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What are good specifications for an intermediate medium-priced quadcopter? I have flown a smaller quadcopter before and developed a bit of an understanding of how they work and how to control it.

I would almost certainly like a camera and the drone to be First Person View (FPV) but also some more advanced features. I would like the cost to be around $200.

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  • $\begingroup$ Is that $200 for the drone itself, or $200 for the drone with goggles, batteries, transmitter etc? $\endgroup$ – Drones and Whatnot Apr 17 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @DronesandWhatnot $200 for everything combined $\endgroup$ – Xnero Apr 17 at 9:31
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Okay, as someone who has just recently passed through this stage, here's my take on it. Almost all of the considerations below stem from the maxim that the best drone for you is one that you will fly the most. Both progression and enjoyment in this hobby (and many other hobbies as well) are directly linked to how much time you spend doing it. Whenever you're unsure about a decision, besides other considerations ask yourself which option will keep you in the air more.

Now, to the list itself. Your "second" drone must be:

  1. Indestructible. Durability is valuable for all quadcopters intended for acrobatic or racing flying, and you'll likely never stop bashing your drone into stuff no matter how high your skill, but unlike the pro pilots who probably break more drones a month than you will ever own, you don't have spares lying all over the place for when you do. For a long time, this is likely going to be the only "real" drone you'll own, so it better be durable. There are two main ways you can achieve that:
    • The "classic" approach is to have massive unbreakable arms, a titanium cage around the components, etc. That's pretty self-explanatory, though you'll have to pay for it in added weight (which is not that bad if you don't carry a gopro).
    • The other way is for the drone to be so light that it simply doesn't have enough inertia to break anything, including itself or even its own props. This is the idea behind the "toothpick" class of quadcopters, which some consider an excellent choice for beginner-intermediate pilots, in part for this reason.
  2. Basic, but high-quality. What I mean by that is that you don't need the fanciest F-infinity processors, top-end performance motors, the lowest-latency camera, etc. What you do need, however, is for all the components to be high-quality and well-built by a reputable manufacturer. i.e. an F4 FC made by a well-regarded manufacturer is better than an F7 FC by a knockoff noname brand. Not only will this reduce your cost (by picking basic components) and add to reliability (by picking trusted brands), it will also make things simpler for you and less heartbreaking when you do break something.
  3. Easy to maintain. However durable your drone, you will crash it, break something and need to fix or replace it eventually. And when it happens, you'll want your drone to be easy to disassemble and reassemble, have replaceable parts, etc. First, this rules out the non-DIY type of drones, but the DIY ones are also not created equal. Some frames make accessing the guts as easy as unscrewing three bolts, while others need more disassembly. A bigger drone is significantly easier to work on, with less tiny fiddly parts, while a small one (3" and smaller), while frustrating to work on at times, will likely break less. For larger (5 inch +) frames, replaceable arms are a very good feature to have, and a simple replace procedure (i.e. unscrewing one bolt versus disassembling the whole frame) is important as well. Toothpicks are an interesting class in that regard, in that they have a tiny whoop-like architecture, with only 4 parts: the frame, motors, camera, and an all-in-one FC+ESC+VTX board which the motors just plug into with pin connectors. This makes them way easier to maintain than other quads of this size, but also less upgradable, since three of the main components are on one board. Which brings us to...
  4. Upgradable. This is closely related to the previous point, but slightly different. You want to be able to swap any of the major parts of the drone (FC, ESC, motors, camera, VTX, frame, etc.) for a different or better model without also having to swap the others or encountering any compatibility issues. This is mainly a jab at some prebuilt quads that have proprietary components in them which would not work well or at all with other off-the-shelf components.
  5. Fit for your usual flying location. This is actually important for any quad, but as this one is likely to be the only one for some time, here it is especially important. The best quadcopter is one that you fly a lot, and so you want yours to be well-suited for the size, configuration, weather conditions and other considerations at the place where you fly the most, as this will maximize your flying time, frequency of flight sessions and enjoyment of the process, all very important contributing factors to how fast you learn and how much you enjoy the hobby. If you buy "the best-flying" copter but it won't fit in your flying field, you won't fly it much at all. The most important parameter here is likely the size class of your copter, which must fit the size of your location. Loosely, it's something like this:
    • if you mostly fly indoors, you need a tiny whoop (although it's likely you'll later want a separate outdoors quad anyway)
    • for a playground/backyard-sized outdoors location with lots of small obstacles (i.e. literally a children's playground) and gaps a larger (75-85) brushless whoop or ~2 inch quadcopter with detachable propguards will offer the most enjoyment out of flying in such a tight space while still being able to rip in larger locations.
    • For something like an uncrowded street, large backyard or small park a toothpick-class 2.5 to 3 inch quad would be optimal;
    • for larger parks you can go either the toothpick or the 4-5 inch route, depending on how crowded the place is; the former is safer for everyone, less intimidating, and slightly slower, while 4-5 inch quads are noisy, heavy and can do some damage, but are still the undisputed leaders when it comes to flight performance.
    • finally, if you've got huge fields, shorelines or even mountains to fly over, you probably want a 5 or even 6 inch quadcopter that is able to cover the distance well. However don't fly too far without educating yourself on proper long-range operation first, there's a lot of stuff that you need to know (and buy :) in order to not lose your precious quad a couple km away in the first few flights.
  6. Of the quadcopters that fit all the previous points, choose (or build) the one that you like the most subjectively. Maybe it looks cool, maybe you really like the manufacturer, maybe it's elegant. The factor of likability should not be underestimated. Whatever the reason for you to love the quad, the more you do, the more love, time and effort you'll put into it, making it a better quad and you a better pilot!

As a final word, I must reiterate. Whichever quad you pick, in the end the most important thing is that you fly a lot. Buy a good amount of batteries, a nice flight backpack, and make a habit out of going out and flying. You'll love every moment of it and of the rest of your life as well.

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As you’ve said that you would like the total cost for everything (drone, goggles, transmitter, etc) to be $200, you are probably looking to get something in the Tiny Whoop class.

These will generally use 1-2S LiPos, have ducts around their props and use motors in the 08xx range.

In the past year, Whoops have moved to using almost exclusively brushless motors, though some still do use brushed.

I would recommend you get a brushless one if at all possible as they are more powerful and don’t wear out anywhere near as fast.

They can be great fun to fly around indoors and outdoors.

Another option around your price range would be a toothpick.

Simplified, this is the internals of a Tiny Whoop mounted on a carbon frame and often given larger motors.

Within your price range, I recommend you look at the Emax Tinyhawk RTF bundle, which comes ready to fly with everything you need, or the Eachine Novice series (though I’ve seen reports that the transmitter on the Novice I and II are not particularly good, and the goggles also stand to be improved).

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