This is fundamental, as the answer feeds into so many other factors about which you need to think. Some of the key things affected by this include:


What drone to get

Where you can fly it

What sort of computer is needed to work with the footage

What software is needed

How much it all costs!


For most of us (hobbyists, at least), the answer to this question is ‘for fun’! That’s why I have a drone and the stats show that those with permission to use a drone commercially (PfCO in UK, Part 107 in USA etc) are most definitely in the minority as of now (January 2019).


The most obvious result of that is that you are highly likely NOT to be making money from your drone, which is also likely to mean that you will be paying attention to how much all the other bits cost. Yet, if you get certain drones, they will require more expensive ancillary equipment than others and the results will not necessarily seem much different (I’ll get to explaining all that as we go on).


The all-important reason for why you want a drone should be decided first, as that will then inform the rest. If you want a flying camera, your eventual needs will be different to if you just want something to fly for the sake of flying. For the sake of this site, I’m obviously going to assume that your interest is on the flying camera side (what with this being a video-focussed endeavour)!


At this point, I need to explain why this really is something to think about. 


As I have mentioned, types of drones are different. Most importantly, what type of video they shoot is different and requires different tools to work it. The basic rule of thumb is that the newer the model of drone, the more likely it is that you will need particular hardware and software in your computer setup to use the best video settings.


EG – the highest quality video from a DJI Mavic 2 Pro will require more computer power than the highest quality video from a Parrot Anafi, due to the different types of video they use.


This is because of the technologies behind the actual video and not much to do with the resolutions (4K, HD etc) or framerates (25p, 30p, 60p etc). Yes, those factors play a part, but the structure of the actual video files is what really matters.


What is critical here is whether you will find a use for the absolute highest grade video or whether you might be happy with just really good video? Happily, apart from the really cheap ‘toy’ drones, the most popular drones today all shoot really good video for viewing online (which, it’s safe to assume, is where most of it is headed). The DJI Spark is better than any phone with regards to image quality, as are any of the DJI line and their immediate competitors too. We are spoilt and can use it to our advantage.


If you look on YouTube and compare videos shot on any of these drones, side by side, at the standard size you will, in most cases, find it hard to distinguish which was shot on what. The end results, presented on YouTube, are all really, really good. What may stand out is how well or otherwise the operator flies and moves their camera, but the actual video quality is likely to match. You will no doubt be able to spot better editors’ skills too, but the best editors and camera operators won’t be distinguishable from their footage.


Of course, if you saw the raw footage straight off the SD card it would be a different story, but when is that going to happen?


Crucially, how your video is going to be finally presented is essential to your choice of drone. This is due to how video is processed after it is edited. How the final video is output from the editing software is tailored for the final platform (eg YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, DVD, Blu-Ray etc). Each platform for final delivery uses different settings and all of them, in some way, degrade the quality of your footage, making them look similar.


EG a video shot in full HD (1080p), which is going to Youtube as an HD video, will require a certain amount of compression to meet the YouTube requirements. A similar video, shot in 4K will require more compression to meet the HD resolution, so the extra perceived quality of the original will be reduced on Youtube. Even a 4K upload needs to be further compressed to work on YouTube, so that can make it worse. The end result is that little is gained by using a 4K file in the first place, especially as only those with 4K screens can watch it as 4K anyway! As an aside, most YouTube videos are watched at their default YouTube size, rather than made full screen, or even enlarged at all. Also, tablets and mobile phone screens, being so small, make the footage look even better, as they simply don’t display all the details large enough for the human eye to notice.


What all this means is that you don’t HAVE to have the latest, most expensive drone to get videos that look amazing on most platforms. As a bonus, you will undoubtedly find it easier to work with footage off a Spark, say, than a Mavic 2 Pro. You can easily edit Spark footage on an iPhone, which you can only really do with the lower quality settings on the Mavic.


If you are shooting video of a family wedding, or similar event and you are going to put it on a DVD, don’t forget that a DVD has a maximum resolution about half that of HD even, so your footage will look stunning from a Spark or a Mavic.

As with any recreational tech, remember that it’s there to make your life easier/more fun etc, so don’t let it stress you by seeming too complex or reliant on other bits of kit to work. By considering the points mentioned, you should then be able to use the settings that suit your needs and your editing system (whether iPad, phone or fully rigged PC/Mac). Or if your only just setting out on a new purchase, use these points to help inform your decision.


So, to break it down, here are some key questions that you may find helpful to ask yourself before using or buying a drone:


  • ·     How and where will my video be viewed?


  • ·     Do I need to have maximum quality settings, or will standard HD look just as good in the final output?


  • ·     Do I know how to edit video?


  • ·     How can I find out how to edit video and get all the right equipment? (I may be able to help on that one!)


  •  What equipment do I have to edit on?


  • ·     What software do I need?


  • ·     How much is my budget????


Of course, there are loads of other questions that might help, so do research your drone! Visit my Facebook page to ask more questions.