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Old 04-17-2022, 02:25 PM   #1
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Drone Recommendations

Hi there,

We're going to move aboard this summer and cruise the East coast. We're looking for recommendations for a starter drone. We're not looking to spends thousands, but under a thousand.

Thoughts?

Thanks,

JimL
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Old 04-17-2022, 03:31 PM   #2
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... We're looking for recommendations for a starter drone....
I recently bought my first drone. I first had to decide if I wanted to have one that I would not have to register (only $5 to register with FAA) or one that didn't require FAA registration and and a TRUST cetificate (TRUST is just a short quiz and no charge).

I chose between a DJI Mavic Mini 2 (no registration or certificate required since it is under 1/2 pound) and the DJI Mavic Air 2 which I decided on. I registered my Mavic Air 2 and took the TRUST quiz.

The difference that mattered to me was the camera. The camera on the Mavic Air 2 had better stats...in retrospect I probably would have been happy with the Mini as well. The Air 2 also seemed to have more auto flight controls to help me not run into objects and to help it follow things like my boat.

I am very happy with the Mavic Air 2 though there are a lot of other brands and models that are probably just as good.

Rick

**I am in my 70's and will never be an 'enthusiast', I just want to take pictures
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Old 04-17-2022, 04:25 PM   #3
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What navigation equipment do you have? The Raymarine Axiom MFDs can be setup to run a drone.
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Old 04-17-2022, 07:30 PM   #4
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I have Mavic Pro which back in the day was $1500, but now the equivalent is under a grand. If you do get one, highly recommend the $70/year insurance policy from State Farm, they fully replaced mine once already.
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Old 04-18-2022, 05:13 AM   #5
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Mavic Air 2 for me. Love it. Every boat should come with a drone, They are amazingly useful.
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Old 04-18-2022, 06:55 AM   #6
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Four years ago, I started with the DJI Spark It was a good compromise between the studio quality $2500 craft, and something I wouldn't commit suicide over if I dropped it in the water (have done that once already - drone #1 is at the bottom of the Neuse River now........). It does/did quite a good job for what it cost. Alas, the Spark is no longer being made, but you can still find some for sale at some retail outlets and ebay. The main drawback to the Spark is that the flying time is realistically (on a boat) only about 8 minutes or so. The tradeoff is weight and extreme portability.

The primary driver for the model I chose is a feature called “active track” or "follow me". It allows the drone to track the boat in one of several modes without you having to “fly along”.

There are other intelligent video modes and automated cinematic clips that are just fantastic. There is already enough to worry about with the current battery level, GPS signal strength, return to home location on a moving bat, remote control data link strength, sunlight on the phone screen, and 50 other things -------- that these automatic modes are a real treat. It really taxes my pea brain just to keep track of everything while flying - even more so when moving the boat.

There are two modes of active tracking using image recognition that I use the most. You can find a lot of reviews, explanations, and tutorials on this, and the Spark in general on Youtube. Watch as many of these as you can.

I have since upgraded to the DJI Mavic Air 2. This model has a whopping 25 minute flying time – for not much increase in size or weight. This is the lowest price point that is still in production that includes the active track features. If those are not important to you, then the DJI Mavic Mini (no active track) is the current best-bang-for-the-buck model. The follow-me mode is just insane - you can draw a box around your boat and just track, or you can fly all over the place and the camera will move automatically and stay locked on to your boat.

DJI is hands down the most stable, best and shortest learning curve software to get started on because of the HUGE user base and a plethora of forums, youtube instructional videos, and FAQs on the internet. For same-feature comparison, I would guess the DJI models are a 20% premium. I wouldn't buy any other brand, regardless of price level – there are just too many things that can go wrong.

What will take all of your time is video editing (if you care a bit about the final product). This part of the process is a HUGE time-suck. I have used several different video editors - all free. The current one I am using is OpenShot running on Windows. Seems to do most everything I need it to with little effort. Nothing's perfect - you have to trade off a decade-long learning curve vs. what will be "good enough".

Watch lots of YouTube videos and tutorials on the drone models and features you are considering – they are very helpful.

Below are some of our videos with both the Spark and the Mavic Air 2.

------
https://youtu.be/wYPPd2SMcAc - Tennessee River and Tombigbee Waterways
- Les Cheneaux Islands
- Mackinac Island
- Erie Canal Culvert Overpass
- Erie Canal Lock 12
- Chesapeake Bay
- Dismal Swamp
- Angelfish Creek
- Everglades
- Boca Chita Key
- Pine Island Anchorage
- St. John's River
- Coosaw River
- Waccamaw River
- Bird Island Anchorage
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Old 04-18-2022, 06:58 PM   #7
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If you're new to droning and not sure you will stick with it, get a used Phantom 3 or 4. Plenty of them available pretty cheap. The Phantoms are also better in a wind and easier to launch and recover from a boat (they have nice handles on the bottom to grab) than some of the smaller ones.

You need to register with the FAA to fly them though because they are bigger (pretty much anything bigger then a DJI Mini has to be registered).

As pointed out, in addition to learning the operation of the drone, you'll need to learn how to use it to good effect as a filming device and how to edit videos. The effort to learn editing is probably greater than learning to use the drone.

It is easier to figure out what you want to do in your video and then take the appropriate shots, rather than taking a bunch of random video clips and trying to make a coherent video out of them.
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Old 04-19-2022, 01:52 AM   #8
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If you do get one, do remember to be respectful of your neighbors.
Myself and many other people do not appreciate having their privacy violated.
I keep a 10 gauge shotgun onboard specifically for such instances.
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Old 04-19-2022, 11:47 AM   #9
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If you do get one, do remember to be respectful of your neighbors.
Myself and many other people do not appreciate having their privacy violated.
I keep a 10 gauge shotgun onboard specifically for such instances.
And shooting at a drone is a federal offense. Interfering with the operation of an aircraft. There is likely to be video of you doing it (even if you hit the drone).
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Old 04-19-2022, 12:07 PM   #10
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Ha Ha!
Bring it on!
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Old 04-19-2022, 12:14 PM   #11
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Plus illegal discharge of a firearm.
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Old 04-19-2022, 12:21 PM   #12
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If you do get one, do remember to be respectful of your neighbors.
Myself and many other people do not appreciate having their privacy violated.
I keep a 10 gauge shotgun onboard specifically for such instances.
A fishing rod (and a good cast) is as effective and easier to explain!
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Old 04-19-2022, 01:07 PM   #13
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Guns; the solution for every tough man including all of the drones trying to catch a glimpse of them in their underwear through the window. Funny.
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Old 04-19-2022, 01:45 PM   #14
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For those all freaked out about their privacy being violated, it's hardly ever about you. Keep in mind that 99.9% of drones flying in and around an anchorage are getting images of the owner's boat, and/or the location itself. No one is trying to spy on you...
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Old 04-19-2022, 04:54 PM   #15
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Two questions:


1) Do I need a drone that's waterproof or otherwise can tolerate hitting the water?


2) Do I need a drone with a "return home" feature which works on a moving boat?
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Old 04-19-2022, 05:21 PM   #16
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A fishing rod (and a good cast) is as effective and easier to explain!
You always have a wonderful common sense about things.

Thang Kew
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Old 04-20-2022, 09:57 AM   #17
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Two questions:


1) Do I need a drone that's waterproof or otherwise can tolerate hitting the water?


Not sure that anyone makes such a drone that is in the reach $$ of the majority of us. Do you know of one?


2) Do I need a drone with a "return home" feature which works on a moving boat?

Definitely a plus, but make sure that you are getting one that has a "moving" home, as a drone that returns only to the "home" where it was launched is of little use on a boat, even at anchor, as the boat may swing . . .
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Old 04-20-2022, 10:13 AM   #18
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Ha Ha!
Bring it on!
So many instances of people being arrested for shooting down drones without a defense. The laws should be updated on privacy but again that’s not a defense so let us know how it goes. Maybe you can do a go fund me…but I imagine it’s all just forum posturing.
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Old 04-20-2022, 12:42 PM   #19
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I'd love to get some drone shots of the boat underway - BUT - can't justify getting a drone just for that. Toss in the potential 'splash' factor, and well, it's money down the drain. (Anyone put floaties/pontoons on their drone to keep it afloat in a crash?). I have a small 'toy' drone that I've flown around the exterior of the house/pool birdcage and gotten great shots, but it can only handle tiny/no wind days (tough to find here in central Florida). So, I've simply decided on hiring a local company that does commercial/weddings type shots for an hour or so of 'underway' passes.
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Old 04-20-2022, 03:19 PM   #20
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Two questions:


1) Do I need a drone that's waterproof or otherwise can tolerate hitting the water?


2) Do I need a drone with a "return home" feature which works on a moving boat?
1. Waterproof drones are typically more expensive versions of stock models. Even though my first drone is sitting 230' below the surface, I still feel confident enough to use stock drones over the water. And my drone spends 90% of flying time over the water. But then I'm very cautious and have learned not to fly (or more specifically not to take off/land on the upper deck) in gusty conditions.

2. As already mentioned, make sure the return home feature is a return to the remote control unit. Older models with the early generation get home feature returned to the location (using GPS) where the drone was originally launched. Obviously with a moving boat that renders the feature somewhat useless, even if at anchor and swinging slightly. However, you can still use the feature if you lose sight of the drone and you're within visual range of where the drone was launched. Simply select return home and when you gain a visual on the unit, drop out of return home and resume manual control and fly to your new/current location.
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