It’s that time of year again, folks. The weather’s getting colder. Obscure relatives loom on the horizon. A tidal wave of food and good will is headed your way. Oh, and drone enthusiasts are making last-minute additions to their Christmas lists.
A growing enthusiast market and large numbers of pilots going pro have ensured there are plenty of potential presents for both categories out there. We’ve put together a list of the best, whatever your budget. Enjoy…
What do you get a drone pilot who’s already got it all? More accessories, that’s what. Here are some of our favorite accessories on the market today.
DJI’s CrystalSky monitor is the solution to the problem almost every drone pilot has faced at one point or another. Plenty of pilots use a smartphone or tablet as a monitor when flying. Many of these don’t give you an accurate picture of what your footage looks like until it’s too late. It’s often only when you load it up post-flight that you realize certain shots were out of focus or not quite what you wanted.
The CrystalSky is a purpose-built monitor for drone pilots designed to stop that from happening. It comes in three models, features an ultra-bright screen that is clearly visible in sunlight and works seamlessly with DJI GO applications. The CrystalSky monitor’s optimized decoder provides smooth, real-time video with minimal latency.
Depending on which model you go for, the CrystalSky monitor costs $469 to $849. We’d say it’s a must for professional aerial photographers and a nice treat for serious enthusiasts.
The Lowepro DroneGuard Pro 450
Not all backpacks were created equal. Some fit a drone quite nicely, while others are specifically designed to keep your quadcopter safe during transit.
The DroneGuard Pro 450 is a rugged but smart rucksack with extensive soft armor throughout, full protection from the elements, sections designed to fit batteries, drones, tablets and more, along with plenty of zippered access for customizable compartments.
At $274.95 the DroneGuard Pro 450 doesn’t come cheap – it’s up to you to put a price on your peace of mind.
Lume Cube Lights & Mounts
We love anything that gives aerial photographers new and interesting ways to bring scenes to life. One company that offers the potential for creativity in abundance is Lume Cube. Essentially Lume Cube is a lighting company. But they make lights in the same way that GoPro makes cameras: with a focus on portability, durability and performance.
With the company’s bespoke mounts, pilots can hitch a couple of cubes onto their drone and suddenly have a spotlight in the sky. Obviously, this is handy for safety purposes when flying at night. But it’s also a creative tool that can help you illuminate subjects and capture scenes in new ways.
Lume Cube currently has mounts to fit every DJI drone aside from the Spark, as well as options for the GoPro Karma, Yuneec Typhoon H and Autel Robotics X-Star. Full drone Lighting Kits start at $179.99. This is the kind of shot you can expect to capture with the help of a mounted Lume Cube:
Each cube can be paired with a smartphone for easy control, has 10 manual brightness settings that change in increments of 150 lumens and can run for over two hours at 50% brightness.
FPV & AR Goggles
When combined with a drone, FPV and AR goggles have plenty of commercial uses, let alone the fact that they make flying more immersive and about twice the fun.
There are plenty of options for FPV headsets, but your best bet is to go with a manufacturer that prioritizes performance and goggles that have a decent resale value. These include:
DJI currently has two types of FPV goggle available: DJI Goggles and DJI Goggles RE. The original Goggles feature a pair of 1920 x 1080 HD screens, a head tracking feature, and compatibility with several DJI drone’s autonomous flight modes.
The original Goggles are now available on the DJI website for $399. The recently launched Racing Edition Goggles feature the same twin 1080 HD screens but have been upgraded to be compatible with a broader spectrum of drones and RC equipment.
The RE Goggles are compatible with an OcuSync video transmission module and a high-performance camera module, which work together to transmit digital video signal from up to 7 km away with latency as low as 50 ms, in addition to analog signal.
In practice, this means that DJI’s new RE Goggles are compatible way beyond DJI drones. The original Goggles work with the Phantom 4 series, the Inspire series and the Mavic Pro. DJI’s RE Goggles extend that coverage to the Spark, and work with traditional FPV quads, DIY drones and fixed-wing model aircraft.
Arguably the biggest name in the FPV headset game is Fat Shark. Just as DJI continues to set the standard in terms of drones, Fat Shark has done so with FPV solutions. The manufacturer has a range of goggles to suits the needs of pilots of all skill levels. The most popular is the Dominator HD3, which you’ll see donning the heads of most professionals and Youtube sensations.
Although Fat Shark sets the standard, these goggles are by no means cheap. The Dominator HD3 headset costs around $499, not including a 5.8GHz receiver module.
There are less expensive and worthy alternatives on the market, including the Aomway Commander, which is available for around $350.
If any of these options seem a bit steep, why not consider buying a cheaper drone that has been designed for FPV beginners? Some notable companies to check out in that department include Bolt, Aerix and Parrot. All sell small FPV drones that come with everything you need to get a taste of drone racing.
Epson Moverio Smart Glasses
Moving into the realm of augmented reality, Epson’s Moverio smart glasses could make for a great gift for commercial drone pilots this Christmas.
The aim of Moverio is to redefine first-person view (FPV). These glasses do that by using a transparent display that shows both your drone’s video feed and key flight statistics. Its transparency means you can keep your aircraft in sight at all times. The result is an informative display with real-time data and footage – without blocking your view.
At the moment you can buy a pair of Epson Moverio glasses for $699. Not cheap by any means, but a great tool for any professional pilot.
Here are a few little things that could go down well with your favorite drone pilot this Christmas.
Earlier this year DJI launched the Mavic Pro Platinum, along with some new props that promise a degree of noise reduction. These new props are also compatible with the standard Mavic Pro. They cost $20 for two pairs and will go down well with any Mavic Pro owner.
Flying in the cold can be tough on your hands. One company, FRDM Gear, has come up with a solution. For $49, these next-generation convertible gloves can keep your hands warm while your fingers do the work.
A Launch Pad
Plenty of the latest drones have a precision return to home function which relies on taking off from a recognizable surface. Something a simple as a drone landing pad is a cheap and cheerful way to give a drone a safe take-off and landing spot, while giving the computer vision system something to remember.
Expanding Creativity with ND Filters
Long exposure shots look great at night, but during the day setting the smallest aperture and ISO possible before increasing your shutter speed will lead to overexposure. That’s where ND filters come in. A Neutral-Density Filter effectively reduces the amount of light that enters the camera lens.
That means that even under full sunlight, you can stop overexposure in its tracks through having more flexibility with your aperture and shutter speed.
DJI offers a range of ND filters for the Mavic Pro, the Phantom 4 Pro/Adv, the Spark and Zenmuse cameras.
Prop guards often don’t come as standard. Which is a shame because they are ideal for new pilots and anyone thinking about flying indoors. In the early days, it’s easy to get excited and think that A.) Your new drone is invincible and B.) Flying in tight spaces is a fantastic idea.
Both of those notions can be quickly disproved with a browse through Youtube. A great gift idea this Christmas is a set of prop guards. Most manufacturers sell them through their official websites, and they are usually pretty inexpensive. When you think about how much money that can save you in repairs, it’s a no-brainer.
Don’t Forget Spares
In many ways, spares are the socks of Christmas drone gifting. Practical but appreciated. Underrated and easy to overlook. Want to make the drone pilot in your life happy come December 25th? Get them some spares. Spare batteries, spare props, spare chargers, spare cables. A spare high-vis jacket with DRONE PILOT written on it. It’s all good.