Did you buy a camera drone recently? Are you thinking about clicking the buy button? Here are the extra gear and accessories you’ll need to keep flying and capturing the absolute best videos and photography.
We are going to start at the beginning and make sure you’re not only ready to capture incredible moments, but also flying as safely as possible.
Drone Gear and Extras
Register Your Camera Drone
First up is the FAA. I know. Groans all around. Yes, you have to register your drone even if you’re just a hobbyist. It’s $5 and takes a minute max. Those interested in using their new camera drone for business will need a Part 107 license. The days of waivers are gone. It’s a $150 test with locations all over the country.
There are tons of study material floating about with a Google search, along with numerous sites offering courses. It’s your call if you want to add the expense of a class or study the manual yourself.
Hobbyists can ignore the Part 107 test and focus on the general guidelines put forth by the FAA. I can’t stress this enough. Follow the regulations. We want responsible flyers. Everybody wins if we follow the rules.
It doesn’t matter which camera drone you purchased. Having a single battery is frustrating. DJI, the market leader in consumer drones, always has a Fly More kit or combo for its product line. Expect two extra batteries, props, and assorted accessories. That brings you to three batteries which is pretty solid.
We can use the Mavic 2 Pro as an example. With a flight time of nearly 30 minutes, the two extra batteries stretch its legs to almost 90 minutes of capturing the best video and photos around you.
Micro SD Cards
The extra flight time from the batteries means you’ll need more than one Micro SD card. No dual card slots on consumer camera drones, so it’s best to pick from established brands like Samsung or SanDisk. A solid 128GB card will run you around $28 and should include an adapter. The adapter allows you to slide the Micro SD card into a standard SD card to view the video and images from the day.
While most come with a bag or a case of some sort, you’ll want an upgrade. Especially if you plan on doing a lot of traveling or hiking. The benefits of a hard case are what you’d expect. You can kick it, toss it around, drop it, and it keeps on smiling back at you. Make sure you opt for a waterproof case that’s designed specifically for your drone. Those have foam cutouts for the body, batteries, controller and extra accessories.
Need a solid option which won’t break the bank? Check out Nanuk. All the benefits of the more expensive hard cases without the cost.
Don’t want to drag around a case on a day hike? I don’t blame you, and that’s where backpacks come into the picture. While not as durable as a case, these can take a beating, endure a monsoon, and come out on top. You might not be dry, but your new camera drone will be.
The best on the market comes from Lowepro. Most packs have room for any accessory you can toss in, the drone, laptop, and a tablet. A nice bonus is the fact the drone pack can be repurposed to hold a DSLR or a mirrorless camera with lenses. Hard to argue against that feature.
Drone ND Filters
I’ll be upfront and say if you’re just getting started and don’t want another expense, you can skip these. Diving into the settings can get you usable footage to show family and friends.
However, if you want to take it to the next level, ND filters are definitely on the list of must-have accessories. What is an ND filter? Think of it as sunglasses for your drone. They allow you to control the shutter speed while keeping the aperture wide open in bright conditions. Without them, you’re in store for overexposed video.
On the photography side, the principle is similar. You can decrease the shutter speed to begin to add motion blur to your subject. The blurred waterfall or waves can be achieved in the middle of a sunny day with the right ND filter.
Camera drones have an ever-increasing list of ND filters to choose from. DJI even offers its own line, but there are better options. The top two are from PolarPro and Tiffen. Each offers sets which include various levels of ND filters and most come with a polarizer. Interested in long exposure photography? PolarPro recently released a set of ND filters designed for aerial photographers.
Drone Controller Display Holder
Camera drones are getting smaller by the release, and it means smaller controllers. Instead of trying to thread the needle to place your phone in, invest in a display holder. It’s inexpensive and can hold anything from your smartphone to a tablet.
What about a dedicated display integrated into the controller? Everyone saw the DJI Smart Controller reveal. While the displays are amazing, the $649 price tag is not. You’re better served investing in batteries, a pack and ND filters. Already have all three? I can attest to just how bright these screens are out in the sun. Still, your newer tablet lying about can get damn close to the brightness advertised.
This is meant for the ultra-portable drones like the new Mavic 2. Having nearly all the tech of the Phantom 4 Pro in the Mavic 2’s footprint is great, but there’s a catch. Landing and take off has the gimbaled camera nearly on the ground. It presents all sorts of potential issues depending on where you fly. Beach flyer? The sand is practically on the lens. Gravel? Same problem.
A fix is quick install landing gear for smaller camera drones. It gives you plenty of ground clearance without impact the flight characteristics. Another option is a cheap landing pad, but after using both, I lean towards the landing gear. Quick and easy to throw in my bag.
These are not necessary, but damn are they fun. Lume Cube is the most recognized brand and has sets for a variety of camera drones. The lights not only spark creativity, but the ability to see the drone at a distance of three nautical miles means you won’t lose sight. Think of the lights as more of an intermediate hobbyist purchase.
Wrapping Drone Gear and Accessories
And that’s it. All the gear listed above will have you flying in no time and producing incredible moments to share with your friends and family. Interested in the editing process? Head over to our list of the best YouTube channels to follow. Did I forget something? My email is below. Feel free to message me, and I’ll get it sorted.