Drones for dads: A Father’s Day guide to purchasing recreational UAVs
They’re controversial, ethically questionable and mind-blowingly awesome – naturally, your father must have one but where can you buy a drone and how much is it going to set you back?
From sailing paper boats down the gutter to piloting remote controlled boats that can reach up to 80 km/h, dads all over the world have a deep-rooted enthusiasm piloting miniature planes, trains and automobiles... and now, drones.
Not every dad was a born aviator with 20/20 vision. That's why there are rookie-level drones that are low-cost, easy to operate and durable enough to survive multiple mishaps.
The fact that drone insurance exists is a telltale sign that drone piloting can be a costly adventure. Here's our pick for the top three drones for clumsy dads:
The Helix X4 stunt is the safest bet when it comes to drones for rookie dads (without sacrificing quality and fun). Its gyroscopic stabilisation and light Styrofoam frame will make even the clumsiest dad feel like a veteran pilot. The styrofoam frame will also give you peace of mind if your old man decides to set a course directly for the expensive Smart TV or terrified house cat – it is, after all, marketed as an indoor drone.
- Made from "crash-resistant materials"
- Do a barrel roll! Flips, barrel rolls and 180 flips can all be performed with one button
- Charge on the fly via remote control or overnight through a USB cable
The ultimate party drone. The Hero RC UFO Quadcopter has colourful flashing LEDS lining its frame. It can support a missile launcher, water cannon and bubble blower and to top it all off, you can capture the shenanigans with the Hero's onboard camera. The Hero RC UFO Quadcopter is not only lightweight and durable (thanks to its moulded foam shell), but it also has the potential to be the most irritating drone on the market. Bad news for you, a godsend for dads everywhere. What makes it a great drone for rookies are its LEDs, which make it simple to orientate, and a "headless mode" which will send the gadget back to the pilot no matter which direction it's facing.
- A nice range of awesome and mischievous accessories
- 8–10 minutes flight time and 1–1.5 hours charge time
- Onboard camera helps capture the chaos
The AR Drone 2.0 is what you get dad as a reward for not harming the pets with his Quadcopter UFO or Air Hogs Helix. It's the next step up, the transition between rookie and experienced drone pilot. There are still some training wheels in place, like the robust Styrofoam frame that protects the motors and propellers, but the AR Drone 2.0 also comes with some serious upgrades. Firstly, the AR Drone 2.0's flight path can be completely mapped and recorded via an iPhone application and secondly and most impressively – considering the price – its onboard camera boasts 720p HD video recording. Last but not least, the AR Drone 2.0 comes in three badass military colours: snow, jungle and sand.
- Pull off impressive tricks via in-app controls
- Low-latency streaming
- Recorded video is sent to your device mid-flight
Is your dad experienced with remote control cars and helicopters? Maybe he's been piloting an Air Hogs Helix for the past year and is ready to take this relationship to the next level? If that's the case, then it's fair to assume he can be trusted with something a little fancier. Not to say it's a smart move to go all-out and buy a high-end drone just yet. Drones are temperamental, fragile and easily lost to the wind, so we recommend letting your dad test the waters with something that isn't going to break the bank.
One of the most popular consumer drones in Australia, the Parrot Bebop is the perfect drone for newcomers who want a quality drone experience. Thanks to its foam body and ABS-reinforced build, this drone is light and decidedly dad-proof – and Parrot stocks a large range of replacement parts should anything go wrong. In addition to being a sturdy little purchase, the Bebop touts an onboard camera that takes 12MP stills and records 1080p full-HD footage. Not too bad for a mid-range drone.
- The Skycontroller remote control is an expensive addition but also totally optional
- First-person view (FPV) flying with synced tablet or smartphone
- Can reach speeds up to 75 km/h
If your dad thinks the world revolves around him, this tidy little drone will only add to his ego problems. With its "Follow Me" function, the 3DR Iris+ syncs to any phone or tablet and circles the person holding the handset, all the while capturing footage and snaps of the user. Best of all, the 3DR Iris+ can reach speeds of 65 km/h, meaning it can keep up, no matter how extreme your dad is. Note that the 3DR Iris+ does not come with a camera or stabilisation gimbal (these need to be purchased separately).
- Perfect for sporty dads
- "Follow me" function is handy for those who need both hands free
- Easily plot routes by drawing them out on your tablet
The DJI Phantom 3 Standard sits on the border between confident and experienced pilot drones. On one hand, the Phantom 3 Standard is a steep price jump from the 3DR Iris+ and Parrot Bebop – making it an especially painful loss if Phantom 3 takes a dive. However, the Phantom 3 also holds the pilot's hand by giving them practice piloting a virtual drone in the DJI Pilot app (the same app you will eventually use to pilot the Phantom 3). In addition to this, the Phantom 3 has two sensors directed at the floor to let it know when it's nearing the ground and a stabilising gyro that make it super-easy to pilot.
- Amazing camera takes 12MP photos, records 2.7K HD footage and is steadied by a 3-axis gimbal
- Included controller not only operates the drone but also the camera, allowing you to film, shoot and tilt on the fly
- Big plans for the DJI Pilot app: future updates will include functions like waypoints, point of interest and follow me
After much practice, your father has finally earned his wings (and your trust). It's time for him move into the big leagues of quadcopter aviation – they grow up so fast. You're not going to find anything on this list below $1000, but that sum will get you finest range of technology the consumer UAV world has to offer. Admittedly, the following drones would be a pretty outrageous gift to give on your own, but that's where your brothers and sisters come in. With your powers combined, you can make this Father's Day one to remember (and you can always take credit for the idea, effectively winning the sibling war).
Visually, the Phantom 3 is nearly identical to the Standard and Advanced models, save for its gold racing stripes. However, there is a whole lot more to love under the (compact) hood. In addition to glorious 4K video recording, the Professional also has a boosted range of 2km (thanks to the controller's in-built LightBridge tech) and an intelligent battery with a failsafe option that sends your drone home if battery is critically low.
- Onboard camera that captures 4K video and 12MP photos
- Lightbridge range booster in-built to remote control
- Failsafe option sends the drone back to its take-off point if battery is low or the connection to the remote is lost
Features-wise, the 3DR Solo closely mimics the popular Phantom 3 Professional. It has a smart battery, a live HD feed to your mobile device, 3-axis gimbal and, like the UFO, bright LEDs for navigation and night flying. What this sexy, jet-black beast lacks is a packaged camera. Unlike the Professional, the 3DR Solo has been designed with the GoPro range in mind. Fantastic news if your old man already owns a GoPro. The freedom of choice is always good, but considering you can spend an extra $200 or so for a Professional, purchasing the 3DR Solo really only makes sense if you're already a GoPro fanatic (and there are plenty around).
- Made for GoPro
- LED lights
- Helpful controller display with information like battery life, altitude, camera angle and angle presets
The DJI Inspire is the crème de la crème of consumer drones and our number one choice for Father's Day. Not only is this airborne tank heavy-duty, thanks to its carbon fibre arms, but it is also incredibly smart. Its vision positioning system makes flying indoors a breeze as it can accurately hold its position, even when GPS is unavailable. What makes the DJI Inspire the perfect candidate for Father's Day is its dual-operator control, which allows you to stream the Inspire's feed to two devices at once. Not only will you take home the award for world's greatest child, you will also get to join in on the fun by syncing your smartphone or tablet with your father's drone.
- Dual-operator control
- 4K video capture at 30fps
- Vision positioning system
Ask an Expert