Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Most people get drones for reasons like photography, aerial mapping, and just to experience the thrill of flying their own unmanned aerial crafts. Using a drone in a disaster is a reason seldom thought about, but it would have some advantages.
If you’re one of the many who have thought of this scenario, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will outline the various functions a drone can perform after a major disaster and why you should have one when the SHTF.
What to Look For in a Drone
A drone may seem like a simple device, but different types have different advantages. For example, someone who wants to fly a racing drone won’t be looking for the camera features that a professional drone would have.
With all of these features and specifications, it can get overwhelming for new fliers. But as technology improves these systems become easier to use, which makes them accessible to beginners.
There is a difference between using a drone in practice and live scenarios, so having a clear picture of what you need in a drone will help you make the best choice for your situation.
Let’s take a look at all of the different types of drones and why you would choose any one of them.
Types of Drones
Drones are broken into different categories based on the functions they provide. Here are the main types of drones and who they’re made for.
These types of drones are generally the least expensive; however, with the cost reduction comes some limitations. The battery life on them is minimal, and they generally lack things such as a high-resolution camera or gyroscope.
Novice drones are perfect for beginners looking to get their feet wet as they can perform basic photography and don’t have fancy aerial maneuvers built in that could potentially crash your drone.
Perfect for a skilled pilot, racing drones are meant for speed and speed alone. Performing tricky maneuvers at high speeds is something a beginner might be overwhelmed with. If you’re interested in a flying machine rather than something that takes nice photos, check out a racing drone.
Ready to shoot some stunning landscapes or do some surveying for your next property? These drones are highly advanced with capable photo and video technology. Keeping the materials lightweight allows them to travel at faster speeds.
The software in these units can be sophisticated, with GPS technology allowing unmanned lift-offs and landings. Obstacle avoidance is another function you’ll find in these drones as they’ll more than likely be unreachable if they should hit a tree or something from far off.
The drones themselves are expensive, which is why people buy them if they are looking to make money off the footage. They are generally long-range and capable of longer flight times, but of course, you pay a premium for that.
Products like these are for professional photographers or videographers that are looking to produce high-quality content on their channels.
Features to Look At
Battery life equals flight time, and the bigger the battery, the more time you’ll have in the air. All drones come with lithium-ion batteries with flight times varying from 5 to 30 minutes.
If you’re looking for a novice drone, expect to get around 10-12 minutes of flight time. You’ll more than likely need to purchase extra batteries, and some manufacturers will offer battery extender kits that include these.
Camera and Gimbal
You can expect that any drone you purchase will come with a camera that can shoot both photos and video. The quality of the camera will vary depending on the model. As you’d expect, a higher price tag usually means a better-performing camera. Some models will have removable cameras so that you can fly the drone without the added weight.
A gimbal is a stabilizer that will eliminate shaky footage that usually accompanies jittery flying and errant vibrations. As your unit changes, its tilt and velocity a gimbal helps to keep the footage straight. This is a common feature of high-end manufacturers.
If you’re purchasing an inexpensive drone, expect a limited range. Generally, just over 100 yards is the range limit on a beginner model. Racing and professional drones can have a range of up to 3 KM since you won’t necessarily be following them around.
Return Home and Headless Mode
Headless mode is a handy feature for all fliers, but especially beginners as it simplifies the directional calculations you’d have to do when tilting your drone. If a drone is launched with its head facing forward, then pushing left or right on the joystick will turn it in those directions.
However, if the drone is turned around, then the left becomes right and the right becomes left. The issue is that most drones have four propellers (quadrocopter) so the nose looks like the tail; this becomes quite tricky for beginner fliers.
Return home mode is usually a button that you can press to automatically return the drone to your location. Commonly, if the drone is equipped with GPS, it’ll fly back to the control pad. Otherwise, it will just fly backward. Inexpensive drones will have an issue with obstacle avoidance, so don’t use this feature in a forest.
8 Reasons You Should Have a Drone For When SHTF
So far, we’ve talked about the different types of drones and what they are intended for. However, they have versatility unlike any other piece of technology. Here are the reasons you should keep a drone handy in the event of a major disaster.
Much like the carrier pigeons of olden times, drones make for excellent messengers. A lot of them come with SD card slots that can be used to store a memory card with messages. You can even go primitive and tape a message to the unit itself before sending it off.
2. Daytime and Nighttime Surveillance
Having a drone perched on top of a high building makes for a great sentry. Without using the propellers you can rely on the camera to give you a bird’s eye view of the area. Some models even have night vision cameras so you can scope out the terrain at night.
3. Search and Rescue
Drones provide a few different resources when utilized in a search and rescue scenario. Firstly, they have a camera that can spy out signal fires or the bright colors of some outdoor clothing. Second, they make a lot of noise which can alert the person you’re searching for that help is nearby.
And third, they can be used to carry messages to people in distress where no other method would work. This can include being across a lake or down in a cave.
4. Entry and Exit Scouting
Drones are handy to get in or out of tight situations. Using the video feed, you can scope out areas and even fly into something like a building. This kind of use requires a skilled pilot since you might be navigating tight corners or corridors.
5. Compound and Area Illumination
Having several drones equipped with LED floodlights is a great way to shed some light on your compound or living space. Simply fly the drone up above the area and have the LED spotlight pointing down. This form of semi-permanent lighting can be packed up and relocated to a new area with ease.
6. Trespasser Deterrent
A drone is a warning signal to trespassers that you have eyes on the situation. Merely hearing the sound of a drone is enough to put the average person on edge and freeze them for a few minutes. Others will not be bothered and more than likely will move on to other areas.
7. Damage Assessment
Those who live in the country are no strangers to trees falling on their houses. It sometimes takes a long time to do a complete assessment. A drone expedites this process by giving you a higher perspective on what’s going on. Using this in other applications such as infrastructure and agriculture makes this a viable asset.
8. Emergency Supply Delivery
Amazon started the trend but it may have more merit than you think. Some drones are powerful enough that they can carry heavy loads over long distances.
This makes them effective for delivering supplies to those in need. Another positive is that most drones that can carry heavy things also have advanced technology such as obstacle avoidance and GPS guidance.
Current Drones You Should Consider for When SHTF
These are some examples of the best beginner, racing, and professional drones you can buy. They come with a variety of features that will suit all experience levels.
1. Altair Aerial AA108
It has a modest entry cost of about $130, which is great for those getting into flying a drone. The unit itself is small at about 7 inches long and the 3-ounce weight makes it great to navigate indoors.
The battery lasts around 10 minutes per charge and will warn you when it gets too low to fly. The same applies to the 330-foot range as the device will signal when it is out of range. The addition of a headless mode makes this the perfect first drone for someone.
2. Walkera F210 Professional Racer
This carbon fiber body is made to go fast and mimic the speed of an F1 racer. It has a max distance of 800 meters and the 1300 milliamp hours battery will give you a flight time of 12 minutes.
The camera has 1 million pixels mixed with high-performance sensors which are photosensitive when the light goes down. Use the included LCD screen to get real-time data on flight status and data.
3. DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter
Probably one of the most recognizable drone brands on the market, DJI is used by explorers and photographers to get some of the best-looking footage available. The drone features self-guided systems that work through GPS so that it can take off and land on its own.
It can fly up to 45 MPH and is equipped with a powerful gimbal, and a 4K HD camera that can shoot video at a steady 30FPS. Slow-motion video is also available at 120FPS for those epic vistas. If you’re looking for a camera drone, this is pretty much top-of-the-line.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ready to get your first drone? Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about drones for when the SHTF.
How expensive are drones?
Depending on the type of drone, they can cost anywhere between $100 to $4,500 for non-commercial units. New models are consistent with old pricing as technology improves.
How long do drones stay in the air?
On average, a drone will stay anywhere between 5-30 minutes on a single charge. This is dependent on the battery size, condition, and power of the drone.
How long does it take to charge a drone battery?
Drone batteries can take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 6 hours to fully charge. Since they are made of lithium-ion batteries, there is no memory associated with them and each charge counts as a cycle.
Drone technology has improved significantly in the last decade, with middle-tier drones taking the majority of the market. They can provide surveillance, communication, and even protection if used correctly.
It is important to understand what your needs are before purchasing a drone as you can see that different types have different strengths. As long as you pay attention to battery life, power, and quality-of-life features, you’ll be able to make a properly informed decision.
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