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What are drones?

Call them unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or even just plain old “drones""drones" - but really, they are all terms for a remote-controlled or autonomously programmed aerial machine. Once associated with the military, drones are now used for recreational purposes, professional aerial photography, to carry cargo, track livestock... the possibilities are endless. Essentially if you want to view anything from the air, a drone is your new best friend.

What are the different types of drones?

  • Beginner drones: best for the kids and those just starting out, beginner drones are more affordable and have shorter ranges and flight times. Durable and easy to fly, they are built to endure minor crashes and collisions. You should be able to pick up something like this for a few hundred dollars.
  • Amateur or hobby drones: much like the beginner drone they are affordable and durable, but these come with more features like specialised cameras. These are best for amateur photographers and videographers and anyone who really just loves a new tech toy.
  • Camera or professional drones: fitted out with higher-quality cameras these types of drones allow for serious footage and photography. They often use GPS tracking, which means they are better at "returning home" and makes them easier to find in the event that you lose contact. Of course, they come at a higher price point, but are the best investment for professional photographers and videographers and also anyone who uses a drone in their day-to-day business.

Features to consider when buying a drone:

  • Flight time: how long your drone will stay in the air on a single charge.
  • Speed: the maximum speed your drone can fly.
  • Range: how far can you drone fly without losing contact with the controller.
  • Onboard camera: many drones have an onboard camera or a mount to attach your own.
  • Controller type: generally these come in either a remote control (RC) app or a hardware controller.
  • Return to home: this tells the drone to come back to you using GPS.

Know the rules about drones

You might not be aware, but when you fly a drone there are rules you need to adhere to - just like the rules of the road. Recreational and professional drone safety rules are designed to protect other people in the air and on the ground.

Here are some important tips for flying within the law:

  1. You must not fly your drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property, so follow the rules every time you fly.
  2. There might be local council and/or national park laws prohibiting drone flights in certain areas.
  3. Research the area you plan to fly and contact your council or national park if you're unsure.
  4. Don't operate near emergency services aircraft -- if you fly, they can't.

You can check out these rules and more at the The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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