How To Choose Your First Quadcopter

This question gets asked a lot on the forums and Facebook so I thought I'd make a video with some of the answers that I give to new pilots.  Feel free to add your own advice too.

Views: 3816

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on October 16, 2014 at 3:56am

Great video, but if you have no RC experience at all and this is to be your very first copter. Then the choice is even simpler.

I see way to many people jumping in at the deep end and spending serious $$$ in crashes just to learn the basics. Learn to master a $40 toy like the Hubsan X4 instead. The controls are exactly the same as with bigger multicopters, and you can fly and practice indoors whenever you feel like.

Comment by Hugues on October 16, 2014 at 6:44am

Hello John, I partially agree with using such a nano copter to "learn". Indeed it is a potential limited $ damage loss while Learning and crashing. However it is absolutely not the experience you get with "normal size" multicopters. Not to mention learning to master mecganics, electronics, automission programming, taking pictures, flying to film videos, etc, etc.

I would rather suggest to buy a 3DR basic quad kit (yes it is more expensive, e few hundreds $) but at least you really learn the guts out of drones. Anyway that is how I started with no previous RC experience and I loved this learning path !

Comment by Jethro Hazelhurst on October 16, 2014 at 7:19am

Thanks, that was a great video which I will definitely refer new users to in the future!

Comment by F. C. Bearsch on October 16, 2014 at 9:32am

John, I agree, understanding how a multicopter acts with stick input on the Hubsan is very good, and used it to teach my daughter 10 and son 7 to fly before I put them on a larger craft. Their reaction is was similar to mine that the larger more capable UAV was easier to fly, while more confident that they know what is going to happen when they move the sticks....

Comment by AKRCGUY on October 16, 2014 at 10:11am

@John, Those are great training for sure, one thing to mention to those who may not know, most if not all sub $500 quadcopters will not have GPS so they may seem difficult to fly and may deter some from moving up to larger quadcopters which are inherently more stable.

Comment by Superwalloon on October 16, 2014 at 11:19am

I would agree with John and recommend people start with small multicopters (ie up to 200-250 class). It's not only about take off and landing, it's also (and mainly) about inverted commands once the multi flies back at you, about keeping sense of orientation, etc. I would also recommend people to learn to rely on as few electronic as possible - learn to fly without altHold, learn to fly without GPS, and if possible learn to fly without accelerometers (ie only on gyros). Once you get past that, get a bigger machine.

Comment by earthpatrol on October 16, 2014 at 11:24am

Learning to fly the multi-rotor is the key. I would pick a frame that can handle multiple crashes and/or is easily repaired. It's my opinion that anyone flying a "drone" should have the ability to manually fly a craft before enslaving it to the "will" of the GPS gods. It's the difference between being a "pilot" vs. a "passenger."

Comment by Gary McCray on October 16, 2014 at 11:32am

Really excellent video Akrcguy,

On my site I am adamant about people starting with a safe and resilient toy RTF drone like the Hubsan John shows above or the UDI818A so they can at least learn to fly satisfactorily before getting something that is both potentially dangerous and breaks when flown inadequately.

Relying on autonomous capabilities instead of basic flying skills is a recipe for disaster.

None of these copters is sufficiently "advanced" or reliable to even come close to making that a viable option.

Nonetheless, when it comes to selecting a useful second or third copter to actually do something with (video and photo), yours is the best video I have seen - excellent job.

I am going to link it on my quadcopters are fun site with the admonition that you really need to learn how to fly with a "toy" first.

I do think that claimed versus actual flight time on Phantom and Iris might have been "discussed" or validated a bit more.

In both cases I think actual practical flight time has been noticeably exaggerated.

Best Regards,


Comment by Gary McCray on October 16, 2014 at 12:05pm


I completely disagree about sub $500.00 quadcopters being less stable.

A GPS doesn't actually do much for increasing stability and many of the small cheap toy quacopters are easier to actually fly than any of the bigger ones.

To say nothing of the non-existent potential for disaster.

One of the biggest problems we have today is people who know nothing at all about quadcopters going out and buying a Phantom because they are told they are easy to use and then basically doing everything they can to bring the FAA down on all our heads because they know absolutely nothing at all about how to fly responsibly.

They are a danger to themselves and everybody around them and definitely to the community as a whole.

Something that weighs a few ounces is a lot better to learn on than something that weighs a few pounds (and a hell of a lot cheaper in parts you don't have to replace when you crash).

I truly believe promoting full sized quadcopters for first use over small safe "toys" is irresponsible and speaks more to making a profit than in doing what is right for the customer, the public or the community.

And if you want something really small that can fly in any level of acrobatic capability that you might want - get a Blade 200QX.

Best Regards,


Comment by AKRCGUY on October 16, 2014 at 12:16pm


I never said people should buy a larger quadcopter because they were easier to fly in fact just the opposite.  My comment was targeted towards John's above in that I've had many people come to me and say I went to the local hobby shop and bought this little "XYZ" copter, took it outside and it was all over the place and then flew away in the wind.  In those cases, a GPS position capable copter gives them a chance to reorientation themselves and recover the aircraft.

A GPS enabled copter should never take the place of proper training or simulator time and like I said in my video, go out and get some help and DON'T buy a $1200 copter if you have no experience.


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