TIME Drones

How to Pick the Right Drone for You

We put three of the most popular drones to the test

Drones are among this year’s hottest holiday gifts. But there’s a big difference between the less expensive models — which are basically toys — and the more powerful and pricey units. So how do you pick the right model for your needs?

To get some insight into the drone-buying process, TIME tagged along with photographer Ben Lowy on a trip to Brooklyn Drones, a New York City shop that specializes in selling the tiny, camera-packing aircrafts. Brookyn Drones owner Roger Kapsalis, a former stock broker, helped Lowy understand the difference between some of the best drones on the market today. Then, Lowy and Kapsalis ventured to a drone-friendly park to take a few different models for a spin.

Kenneth Bachor for TIME
Kenneth Bachor for TIME

With Kapsalis’ advice, the pair stuck to a trio of models the Mavic Pro, Phantom 4, and Inspire 1 v2.o by DJI, a Chinese firm that makes some high-quality drones aimed at photographers and videographers. Additional brands to consider include Parrot, Blade and 3DR, among others.

Kenneth Bachor for TIME
Kenneth Bachor for TIME

There are a number of rules that drone operators need to follow, though. The key ones:

1. Avoid flying near stadiums or within five miles of airports

2. Keep the drone under 400 feet

3. Maintain a visual line of sight with your drone

4. Don’t fly at night or over other people

The Federal Aviation Administration site offers more information and what’s allowed and what’s not.

Ben Lowy is an award winning photojournalist and director based in New Jersey.

Josh Raab is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME, overseeing technology and business. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Kenneth Bachor is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME, overseeing entertainment and culture. Follow him on Instagram.

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