Flying a drone is one of the most exciting hobbies out there. With the rapidly lowering prices on unmanned aerial vehicles, more people than ever are beginning to see the fun in these devices. However, getting into drone piloting or even maintaining this hobby can be difficult. There are a multitude of factors you need to consider, from the weather to where you’re allowed to fly, and keeping it all straight on your own can be difficult.
This is why many experienced pilots opt to rely on apps in order to help them enjoy their hobby. To that end, let’s take a look at the top four drone apps everyone should know about.
1. UAV Forecast
Every drone pilot has at least one story about how the weather ruined an otherwise perfect day for flying. UAV hobbyists are at the mercy of the elements perhaps more than any other pastime, and ensuring you’re up-to-date on the latest information is absolutely vital. While this is easy enough when you’ve got access to a computer at home, getting accurate weather data on your phone can be difficult.
This was the reasoning behind the creation of UAV Forecast. This app – which is available in the iTunes app store and the Google Play store – has quite literally everything you need in order to determine the flight conditions of a particular area on any given day. Everything from the level of fog, rain, wind speed and a plethora of other information points are included here. On top of that, you can even set up a system to receive email summaries containing the weather data of your most used spots so you can have everything you need before you even leave the house.
That said, this app is certainly built for utility rather than appearance. It looks pretty clunky and dated, but once you get into it, you’ll find it’s the best service out there.
Outside of weather, the other major issue that keeps drones on the ground is confusion over regulations concerning where commercial UAV pilots can fly. Although the FAA has already issued some sweeping declarations on the matter, certain locations have local laws that govern what pilots can do. For instance, quite a lot of people don’t know that they aren’t allowed to fly their drones in national parks.
Such confusion is leading many to avoid the hobby altogether, which is why apps like Hover are so important. This service – which is also available for both Apple and Android users – gives you detailed information about where you’re allowed to fly in any region. What’s really great here is that the app even has the capability to remind you about temporary flight restrictions. This ensures that you can participate in the hobby without having to worry about suffering legal consequences.
Aside from that, Hover has some other interesting features. The app has a weather tracker to follow flight conditions – although it isn’t as comprehensive as UAV Forecast – and it also has a flight log that allows you to enter data from any outing.
“Part of the fun for drone pilots is being able to plan out a specific flight.”
Part of the fun for drone pilots is being able to plan out a specific flight. Battery drainage demands an efficient use of time, and making sure you take time to figure out your outing ensures you can see the most interesting aspects of the local scenery without having to crash your device.
While you could technically get away with using Google Maps for this, Tower is a much better alternative. Although this app only technically works with ArduPilot powered drones, it’s got some incredibly powerful and useful features. To begin, you’re able to plan out your flight by setting waypoints along your path. There are also multiple different kinds of waypoints, so you can keep track of all the amazing sights that you come upon.
However, one of the coolest features here is that you can direct your drone to automatically circle any waypoint that you choose. The app will even ensure that your camera is pointed at whatever you’re flying around. This, combined with the smooth autolanding, shows some of the amazing things automated flight can do for the hobby.
Of course, Tower has a laundry list of other aspects that drone pilots will love. The app also lets you make 3D scans of anything you might come across that’s big enough. What’s more, Tower flaunts the ability to take what the app’s creators call a “Dronie.” This is a picture the device takes of you every time it takes off or lands, which can help you share your hobby with those around you.
Despite your best intentions, mistakes do happen. One of the biggest issues facing drone piloting is the fact that it’s so new. While you may have insurance that covers your home or car, certain policies are lacking when it comes to personally owned UAVs. If your insurance carrier doesn’t cover your hobby, or if you simply don’t have a policy right now, it might be a good idea to look into Verifly.
This company sells what it calls “on-demand drone insurance.” Basically, recreational pilots can log in and opt to pay for insurance for their flight. How much you pay depends on multiple factors, but the organization’s site says that you can get up to $1 million of coverage for as low as $10 per hour.
As you may have guessed, there are a few catches here. The drone you’re flying must weigh less than 15 pounds, and the coverage only works in a quarter-mile radius around your current location. However, if you meet the requirements, you should seriously consider this service.
That said, there’s no better insurance policy than experience. Becoming a better pilot is the best way to avoid crashing, which is why you might want to look into receiving lessons from someone who knows more than you. 500 Below’s training program allows amateur pilots to train other hobbyists if they have enough knowledge in the field. You can even get the money back from your lessons by training others.