We often get asked where is a good place to start with multicopter UAVs, or often need to recommend a starting point to people wanting to make entry with a large and expensive system.
The best advice is to start simple and small. Larger systems become expensive quickly and have a larger mass which means more damage on impact to itself and surroundings. Smaller micro aircraft have such a small mass that they can take hard impacts with little to no damage in many cases and keep on going.
These smaller cheaper systems also allow you to find out if this style of flying is for you and get a feel for the skill-set that will be needed without having to make a major investment out of the gate.
There are a wide variety of mini/micro multicopters with different features and price points. Chinese site are filled with an endless selection of makes and models many of which are decent but many of which are poor at best or hard to get replacement parts and support for.
What we typically tend to recommend is the Nano QX RTF.
The Nano QX can be purchased as a Ready To Fly (RTF) bundle that includes a basic gamepad style controller, battery, charger, and spare parts. This is great all in one box solution for those totally new to the hobby/industry and have no existing RC gear. For those that may have a Spektrum based radio there is also a Bind and Fly (BNF) version.
From the product page:
The tiny Nano QX is RC flying fun you can take with you everywhere. The Nano QX weighs little more than half an ounce and is small enough to fly in spaces no bigger than an office cubicle. Never flown a quad-copter before? No problem. The Nano QX uses the SAFE™ technology system with sophisticated flight control software to keep itself stable in a hover while in stability mode. If you get in trouble, just let go of the sticks. The SAFE technology system will bring the Nano QX back to a hover all by itself. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can switch the SAFE system to agility mode for faster flying speeds and more maneuverability.
SAFE stands for Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope and is central to the performance of the Nano QX. Even new pilots will feel comfortable with the Nano QX in stability mode because SAFE will make sure the quad is always in control and in an upright fashion. You will feel an immediate sense of confidence and be flying around like a pro in no time!
The Nano QX flies like much larger multicopters and has a nice flying feel that smoothly transitions and autolevels. Some of the other brands tend to be very twitchy and quick making them a bit different to fly than their larger counterparts. It also has built in prop guards which prevent the props from contacting walls and ceiling, allowing it to bump off if you get too close.
The Blade brand is available at almost all local hobby shops and online stores, making them easy to find and get parts for, which can be more of a challenge with some of the less mainstream Chinese brands. It costs around $100-$110CAD for the RTF version. We also suggest picking up a spare battery or two, to allow you to keep flying while the other battery is recharging.
While you can certainly start with bigger aircraft, the micro/mini size allows for more versatility in that they can be used indoors, so makes getting stick time much easier to fit into a busy schedule. They also let you practice when the weather may not allow with larger systems requiring outdoor flying areas. (They aren’t ideal for outdoor use however, unless you have little to no wind.)
These smaller multicopters are also great tools during off season periods for even experience pilots to keep their skills tuned.