Every drone enthusiast and professional understands the importance of a seamless flight experience. Accessories for drones can make that experience even better in a number of ways including:
- Better Performance: Accessories like extra batteries or stabilizers can enhance the performance of your drones.
- Longer Life: Accessories like landing gear extensions and prop guards improve the safety and life of your drones.
- Customization: Accessories like range extenders or flight software can help you modify your drone to perform a specific function.
- Easier Maintenance: Accessories like a drone repair kit can make maintaining a drone less of a hassle.
But just like there are many types of drones, there is also a wide variety of drone accessories, which can make it hard to figure out which accessories suit you best. This guide covers some of the most essential drone accessories you can buy for different purposes, including the ones covered above.
Camera and Power Accessories
1. Gimbal Stabilizers
A gimbal stabilizer is one of the most useful accessories for drones, especially if you’re a professional aerial filmmaker, surveyor, or mapper. A gimbal is a mechanical pivot that supports the camera and helps it rotate on a single axis.
Gimbals can be connected instantly to the camera and the drone. They help you bring more precision to your videography by improving stability and reducing vibration that occurs with drone flight. Gimbal stabilizers are most commonly used for commercial or industrial applications.
2. ND Filters
ND (Neutral Density) filters are an essential accessory when it comes to making videos with your drone. These filters help users record highly cinematic videos by reducing the light entering the camera.
It is a type of dark filter that attaches to the front of your drone’s camera lens. By controlling the amount of light entering the camera, it allows you to shoot high-quality videos in harsh lighting conditions. Since it only filters light, there is no effect on the color, sharpness, or contrast in the video.
There are different grades of ND filters available in the market. However, ND16, ND32, and ND64 filters are a good starting point and suitable for most situations.
3. Extra Batteries and Chargers
Ideally, you should always carry a set of charged batteries to have an uninterrupted drone flying experience. Drones have a limited battery backup, and relying on just one battery isn’t enough for most enthusiasts.
It is also a smart idea to invest in a high-quality DC-AC car power inverter. These devices convert your car’s DC supply into AC and let you charge your drone batteries. You can also use them to charge your phones and laptops.
Even though you’ll find drone battery car chargers in the market, purchasing a DC-AC car inverter is can be a better decision because it also allows you to charge other devices.
Storage and Transport Accessories
1. Hard Shell Case vs. Soft Backpack
It’s a topic of debate about choosing a hard shell carrying case or a backpack as your drone bag. Since drones today are small and easy to carry, some people feel they don’t need either. However, having a hard shell case or a backpack can be quite useful if you’re traveling, hiking, or carrying many accessories.
If you want to give maximum protection to your drone and some other accessories, you can’t go wrong with a hard shell case. They are purpose-built cases that can take a lot of damage without harming anything inside.
On the other hand, backpacks are hands-free and easy to carry. They’re more useful for people who have a lot of accessories they need to carry comfortably in one place.
Either of these options can bring you the following benefits:
- Damage Prevention
- Scratch Prevention
- Ability to Carry Multiple Accessories
1. Remote Controllers
Even though you can control the majority of drones with your phone, there’s a downside to that. Phones have limited battery backup and using it to control a drone can cause it to drain quickly. Moreover, when flying a drone in bright sunlight, you experience glare from the sun that makes the phone screen hard to see (more screen brightness also consumes more battery juice).
Purpose-built smart drone remote controllers allow you to fly drones in bright light conditions and easily beat the screen brightness ratings of most phones. Unlike phones, they also have a robust build and can handle harsh conditions. Some products also contain ports like HDMI to connect directly to a monitor.
2. Range Extenders
As the name suggests, the job of range extenders is to boost the signal range of your drone. These devices can connect to many different drone brands and usually don’t require any special tools for installation. These antenna range boosters are excellent for having a seamless drone flying experience, specially if you are flying one in large open spaces.
3. Video Downlink Equipment
Video downlink or video transmission equipment allows you to transmit live video footage from a drone’s camera to a screen on the ground. It comprises a ground station and an air unit that attaches to the drone. Video downlink equipment includes features like extensive range, low latency, and HD video streaming. With a video downlink, you also have better control over your drone as it keeps transmitting the video even if it flies out of sight.
Navigation and Flight Accessories
1. GPS Modules
There’s always a risk of your drone flying out of range, at which point the in-built GPS tracker won’t be of much use. The solution to this problem is an external GPS module accessory.
These devices attach to the drone and continually report its location with the help of cellular networks. Even if the drone goes out of your remote control range, you’ll know where it is, and you can retrieve it easily. These devices can range between $20-$200+ depending on the features, brand, quality, and functionality they offer.
2. Obstacle Avoidance Systems
This is more of a feature than an accessory, but it is becoming increasingly important and common. As the name suggests, these systems help your drone avoid collisions with obstacles, ultimately increasing its life. This feature works with the help of specialized collision avoidance technology that uses different types of sensors depending on the make and brand. Modern drones have these sensors installed at the front, back, side, and below to prevent obstacle collisions from all sides.
These sensors can work with various technologies, such as:
- Stereo vision
- Monocular vision
It is an essential feature if you’re flying a drone indoors or want to eliminate the chances of it colliding with obstacles.
3. Flight Planning Software
Flight planning software with differing features and functionalities are available as digital drone accessories. For example, some apps allow you to experience autonomous flight modes. The drone flies on a predetermined path without any human input. These apps also let you control things like camera movement, photo/video features, and VR support.
Other apps help you request LAANC(Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability) from the FAA(Federal Aviation Administration). This gives you access to controlled airspaces under 400 feet in the US. Some of these flight apps assist you regarding weather conditions. Apart from weather forecasts, these apps let you know solar activity and other important weather metrics.
1. Landing Gear Extensions
This accessory is optional, but can make flying safer and more pleasurable. Modern drones are relatively smaller and sit close to the ground when they land. This means they come in contact with dirt, moisture, snow, debris, grass and other elements. Getting a landing gear extension will keep a distance between your drone and the ground when it lands. One thing to note is that landing gear extensions add weight to your drone, which can slightly impact flight performance and battery life.
2. Propeller Guards
Propeller guards for drones are a useful accessory for people who are learning to fly or interested in indoor flying. It is a protective piece of equipment that goes around the propeller. When your drone bumps into something, the guard comes into contact instead of the propeller. This protects your propeller from getting damaged when rotating at high speed.
Like landing gear extensions, drone prop guards can also add weight and impact flight performance. More weight will also mean more consumption of battery juice.
1. Camera Cleaning Kits
Drone lenses are sensitive and quite prone to dirt and marks. Moreover, if you’re into recording a cinematic experience and do a lot of swooping and turning movements, you’re likely to get the lenses dirty more often. For such occasions, it is vital to have a camera cleaning kit with specialized cleaning wipes and microfibre cloths.
Avoid using everyday fabric like the corner of your t-shirt as it can leave permanent minor scratches on your lens. Camera cleaning kits are affordable and an essential addition to your drone accessories.
2. Maintenance Tools/Propeller Repair Kits
A drone repair tool kit is essential for the routine maintenance of your expensive gadget. It should ideally contain all the basic tools and parts to help you disassemble, fix, and reassemble your drones. It should also include tools to help you diagnose problems.
Here are some of the things you can include in your toolkit depending on your own requirements:
- Wire strippers
- Torx drivers
- Soldering iron
- Velcro strips with adhesive
- Zip ties
- Shrink wrap
- Electrical tape
- Utility knife
- Various connectors
- Lithium polymer battery tester
- Hot air gun
- USB – Micro USB Cable 10′
3. Spare Parts
Your drone will go through regular wear and tear. To be on the safe side and have an undisturbed flying experience, it is wise to carry a set of essential drone spare parts with you. Here are some essential spare parts for drones you might want invest in.
- Spare propellers
- Spare motors
- Spare batteries
- Landing gear
- Power cables
- Control cables
- Spare frames
- Spare camera
The list can have many parts depending on your preferences and requirements. However, the items listed above are the essentials everyone can benefit from.
Some fundamental problems that accessories resolve are drone protection, easier maintenance, customizability, improved navigation, and longer life. For example, investing in a gimbal stabilizer is essential if you’re a professional surveyor. But if you’re using a drone for photography, you can’t go wrong with an ND filter. If you’re a hobbyist, it might take some experimentation to figure out the right accessories for you. It all comes down to choosing the right accessories depending on your requirements and what you wish to achieve.