The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Toy of the Year: Quadcopter
When I first saw it, advertised in a Facebook ad, I knew I had to have it. I also knew that I had no experience with anything like it before, but I remember as a young boy, I was definitely fascinated with anything that had a remote control attached to it and could be moved and played with. I did have several remote controlled cars and probably even a remote controlled boat. When I saw the quadcopter, also known as a quadrotor or quadrotor helicopter, or the less popular term that most hobbyist do not want it to be identified as, a drone, I knew this was a hobby that needed to be mine, and I am not the only one.
Do you have a series of questions going through your mind about quadcopters?
- Do I need a quadcopter?
- Can I afford a quadcopter?
- Should I get the most expensive quadcopter?
- Should I go for the least expensive quadcopter?
- What is the best quadcopter?
If you are debating with yourself on whether it is worth the investment or not, just take the leap of faith and get one. You won’t regret it. Before you go out and purchase one, however, be smart about it and do your research.
You may want to watch YouTube videos, read articles, and take your time in figuring out which is the best quadcopter for you. You should probably start off with a durable and affordable quadcopter and work your way up to a more expensive one.
The more expensive usually means it has more features, either attached, such as a camera for recording, or even a camera to allow you to see what it sees as it is recording, to maneuverability, stability, and freedom. If you are debating over your wants and needs, you want and need a quadcopter, so you should get a quadcopter. There is no question about it. No need to start a fight with the wife. Tell her you are getting one and that is the final answer.
A quadcopter was far different than anything I had seen before and for all intensive purposes, the only thing remotely close to it was a flying helicopter which most people had trouble flying because of stability issues. The quadcopter uses four propellers to lift itself off the ground vertically and moves around horizontally and is able to levitate while remaining in place, or lift quite high off the ground and to the sky.
Anyone who sees the quadcopter instantly has the “wow factor” and usually wants to try it, though many do simply enjoy watching it. The quadcopter looks easy to fly, but is far from it, and requires a lot of patience, time, and practice. More experienced flyers can flip and fly out of range without issues, as well as turn the quadcopter towards them and in their minds, flip the controls so that up will fly towards the controller and down will back away from it.
The quadcopter hobby can be an extremely expensive one if you are not careful, from crashing it into a building, or on to the ground, to possibly losing it in a tree or over a fence, and other unknown areas. The cheapest quadcopters may start at $10 and may be as expensive as $5,000 or $10,000 depending on how much customization you add to it.
The quadcopter is for almost all ages, but is recommended for teenagers and up. Many men have taken to the hobby of their new toys, especially the quadcopters with camera addon options, in which one can view what was recorded to even seeing in real-time what the quadcopter sees, either through an iPhone, an Android, or a pair of vision goggles.
Price does not necessarily mean how well a quadcopter will perform. When buying a quadcopter, you will want to ask around, do your research, and especially if you are beginner, you will want to fly one that is durable, more plastic, and can take a beating. Known as the LaTrax Alias Quad-Rotor Ready-To-Fly Helicopter, it can probably take the most hits, and still fly. It was my first large quadcopter, and I have crashed it several times resulting in just a few scratches on the plastic, but nothing that has prevented it from flying well. Highly recommended for beginners and those looking to gain practice before investing money into a more advanced expensive one. It comes in at $150 $100 (price has dropped since the time of this writing) and is totally worth it.
I thought about buying a more expensive one, but I am very happy I bought this one, as quadcopters are not as easy to fly as some people might make it look. They take a lot of time and patience in order to understand and fly correctly. It would be far less upsetting to break or lose $150 $100 than it would be $500 or more. This quadcopter can be flown inside, but is amazing to fly outside.
Looking for a smaller one, which was the first quadcopter I ever purchased, and turned out to be one of the best investments I ever made at around $20, the Tonsee Cheerson CX-10A Mini Headless Mode 2.4G 4CH 6 Axis RC Quadcopter proved to pack a powerful punch though it was more delicate, it still felt like a hard piece of metal in my hand and was able to take many drops. It reminded me of the little robotic bumble bee from the movie Ri¢hie Ri¢h and was able to flip pretty easily too. This quadcopter can be flown outside, but is probably best to fly inside.
The battery life on larger ones lasts about 15 to 20 minutes and the more expensive quality-designed quadcopters may last as long as 30 minutes. The smaller quadcopters usually last about 5 to 10 minutes. Battery charging times may vary from as little as 10 minutes up to an hour. It might seem like these are short battery times and will not give you much time for fun, but concentrating and focusing on flying quadcopters can tire you out. The reason these batteries don’t last long is that it requires a lot of energy and power to remain flying in the air, with four engines trying to keep an electronic piece of equipment stable in the air.
If you find that you still want to fly a quadcopter after 15 or 20 minutes, the larger quadcopters often come with an external battery, while smaller ones have batteries built in. Buy an additional battery or two and charge those as you are flying your quadcopter. The quadcopter can keep going for as long as there is a battery, though the actual engines and rotors may only last for few months before you need to replace them.
Unfortunately, I have had other quadcopters that did not stand the test of time, but were cheap enough to fix, usually costing under $15 to replace the motors or rotors that got damaged during impact to the wall, floor, concrete, cat hair, dog hair, or rug dust. The smaller ones are more prone to the most type of dust damage, with single hairs able to get stuck inside a propeller and damage it in seconds.
Once any quadcopters hits the floor, it should be an instant reaction to stop it no matter what, thoroughly examine it for any damage, clean it off if necessary, and put it near you to inspect the rotation of the propellers and flying capabilities up close. There are worst things in the world, but it definitely can be very upsetting to spend $50 or $100 on a quadcopter and destroy it in about 10 minutes after opening it. While you do not want to do it, expect your first quadcopter to probably get scratched, ruined, damaged, and destroyed. Once you open the box, you now own it, and there is no possibility of returning it, unless it came DOA.
Most companies that make these do not guarantee any warranty at all, as the possibilities of the aircraft getting damaged are nearly infinite. The value for any of these flight machines are worse than a car once you “drive it off the lot” in which it becomes zero dollars to anyone but you. Most hobbyist shops will sell these as is and will not accept any returns at all. What is yours is yours.
They want nothing to do with it except if you need repairs to the machine. This is where most hobby shops make their money. The cost to fix the less expensive machines are better, usually ranging from $10 to $30, as parts to replace and the labor are cheap. Unfortunately, the more expensive quadcopters, such as as the DJI Phantom 2 Vision, are more expensive to fix. You can order replacement parts and attempt to fix it yourself. Some hobbyist shops will not even touch them and you may have to ship it off to a company who specializes in fixing these machines and charges no less than $200 to $300 to repair them.
Do not get discouraged or too upset if something goes wrong: Start off with a cheap more affordable quadcopter and expect to break it. You will be less upset if you do break it and happy if you don’t break it.
Do not get the most expensive quadcopter: It was not designed for the average “fun flight”, for beginners, or for your teenage son or daughter to fly. It was designed for avid hobbyists who can afford it, videographers, and photographers who wish to capture the skies. There are plenty of quadcopters that were designed for speed racing, for aerodynamics, or just for fun. There are plenty of cheaper more affordable quadcopters that can record the skies and even allow you to view what is being seen on your iPhone or Android. Research for at least a month before you decide on what you want to buy. Patience is the key for this hobby.
These aircraft machines require a lot of power and wear and tear of the engines, rotors, propellers, and even the battery within months of using these are likely to go dead, even with the utmost proper care and maintenance, your quadcopter is only designed to last a few months, but if you are lucky, you could probably get a year or more out of it, depending on how often you use it.
There are plenty of quadcopters that malfunction and die after just a few flights. Sometimes, the remote control and the quadcopter will not sync up immediately and you have to turn them both on and off several times in order to get them to sync up. Sometimes you will push buttons on your remote control knowing your quadcopter is supposed to fly the way you are telling it to fly, yet it does the complete opposite. Sometimes you hit the left down arrow and push the key in to stop the quadcopter from doing anything, but it just keeps going.
When the battery begins to go low, your quadcopter will do weird things and no longer respond to your commands. Do your best to bring it low to the ground. Sometimes you might charge it up and only get 5 minutes even though you should be getting about 10 minutes of flight time. You may bump into things and it may take you a few weeks to months to even master flying it back and forth.
For optimal battery usage: Only charge the battery when you are ready to use it. Charge it on full the very first time. After that, you can get away with quick charging for the remainder of the battery life. Do not leave the battery on charge for days and then decide you want to fly your quadcopter. Once in flight, fly your quadcopter until the battery dies. For continued usage, feel free to purchase multiple batteries and have one on charge, while you are using the other. When not in use, make sure your remote control is turned off and your battery is disconnected from the quadcopter.
It is highly suggested that for your first few flights, you practice going up and down, up and down, than as you master this, you continue to keep it up to a certain level while going back and forward, back and forward. As you feel more comfortable doing this, you will want to practice rotating the quadcopter where it is levitating in place. Each time that you master something and become more comfortable with it, you try something new, such as flips in mid-air while staying still, and eventually, you will come to master flying the quadcopter towards you and realizing all your controls are now technically upside down.
The first few flights should be in open fields with soft grass areas, away from trees and hard cemented roads, if you fly outside. If you must fly on cement or near trees, practice hovering the aircraft for several flights. If you land on grass, before taking off, always check the propellers and rotors to ensure there are no stray hairs or grass that got stuck in them. The slightest hair could destroy the rotor and kill an engine.
If you fly inside, your first few flights should be away from the carpet, on a hardwood floor, and remaining close to the ground, in a hovering position. If you have cats or dogs, you will want to make sure there is no hair around the areas where you are flying. Hair usually ends up in corners, so if you manage to fly your quadcopter into a corner, stop it immediately and manually inspect it for any hairs. Those hairs will destroy your quadcopter in seconds. Cats and dogs will normally be scared of the quadcopter and usually hide, but after a few times of observing it, they may get used to it, though it can be hilarious to watch them run from the quadcopter.
There are even different modes you can enter including beginner, moderate (fast), and expert. In beginner mode, you may be prevented from being able to flip the quadcopter, while in fast or expert mode, you will have access. Each mode gives you more access to new features. Moderate mode gives you slightly more freedom and control over your quadcopter, but it begins to get harder to control.
If you place your quadcopter in expert mode, you may find that it requires a lot of work to levitate it, while moving around, but this mode gives you the most freedom to do as you please. Most professionals and the most experience quadcopter flyers hardly ever enter expert mode so do not get upset if you never get there.
Despite the fragile air flight mobile vehicles, there are many reasons to own quadcopters and even start a collection of all different shapes and sizes. If you were thinking about getting a quadcopter, here are 10 reasons that will push your decision to buy one as soon as possible.
1. Quadcopters are fairly cheap.
You could go to Toys R’ Us and buy a Quadcopter for about $20 or any other hobby store and grab it for slightly more. I can’t quite tell you about the quality of the Toys R’ Us copter, but it is a good start, especially to begin testing for the quality and variety of different types of quadcopters and how they fly.
Any hobby shop will have a few employees behind the counter who are avid fans of quadcopters and could direct you towards buying the one for you. If they immediately turn you on to a small quadcopter, make sure you do not spend a lot on it, as you will probably break it.
I highly recommend you get the LaTrax Alias Quad-Rotor Ready-To-Fly Helicopter, as it is durable, plastic, and less likely to break. Quadcopters are cheap enough that if you break them, you either get them fixed or you buy a new one.
2. Quadcopters are fun.
If you think you are going to fly a quadcopter and not have any fun, than you should probably receive a ‘Debby Downer’ Award. Seriously, as frustrating as they can be to fly at times, just getting them up in the air and moving them around is fun.
Having complete control and making them move in the air is an amazing experience and one that will have you going back for more. You will hate when you start to hear the beep that lets you know the battery is about to die, and you will probably fly it until it falls out of the sky.
The quadcopter is so much fun and both you and your children will enjoy it! You will probably have so much fun you will end up buying one for your kids, as you will not want to even share yours!
3. Quadcopters are unique and offer a unique experience.
Ever since I was younger, we had remote control cars, boats, and even helicopters that barely left the ground, but the quadcopter came out and offered something different, something beyond what we were all used to: We were able to finally take our eyes off the ground and begin looking at the sky.
A quadcopter starts off on the ground and uses all four propellers to begin graciously lifting off the ground and all the power is in your hands, from the touch of a button, to the slight lifting of the throttle, and once in the sky, you are not the driver or commander of the sea, but a pilot in the sky. You are the pilot of your very own flying machine and now you can leave the ground to be in the sky!
How else would you capture the largest whale in the ocean? This was the very first blue whale ever captured by the video camera of a Drone.
4. Quadcopters are a hobby.
Whether you collect baseball cards, lead a fantasy football league, attend a pottery class, lead your lady in ballroom dancing, the quadcopter is a hobby that could appeal to both men and women, and is a hobby that will attract many people to want to be a part of your flight, a part of your program, and to fly with you.
Everyone is always looking for something to do, and there are plenty of people without a hobby, often feeling bored or getting into trouble. Why not start flying quadcopters as a hobby? It will keep anyone out of trouble and rid boredom in the process.
5. Quadcopters are a niche.
Flying a quadcopter is the thing to do. It is something your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or husband could never get jealous of, as you could just introduce them to flying it, and they might find a joy in it.
There are groups that meet up at places and fly their quadcopters, often bringing in power chargers and packs in order for recharges and making an entire day out of flying quadcopters. Who wouldn’t want to be around like-minded people who are just looking to get away from work and everyday responsibilities and fly their quadcopters?
Go ahead and join in the niche! You won’t regret it and you will know that you are not alone in your love for quadcopters!
There is even a Facebook support page for those who have had their quadcopter fly away or they have lost or destroyed their beloved quadcopter.
6. Quadcopters are about patience.
Quadcopters do require skill and talent to fly them and a slight understanding of aerodynamics. The entire flight from take off to flying to landing is completely in your control and speeding up the process will result in plenty of crashes, harsh impacts, or even inoperable quadcopters.
By having patience and learning to actually fly the copter, reading the instructions, watching YouTube videos, and getting a feel for your quadcopter, you will eventually learn how to master it, and fly it without impacts and crashes.
7. Quadcopters allow you to go where no man has gone before.
Our eyes are often trained to look in front of us or below us, but rarely do we get a chance to constantly focus on the sky and our environmental surroundings. There are quadcopters that can fly hundreds of feet up in the air, over cars and buildings, or far away from where you stand.
Quadcopters can usually attract large audiences and attention of all types, even sometimes unwanted attention if you fly a quadcopter in a city, such as New York or Chicago. If you fly a quadcopter with a camera that allows you to view what it sees in real-time, the experience will be similar to that of what a bird sees. It will be as if you are flying and this is certainly one of the most unique experiences that most people will never know.
8. Quadcopters will attract attention no matter where you go.
People are fascinated with things that fly and have been ever since man invented planes and even sent a rocket ship into space. Millions of people would gather around their television sets to watch something be sent off into the sky and enter into space.
Quadcopters tend to go through a similar process, as many people are curious and fascinated by what makes a quadcopter fly so high in the sky. They may want the experience themselves or just to enjoy the fact that something so unique is flying in the air, literally hovering above everyone.
If you are not flying the quadcopter, you will want to be the person who is flying it, and flying it like a professional. Many quadcopters are now being used to record concerts, sporting events, and other special events. The fact that there is a machine that is flying and recording everything is amazing.
9. Quadcopters are a learning experience.
Flying a quadcopter is all about utilizing practice, patience, and perseverance. Like falling off a bike, whether you hit a wall or the ground, break a quadcopter, you get back up, fix it or get it fixed, and keep going. You may go through several quadcopters before you find the right one for you.
Quadcopters can be dangerous, as one falling out of the sky could easily hit someone in the head, or the blades may be going fast enough to hurt human skin. It is best to always take extreme caution when flying a quadcopter around any living thing, especially when flying it around large crowds of people.
Always be aware of your surroundings, as you will never want to risk flying it on, around, or above water unless you know what you are doing, and avoid high trees, power lines, and rooftops, which may render the complete loss of your quadcopter aircraft if anything goes wrong.
Quadcopters come in all different shapes and sizes and some fly more sturdy than others. After finally finding the one you feel most comfortable with and learning how to fly it, you will start looking like you have been flying a quadcopter for years, and there might even someday be a job for you.
Flying a quadcopter with a camera attached is an untapped job market waiting to happen. Start practicing now and freelancing work for weddings, concerts, outside events, etc. You cannot fly a quadcopter at some special event if you are inexperienced and it is unstable, but once you master the art of flying a quadcopter, you will have created a wonderful job opportunity.
10. Quadcopters are your favorite toy.
Whether you are grown man, a young man, an old man, a young boy, or a teenage boy, quadcopters are for you. The same applies to all of you women and girls, as you are all capable of flying a quadcopter too. It is so much fun and while I have not seen too many girls interested in quadcopters, the potential is there for girls to get into the hobby and sport.
While many people would consider a quadcopter a toy, it is an extremely fragile piece of equipment that can break in minutes and could be expensive to put back together, especially if you buy the more expensive quadcopters. However, secretly, you know its your toy and that it is okay to know that when you pull out the quadcopter, you can be a kid again and play with your favorite toy! After all, most of our lives are about work, but we still must play! Why not play with a quadcopter!
Last but not least, while you could fly a quadcopter alone, it is far more fun to fly with groups of people, lead battles in the sky to knock each other down, or just fly casually with others. In the process of flying a quadcopter, you will have a chance to meet many like-minded people and make friends who finally won’t think any less of you for loving your toy copter. What are some of the reasons you love flying your quadcopter?