Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
User avatar
nisiprius
Advisory Board
Posts: 33379
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 9:33 am
Location: The terrestrial, globular, planetary hunk of matter, flattened at the poles, is my abode.--O. Henry

Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby nisiprius » Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:40 am

Maybe I've missed the window of opportunity but during the Christmas shopping season it seemed as if every store was selling "drones" for $50 that claimed to be small, light, quadcopters with RC control and some rudimentary video recording device. I understand that in the world of cognoscenti $1,000 drones are considered to be junk, but a $50 drone is better than any drone I could have bought thirty years ago :) .

So I just want to know--if you know zero about them, would you be likely to get $50 worth of fun out of them? Or would you just crash and destroy them in the first five minutes... or get them stuck on the roof or in a tree... or get in trouble with the neighbors or the law somehow?

(Yes, of course, I can see an aerial view of my own house in Google Maps Satellite View).
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

User avatar
BolderBoy
Posts: 2923
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:16 pm
Location: Colorado

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby BolderBoy » Tue Jan 10, 2017 11:59 am

nisiprius wrote:Maybe I've missed the window of opportunity but during the Christmas shopping season it seemed as if every store was selling "drones" for $50 that claimed to be small, light, quadcopters with RC control and some rudimentary video recording device. I understand that in the world of cognoscenti $1,000 drones are considered to be junk, but a $50 drone is better than any drone I could have bought thirty years ago :) .

So I just want to know--if you know zero about them, would you be likely to get $50 worth of fun out of them? Or would you just crash and destroy them in the first five minutes... or get them stuck on the roof or in a tree... or get in trouble with the neighbors or the law somehow?

(Yes, of course, I can see an aerial view of my own house in Google Maps Satellite View).

The IEEE society in Denver had a presentation last year put on by a research professor who is working with drones. He brought about 10 different drones, from very small (maybe the $50 kind, but more likely $100) to one that was several feet in diameter. He flew the very small one around the room making close ups of folks with the little attached camera and displaying on the big screen.

As a result of that talk, my buddy (an uber cheapskate) bought two small drones off the internet and has had great fun playing with them, to include using one to examine his 180 foot tall tower on top of which is a ham radio antenna, thus saving him having to climb the tower quite as much.

Having said that, my neighbor up the street was out after Christmas with his young son playing with his new drone...and I haven't seen him out playing with it since.
“Where you stand, depends on where you sit” - Rufus Miles | "Never underestimate one's capacity to overestimate one's abilities"

User avatar
5th_Dimension
Posts: 33
Joined: Mon Jul 11, 2016 1:05 am

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby 5th_Dimension » Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:02 pm

I started with a simple $39 quadcopter (drone) with no camera. It was a lot of fun. Yes I did crash it a lot, but some of the inexpensive drones now come with stabilizing electronics to make it easier. I have since moved on to a much more expensive side of the hobby, competition sailplanes :o

Even the guys with $1000 drones like to fly and tweak the really inexpensive drones, that is part of the fun of the hobby. Even on my side, guys with $3000 planes have as much fun flying $50 planes. So don't be afraid to start small.

If you want to do some research before you buy this is the go to place for everything RC.

https://www.rcgroups.com/multirotor-beg ... page2.html

That link takes you to the beginner multirotor forum on RCGroups.

Have fun!

SimonJester
Posts: 1139
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:39 pm

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby SimonJester » Tue Jan 10, 2017 2:02 pm

The one I had had the most fun with is a Micro quad about the size of a match book that you can easily fly indoors.

https://www.amazon.com/Cheerson-CX-10-M ... B00KXZC762

My other toy quad is a small $50 Hubsan 107

https://www.amazon.com/Hubsan-H107L-Roy ... B00LCLKAE2

These are non GPS quads that will force you to learn how to fly without relying on 100% GPS. They are fun to fly around the back yard and or local park.

Just be aware if you plan on flying anything over 0.55 lbs weight you need to register with the FAA, if you are flying within 5 miles of any airport you need to contact FAA Air Traffic Control Tower for their airport to make sure they are aware of your flight.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

investingdad
Posts: 1095
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:41 pm

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby investingdad » Tue Jan 10, 2017 3:03 pm

I suggest you spend about $25 on Amazon for a micro quadcopter and another $10 for extra batteries.

I got a pair of Eachine E010 quads for my kids. They fly very well...if you know how to fly them, which I do. The electronics are delicate, however.

You could spend a bit more with Horizon Hobby for a Blade indoor unit that won't break electronics if you crash...maybe $150 or so.

Learning to fly them will take time. Getting one that can fly outdoors and will chew up an acre of yard while you sit on your deck is just lots of fun.

bobf
Posts: 32
Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2015 9:31 pm

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby bobf » Tue Jan 10, 2017 3:18 pm

SimonJester wrote:The one I had had the most fun with is a Micro quad about the size of a match book that you can easily fly indoors.

https://www.amazon.com/Cheerson-CX-10-M ... B00KXZC762

My other toy quad is a small $50 Hubsan 107

https://www.amazon.com/Hubsan-H107L-Roy ... B00LCLKAE2

These are non GPS quads that will force you to learn how to fly without relying on 100% GPS. They are fun to fly around the back yard and or local park.

Just be aware if you plan on flying anything over 0.55 lbs weight you need to register with the FAA, if you are flying within 5 miles of any airport you need to contact FAA Air Traffic Control Tower for their airport to make sure they are aware of your flight.


Jesus. That means that about 1/10th of the people living in vermont need to register their drones as they live within 5 miles of the airport (most of the major burlington population centers and even most suburbs are within 5 miles of BTV)

SimonJester
Posts: 1139
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:39 pm

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby SimonJester » Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:02 pm

bobf wrote:
SimonJester wrote:The one I had had the most fun with is a Micro quad about the size of a match book that you can easily fly indoors.

https://www.amazon.com/Cheerson-CX-10-M ... B00KXZC762

My other toy quad is a small $50 Hubsan 107

https://www.amazon.com/Hubsan-H107L-Roy ... B00LCLKAE2

These are non GPS quads that will force you to learn how to fly without relying on 100% GPS. They are fun to fly around the back yard and or local park.

Just be aware if you plan on flying anything over 0.55 lbs weight you need to register with the FAA, if you are flying within 5 miles of any airport you need to contact FAA Air Traffic Control Tower for their airport to make sure they are aware of your flight.


Jesus. That means that about 1/10th of the people living in vermont need to register their drones as they live within 5 miles of the airport (most of the major burlington population centers and even most suburbs are within 5 miles of BTV)


Registration with the FAA is if the sUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems) is over 0.55 lbs in weight. Regardless of weight you are supposed to notify Air Traffic Control Tower of your flights. There is a lot of talk about how to go about doing this and does this mean you contact them every time you want to pull the quad copter out in the back yard. The FAA has an I phone app that will tell you if you are in an area that you need to call ATC.


Here is the information from the FAA

Option #1. Fly in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336). Under this rule, operators must:

Fly for hobby or recreational purposes only
Follow a community-based set of safety guidelines
Fly the UAS within visual line-of-sight
Give way to manned aircraft
Provide prior notification to the airport and air traffic control tower, if one is present, when flying within 5 miles of an airport
Fly UAS that weigh no more than 55 lbs. unless certified by a community-based organization
Register the aircraft (UAS over 0.55 lbs. and less than 55 lbs. can be registered online at registermyuas.faa.gov; UAS 55 lbs. or greater must be registered through the FAA's paper-based process)


Do I have to notify all airports within five miles of where I want to fly recreationally?
Yes, you must contact any airports (including heliports and sea-based airports) and air traffic control towers within five miles of your proposed area of operations if flying under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95, Section 336).
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

likegarden
Posts: 2240
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:33 pm

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby likegarden » Tue Jan 10, 2017 6:49 pm

When I was young 65 years ago I made 4 ft sail planes out of balsa wood and paper, a lot of fun. Now I am thinking about getting a drone with camera to check on how my roof is doing up close and look into the tops of tall pines in my back yard. For $50 would be good.
Years ago Toys Or Us had helicopters with camera for $50, but that got lost in our house.

User avatar
Kenkat
Posts: 3533
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 11:18 am
Location: Cincinnati, OH

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby Kenkat » Tue Jan 10, 2017 7:00 pm

The small helicopters are very fun and easy to fly indoors - especially if you have some higher ceilings - so might be a quick and cheap way to get a feel for flying depending on exactly what you are wanting to do:

https://www.amazon.com/Syma-S107-S107G- ... helicopter

LifeIsGood
Posts: 567
Joined: Mon Feb 11, 2008 8:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, GA

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby LifeIsGood » Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:09 am

I bought this one several months ago and it's lots of fun - https://www.amazon.com/Syma-X5SC-Explor ... c+headless
Pretty easy to set up and learn to fly. Video and still images are ok but certainly not hi-def. After lots of research, this seemed like the best "beginner" drone. The batteries only last 5-7 mins so you'll need some extras. The are sold very cheaply eBay in packs of 3.

User avatar
BigFoot48
Posts: 2466
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:47 am
Location: Arizona

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby BigFoot48 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:36 am

I saw a sign on a neighborhood group-mailbox the other day asking if anyone had seen the drone the person had gotten for Christmas. I think one with an auto-return feature might be a good idea.
Retired | Two-time in top-10 in Bogleheads S&P500 contest; 12-time loser

User avatar
Flymore
Posts: 101
Joined: Tue May 31, 2016 1:31 pm

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby Flymore » Wed Jan 11, 2017 9:31 am

kenschmidt wrote:The small helicopters are very fun and easy to fly indoors - especially if you have some higher ceilings - so might be a quick and cheap way to get a feel for flying depending on exactly what you are wanting to do:

https://www.amazon.com/Syma-S107-S107G- ... helicopter


Yup, love these things. :D :beer :sharebeer
Don't drink and fly! :oops: makes a mess.

SimonJester
Posts: 1139
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:39 pm

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby SimonJester » Wed Jan 11, 2017 1:32 pm

kenschmidt wrote:The small helicopters are very fun and easy to fly indoors - especially if you have some higher ceilings - so might be a quick and cheap way to get a feel for flying depending on exactly what you are wanting to do:

https://www.amazon.com/Syma-S107-S107G- ... helicopter



I have a few of these as well, they are fun but I am currently having issues with the batteries as they are many years old. Helicopters fly differently then quad copters and I find quads easier to fly...
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

chartcab3785
Posts: 90
Joined: Fri Jul 11, 2014 12:30 am

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby chartcab3785 » Wed Jan 11, 2017 2:57 pm

kenschmidt wrote:The small helicopters are very fun and easy to fly indoors - especially if you have some higher ceilings - so might be a quick and cheap way to get a feel for flying depending on exactly what you are wanting to do:

https://www.amazon.com/Syma-S107-S107G- ... helicopter


Compared to the $18 CX-10 quadcopter I got for christmas, I despised that little Syma S107 copter-much harder to fly. If I decide to go a little bigger without going all in, the Syma X5C or X5C-1 would be next(still under the .55 lb threshold)

sunny_socal
Posts: 951
Joined: Tue Mar 24, 2015 4:22 pm

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby sunny_socal » Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:25 pm

LifeIsGood wrote:I bought this one several months ago and it's lots of fun - https://www.amazon.com/Syma-X5SC-Explor ... c+headless
Pretty easy to set up and learn to fly. Video and still images are ok but certainly not hi-def. After lots of research, this seemed like the best "beginner" drone. The batteries only last 5-7 mins so you'll need some extras. The are sold very cheaply eBay in packs of 3.


I bought that same one based on all the web reviews. I don't like it for the following reasons:
- The throttle is "dumbed down" and rather than simply going up or down, the drone goes to a set height and stays there. It's not intuitive.
- The throttle also cannot be reduced enough to bring the drone down quickly. Instead there is a "rotors running" mode, a "shutdown" mode and the aforementioned "stay at this altitude mode"
- The controls are not particularly responsive even in "advanced" mode
- The central location of the feet make this drone very top heavy and difficult to land
- In cooler weather the propellers are very brittle
- The blade guards and screws are very fragile

Cannot recommend it.

On the other hand this little Dromida Verso drone is only $40 shipped and does a lot more:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B019ICGBZI/re ... UTF8&psc=1

- Lightning fast controls
- Can fly upright or inverted!
- Blade guards protect in both positions
- Very durable
- Intuitive flight controls

I bought 4 of them for Christmas :mrgreen:

User avatar
Crimsontide
Posts: 695
Joined: Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:32 pm
Location: DFW Metromess

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby Crimsontide » Wed Jan 11, 2017 4:55 pm

LifeIsGood wrote:I bought this one several months ago and it's lots of fun - https://www.amazon.com/Syma-X5SC-Explor ... c+headless
Pretty easy to set up and learn to fly. Video and still images are ok but certainly not hi-def. After lots of research, this seemed like the best "beginner" drone. The batteries only last 5-7 mins so you'll need some extras. The are sold very cheaply eBay in packs of 3.


I've bought four of these, still have two. The first two went missing in action as I was flying them way too high. Amazing how much faster the winds are up there compared to ground level :oops: Guess I should start sending up some piballs before flying. Anyways, they are a lot of fun and cheap enough to learn on. I've made some great videos flying over water with these as well.

investingdad
Posts: 1095
Joined: Fri Mar 15, 2013 10:41 pm

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby investingdad » Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:50 pm

Again, check out Horizon Hobby and look at the Blade quadcopters.

They can be flown outside and have great flight dynamics and software.

User avatar
just frank
Posts: 1113
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2014 4:13 pm
Location: Philly Metro

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby just frank » Wed Jan 11, 2017 9:31 pm

The hubsan microquad is a fun entry point, and performs well. Read the MANUAL and calibrate the gyros for good control. Also look on amazon for a $5 bag of spare parts, mostly blades (aka propellors).

User avatar
jharkin
Posts: 1071
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2016 7:14 am
Location: Boston suburbs

Re: Are $50 drugstore and supermarket "drones" any fun?

Postby jharkin » Fri Jan 13, 2017 11:25 am

I am a long time (20+ year) RC hobbyist - I fly RC airplanes, RC helicopters, and have tried out some "drones". Before they became so popular we called them "quadcopters" in reference to the 4 propellers.

Run away screaming from the $50 junk.

I repeat, run away screaming.

For that price you will get what yo pay for, it will probably barely fly and you will loose interest fast. Look at the hobby grade stuff available through retail outlets like Horizon Hobby, Tower Hobby and Helidirect. Helidirect is a vendor that specializes in rotorcraft.

http://www.horizonhobby.com/
http://towerhobbies.com/
https://www.helidirect.com/

If you have no flight experience, flying it will be much HARDER than you expect. Contrary to what many ads portray these devices do not just fly themselves unless you buy expensive units that have GPS and advanced flight controllers built in. They all have some degree of electronic stabilization built in and are not nearly as difficult to fly as a traditional radio controlled plane or helicopter but at not as easy as a video game either. Hence the ubiquitous " I got a drone and lost it on the first day" Christmas tweets.

Before you buy one, consider what you want to do with it. For just flying around... they get boring very quick. You cant do much in the way of stunts/tricks with them like you may have seen at an airshow. For taking photos - they can be great - but to get good shots requires good equipment (just get a DJI and be done with it). If you want to try the fist person view racing, that's a big investment in both equipment and practice and I cant provide much guidance.

Also - read through this site: http://knowbeforeyoufly.org/
- Learn about the legalities of where you can and cant fly them. Respect peoples privacy. Don't fly it where you could endanger full scale aircraft.
- Understand the the lithium polymer batteries that power most of these aircraft do not have the built in safety circuitry of hte battery in your cellphone - so read up on charging and handling safety. Never charge untattended. People have burned down their homes in charger accidents.
- Understand that if the unit you buy weighs over 8 ounces you have to register with the FAA. People discussed the ATC notification requirement above if you live near an airport.
- The FAA special rule provisions can exempt recreational flying from some of the regulations when operating under the rules of a community organization. But this is often understood to mean that you must be a member of the community organization that developed the rules. The main community organization is the Academy of Model Aeronautics (http://www.modelaircraft.org/) If you join you are covered by their rules and safety code and are also covered by their $2 million liability insurance when you are operating by their rules. I am a life member. Through that organization you can find a local flying club who will typically have organized model flying sites where you can operate without having to worry about public distractions and usually have a pre-established agreement with ATC if there happens to be an airport nearby.


Return to “Personal Consumer Issues”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: andyandyandy, bluebolt, Carl53, jbranx, KSOC, Malinois000, Swimmer and 106 guests