How do I evaluate which drone to buy?

There are several important factors to consider.

First, ease of use. If you have to fly a specially trained operator in to use it, it’s probably too complicated to use during an emergency. Likewise, if it takes 30 minutes to setup, that’s another consideration, and may determine how often and at what types of scenes you will use the UAV. Many commercially available UAVs can easily be flown with an hour or two of training, and can be deployed in under a minute.

Another consideration is ease of repair, and availability of replacement parts. If your aircraft will be out of service for 2-3 months following an accident, or regularly scheduled maintenance, that’s probably not helpful for your service. Similarly, if specialized parts have to be shipped from around the globe, that too can cause lengthy downtime.

Finally, it’s worth considering what types of conditions you’re hoping to fly in. Most commercially available UAVs today are not weatherproof, so flying in anything heavier than a sprinkle is not advised. Similarly, drones don’t like to fly in incredibly high or low temperatures, so figuring out ways to warm or cool equipment may be important.

Flight time and payload capacity are also concerns worth paying attention to. Most commercially available drones have a flight time of about 20 minutes. Having enough batteries to continuously fly a mission is important, so energy planning is key! Can you recharge in the field? Do you have generators on hand? These are the types of questions that can be useful. Regarding payload, most drones have electro-optical, or daylight camera sensors. Many UAVs also have the capability to fly FLIR or thermal cameras, and some have the capability to fly LiDAR, gas sensors, and other things that may be useful.

Talking with a consulting company like Skyfire can help you determine which payload is right for your applications.