Drones can be extremely enjoyable to fly, and the pictures you can take with them are frequently amazing. Whether you’re looking for shots of the gorgeous shores of Lake Superior or the unique formations at Monument Rocks, the Midwest is full of amazing photo opportunities.
But where to start when you’re looking to purchase a drone in the Midwest? It’s important to first distinguish between consumer and commercial drones. Consumer drones are made for hobbyists, typically people who are interested in taking overhead photos or videos. Commercial drones, in contrast, are tailored to perform a specific job in a particular industry. For example, agricultural drones are made to perform tasks like crop spraying and surveying.
Let’s take a look at six of the best drones in the Midwest designed for consumer use.
Best Drones for Beginners
DJI Mini 2
DJI is the world’s largest drone manufacturer, and the company produces drones for a variety of different audiences and purposes. The DJI Mini 2 is a great choice for someone who is new to drones and is looking to dip their toe into drone photography or just wants to experiment with a remotely piloted aircraft.
One of the advantages of the DJI Mini 2 is its size. This drone folds up to be small enough to fit in your hand, and, more importantly, it weighs in at just under .55 lbs (250 grams). This is quite an important number in the drone world. Any drone weighing 250 grams or more is required to be registered with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. Registration isn’t all that difficult — it simply requires creating an account on an FAA website, providing some basic information, and paying $5 — but if you’re looking to avoid it, buying a small, lightweight drone is the way to do so.
The DJI Mini 2 comes with a 4K camera, has enough battery life for a 30-minute flight, and comes with a controller. You can get one for less than $500 at major online retailers, significantly cheaper than more advanced choices.
Another very compact drone, the Tello from Ryze Robotics, is also a good choice for newbies. At around $100, the price point is ideal for anyone on a budget.
The camera and flying time aren’t quite as impressive as the DJ Mini 2. This drone can stay airborne for about 13 minutes at a time and capture photos in 5MP and video in HD 720p. The Tello is so small that it can also struggle on windy days.
But this drone is extremely easy-to-use right out of the box, thanks in part to its auto take-off feature. You control it straight from your phone after downloading an intuitive app. The Tello is a great choice if you just want to see what drones are all about without breaking the bank.
Best FPV Drones in the Midwest
First-person view (FPV) drones allow you to see from the perspective of your drone’s camera, usually through a set of goggles. Flying them can be difficult, and you’ll generally want a second person present to keep eyes on your drone. But having a birds-eye view can also be an amazing experience!
BetaFPV Cetus Pro
Luckily, there’s an excellent option for beginners looking to learn how to fly FPV drones — the BetaFPV Cetus Pro. This tiny drone comes ready to fly with goggles, batteries, and a controller. There are three flight modes to help you get used to FPV flight and build your skills.
The downsides of the Cetus Pro are significant: the batteries only give you about five minutes of flight time, and you can’t capture video or photos. But, at less than $250, it’s a relatively affordable way to learn how to fly an FPV drone.
The DJI Avata is probably the most well-rounded FPV drone currently available. It comes with a solid 4K camera and is easier to fly than some FPV drones. With just a little practice, you’ll be capturing jaw-dropping footage.
You can purchase the drone by itself, but you’ll want to add a pair of goggles and a controller unless you already have them. One of the best features of the Avata is its compatibility with multiple controllers, meaning that novices and advanced pilots both have options.
However, this also means it’s more expensive to get up in the air. The drone itself is just over $600, but you’ll need to spend more than $1,000 once you add the goggles and controller. Once up in the air, the Avata will give you up to 18 minutes of flying time.
Best Drones for Experienced Flyers
If you’ve already logged some flight hours and are looking for more advanced options, you’re choice of drone will probably come down to more specific features.
Autel Robotics EVO Lite+
If you’re looking for a drone capable of shooting video in 6K, check out the Autel Robotics EVO Lite+. This drone has solid battery life, offering flight times of up to 40 minutes. It comes with a controller and obstacle sensors that will help you avoid crashes. You can use Autel’s Sky app to watch the scenes you’re capturing on your phone. This drone will have you creating professional-level photos and videos in no time.
Of course, the fancy features of the Evo Lite+ aren’t cheap; this drone is typically priced north of $1,000 without any add-ons.
iFlight Mach R5
Some people want to fly drones for the views and photo opportunities. Other people are looking for speed. Racing drones are built to go fast.
Many drone racers buy kits and parts and assemble their own machines. But if you’re looking for a pre-built racing drone, the iFlight Mach R5 is an excellent option.
Top speeds for this drone are reported to be upwards of 100 mph. As with most racing drones, it has a quad-copter design, and most parts can be replaced, which is great because when you’re going that fast, you’ll probably have a few crashes that require replacement parts! The Mach R5 comes standard with an analog camera for about $325. Controller and camera upgrades are also available.
Drones in the Midwest
While none of the choices on this list are manufactured in the Midwest, that doesn’t mean there aren’t drone companies in the region. In fact, if you’re a content creator or videographer looking for a custom-built drone, you can check out Midwest Custom Drones, which operates out of Minnesota. They build, repair, and modify drones for a variety of consumer and commercial uses.
Finally, if you’re purchasing anything other than a lightweight drone, don’t forget to register your drone with the FAA. Penalties for failing to do so are steep, and the safety risks aren’t worth it anyway. Happy flying!
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