Lets start with the rotary wing (quad/multi-copters) a control system that can transition between two lifting modes. For vertical flight and hovering, it spins to act as a rotary wing or rotor, and for forward flight at speed it stops to act as a fixed wing, which makes it a good choice for aerial photography.
Helicopters (rotary wing) have flight controls that allows pilots to control the throttle, cyclic controls (pitch and roll), and the tail rotor, this enables the helicopter to perform the same maneuvers as full size helicopters.
Planes (Fixed wing aircraft) have a control system that allows you to control the throttle for speed & rudder (yaw), ailerons (roll) elevators (pitch) to act like a real aircraft, some even have retractable landing gear.
If you have never piloted a drone before your best option would be to start off with something small like a mini quadcopter or helicopter which can be used indoors so you can get a feel for it, start off slow dont rush into it or don't fly them near people until you are confident enough, when you feel that you have mastered your drone and you know its limits, then its time for an upgrade, do some research into the type of drone you want and check out the reviews & online videos before you buy.
We recommend the Hubsan X4 H107D as a perfect drone for beginners (though there are many other options in the same price range), and it can be used indoors and outdoors (on a dry day with minimal wind). It comes in several colors and aslo comes with a built in camera so you can capture that great aerial view. It has 4 coreless motors and can perform flips, (forwards, backwards, left, right) and has a flight time of 7 minutes, with a 40 minutes charge time.
As you can imagine small drones are simple but very fun to play with and can become addictive, showing off how many flips you can do without losing control, but remember if you are flying these outdoors to allways make sure you fly in a safe area away from airports like a field or a park that is away from play areas and away from members of the public, so you don't cause injury as some drones can be heavy and could cause injury if not operated correctly, lastly - be aware of dangers such as powerful cables.
Once you are ready to upgrade and have done your research into other drones, you don't want to stick with just a small drone as this could lead to a loss of interest, different drones suit different people so find the drone that has your name on it.
If you are looking to do some aerial photography then stick to quad/multi-copters as they can have built in GPS and powerful camera's depending on the version and brand you buy, or if you are looking for the sport side of it you can buy a drone like AirDog that is completely autonomous all the way from take-off to landing, it has a GoPro camera mount with a gimbal alllowing you to just focus on the action and it will follow you around capturing those awesome moments.
Before you go out and spend $1500- plus on a mid sized camera drone and crash it into a wall, get yourself a small indoor drone and learn to fly. See our Christmas review section in this issue for some budget drones you can fly indoors without causing any damage.
Nano and micro drones are good to learn on as they can handle being crashed about. Better to get one with propeller guards, if not then grab a bunch of spares. And look for drones that are ready-to-fly.
If you're new to RC controllers and don't have advanced Jedi powers, you're going to crash. Probably a lot at first. It's all part of learning, so make sure you start with one you can knock around that's not going to hurt anyone.
The part everyone struggles with at first is flying nose in. When you fly with the drone pointing away from you, all the controls feel natural, but as soon as you turn the drone around to face you, or nose in, the directional controls are reversed. At first you have to think about it a lot, but after enough practice your muscle memory will take over.
There are some excellent specialised local drone suppliers worth supporting.
And the great thing about dealing with a person rather than eBay, is you will get advice on the best setup and you can ask questions. The Retailers section in our Directory at the back of this issue is a good place to start.
The drone world is full of acronyms. Here are some essentials you will need to know.
RTF: Ready-to-Fly. That means you're good to go out of the box.
ARF: Almost-Ready-to-Fly. There are other bits you need or steps to take before you can fly. They will tell you what's included and what you still need.
BNF: Bind-N-Fly or BNF which means you get everything except a radio Transmitter (RC controller) so you can use your own Transmitter.
AIL: Ailerons, also known as ROLL Used to tip the drone left or right, which will also cause a movement left or right, without changing the orientation the nose is pointing.
ELEV: Elevator also known as PITCH. Used to tip the drone forward or backwards, causing the drone to move forwards or backwards.
YAW: A term used to describe the rotation around the drones centre axis. It will cause the drone to turn its orientation left or right.
THROTTLE: This is your go stick.
FLIGHT CONTROLLER: The brains of the drone. It's a mini computer that runs flight control software to manage all aspects of flight.
TRANSMITTER or RC CONTROLLER: This is the thing in your hands you use to control the drone. It transmits your control signals via a Radio Frequency (RF) to the receiver on the drone.
OSD: On Screen Display. Refers to the display of flight and drone information on your viewscreen, such as speed, height, battery level and lots more as the drone gets bigger.
IMU: Inertial Measurement Unit. Using a combination of accelerometers and gyros, this device measures the drone's velocity, orientation and gravitational forces, and tells your flight controller what's actually happening.
LIPO: Lithium Polymer Battery, aka LIPO. Pretty much all drones use now because they pack a lot of power in a small package.
GPS: Global Positioning System. If your drone has one, it will be much more stable in wind. If you have GPS lock then you should be able to release your controls and have it sit and wait patiently for you... till the battery runs out anyway.
ESC: Electronic Speed Controllers. Each motor needs one of these. It sits in between the power distribution board and each motor. Your flight controller constantly sends signals to these devices to vary the power going into your motors.
RTH: Return to Home. This will save your ass if you fly a little too far away and lose orientation or if the drone loses contact with the transmitter.