Once the sole provenance of IMAX films and National Geographic documentaries, aerial drone footage is everywhere now—casually dropped into YouTube vlogs, wedding videography, social media feeds. You can even see Cuba by drone. Consumer drones are still a fairly new phenomenon—DJI’s first in the Phantom series was only released in January 2013—though the technology has grown rapidly in just a few years.
“The Phantom 4 is so advanced, my mother could fly it,” says Roger Kapsalis, founder, and CEO of Brooklyn Drones NYC, of the latest release in one of the internet’s most popular drone franchises. “It’s almost effortless.” As drones become more user-friendly, consumer sales have surged. The Wall Street Journal estimates the domestic drone market will ring in at just under $1 billion this year.
For anyone looking to capture unforgettable images—moving or still—of once-in-a-lifetime trips and destinations, it’s worth considering bringing a drone along on your next trip. “You’ll be able to get this pure, high-definition view of your surroundings and catch some great footage – you’re not going to get the normal shots,” Kapsalis says. “Lift the drone up 100 feet and you’ll be able to see everything around you—you’ll be able to take video of family trips from a whole new perspective.”
With entry-level drones priced below $500, taking your vacation videos to the next level can be well within reach. Neistat—and many of the most popular YouTubers who regularly shoot drone footage—fly the Phantom 4, which carries an MSRP of $1,400.
“It’s all relative,” Kapsalis explains. “If you spend $499 on a drone, it just might not be as stable as one that’s $999 that’s easier to fly. For $799 or $999, a drone will have sonar and optics underneath that will help keep it stable. The more money you pay, the more you’re going to get in terms of stability in low altitude and remote areas, Sense and Avoid technology so they don’t hit anything, positioning systems.”
Transporting a drone is also fairly straightforward—manufacturers’ sling and rolling cases are available in backpack, wheeled, or handheld, hardback and soft formats, and most are designed with airlines’ overhead compartment size constraints in mind. Kapsalis also recommends bringing two spare batteries in your drone backpack (sealed Ziploc bags will also do, according to TSA recommendations).
Before taking your drone abroad, make sure to read up on the latest (ever-evolving) local laws regarding possession and usage—enthusiast and manufacturer forums are great sources for up-to-the-minute info and anecdotes from other travelers. Because drone technology is so new and law enforcement around the world have growing concerns with issues of surveillance and aviation safety, the rules continue to change. Taking necessary precautions—which might mean leaving your drone at home or simply applying for permission ahead of time—will save you the stress of handing over your equipment at customs, like YouTube’s Prank vs. Prank duo had to in Peru earlier this year.