as much as you thought you would? I'm still trying to decide if I'd use it enough to justify the purchase. Part of the appeal to me is that it would allow me to explore places that I'm no longer physically able to hike to.

Two of my bandmates are licensed commercial drone pilots, but they are flying very high-end professional rigs, doing everything from geomapping to TV/movie shoots. I haven't even mentioned to them that I'm thinking of getting into drone photography as a hobby, because they'll try to talk me into a rig that's at least four times what I'm willing to spend, lol.

Any suggestions?
 
I'm sure Brent can help with what to do or not to do. He uses it in "spurts"

But my recommendation is to stay away from talking to fellow band members about such subjects. Next thing I know is Brent comes home from band practice and announces he bought a dirt bike. All of the members, except he, had one (two used to be professional desert racers). So now he has one. I'm just grateful it's still in the shop, which gives me time to make sure his term life is up to date :rofl:
 

Dave Richards

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I bought a DJI Mavic 2 Pro a couple of years ago. It's quite good but I don't fly it that much. The camera is excellent and it's easy to fly. I expect there are reasonable ones now that are less expensive.
 

Brent Dowell

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Darren and I both have the DJI Spark, which I just love. The thing I like about the spark is that itis very small, fits in a little case with charger extra batteries, etc. Flight time is about 15 minutes, less if you are flying aggressively or in wind. I haven't really run into any issues where I thought I didn't have enough flight time.

I haven't looked at the mavic mini in detail, but looks a bit bigger, with about double the flight time, better camera.

Looks like it'd be a great unit.

Here are some pictures. One I took with mine and some of the actual unit itself.

IDC-0732.jpg
spark.jpg

spark case 2.jpgspark.jpg
 

Darren Wright

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I'll have to see if I've got some video available, flew it around the farm a while back. I bought mine from their refurb page (https://store.dji.com/pages/refurbished?from=store-pc-nav) at the time for about $100 less with the "fly-more" kit than just the drone. The spark camera is only has pan/tilt but the camera is good, I'm sure the mavic mini is even better though.

I haven't flown mine lately since my USBC on my phone has gotten flaky. I'll have to find my old S6 and see if I can get some footage with it.
 

Vaughn McMillan

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As long as it has the 'follow me' technology on your shortlist of features, you're good.
A lot of cheaper drones have the "follow" feature, but any that do a decent job (which includes having collision avoidance sensors) and have a reasonably good camera are $800 and up. And considering I'm not at all likely to be doing a lot of moving around, that feature is on my "Nice but not necessary" list. I'm more interested in shooting landscape shots than pictures of people doing things. The Mavic Mini does have a few useful cinematic features, but it doesn't do the follow thing. Brent and Darren's DJI Sparks have that feature and a few other cool video tricks that the Mini doesn't, but the camera is lower resolution and they only have a 2-way gimbal, so it's not quite as stable as a photo/video platform. Plus, the Spark has been discontinued (essentially replaced by the Mini).

Brent, the body of the Mini is a little larger than the Spark's, but with folding legs it ends up having a footprint smaller than a large smart phone. And it's a bit more than half the weight, at 249 grams. (No need to register it in the US.) I've looked real hard at the Mavic Air 2 also, but by the time I get the Fly More package for the case and extra batteries, I'm looking at nearly a grand. Same story with the Mavic Pro 2 like Dave has. The Pro Platinum would check all the boxes for me, but I just can't justify the cost.

I'm trying to look at this like I look at camera purchases. (It's essentially a flying camera, after all.) I want to have a certain level of image quality, but have to decide which features I'm likely to actually use. And I recognize the fact that like the camera market, about as soon as I buy something, they will come out with a better one for the same (or lower) price.
 

Brent Dowell

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I'm trying to look at this like I look at camera purchases. (It's essentially a flying camera, after all.) I want to have a certain level of image quality, but have to decide which features I'm likely to actually use. And I recognize the fact that like the camera market, about as soon as I buy something, they will come out with a better one for the same (or lower) price.
Yeah, Exactly. I'd like to get the mini, but I'm happy with what I have with the spark, I'm sure you'd be super happy with the mini!
 

Vaughn McMillan

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Yeah, Exactly. I'd like to get the mini, but I'm happy with what I have with the spark, I'm sure you'd be super happy with the mini!
Up until about 8 months ago, the Spark was the best of its class. By this time next year, they'll have something that beats the Mini. But the Spark and Mini will continue to be great drones. :thumb:

But what I really want to know is where did you find a tree out there in the desert? :rofl:
 

Bob Gibson

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Two of my bandmates are licensed commercial drone pilots, but they are flying very high-end professional rigs, doing everything from geomapping to TV/movie shoots. I haven't even mentioned to them that I'm thinking of getting into drone photography as a hobby, because they'll try to talk me into a rig that's at least four times what I'm willing to spend, lol.

Sounds exactly how our members respond when someone wants to buy a new table saw but his budget is only $500.00 :rofl: :rofl:

Any suggestions?
 

Brent Dowell

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Up until about 8 months ago, the Spark was the best of its class. By this time next year, they'll have something that beats the Mini. But the Spark and Mini will continue to be great drones. :thumb:

But what I really want to know is where did you find a tree out there in the desert? :rofl:
Right in front of the house, lol. Sport mode takes the training wheels off a bit and it's easy to get disoriented.
 
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