When we hear something described as an 'accessory', it's easy to dismiss it as a luxury, something shiny that you don't really need. But in the drone industry things are different.
What many new pilots don't realize is that what comes straight out of the box is the bare minimum. Sure, you've got your drone, a controller and some batteries. You're good to go. But there are plenty of accessories that can make flying safer, easier and more productive.
Here are just a few ideas...
Power on the go
Whether you're flying for fun or for a client, nothing is more frustrating than running out of battery.
There are three simple solutions. The first is obvious: buy more batteries. Spare batteries don't often come cheap, but having a few on hand is the best way to get as much flight time as possible.
Even better, invest in accessories that help you to charge on you go. Most manufacturers have car chargers, for example.
For the ultimate in convenience, consider buying a portable charger. These can be carried on the go and are perfect for when you're flying in more remote areas. Most can be hooked up to multiple batteries and devices at the same time, so you'll never be short on power when you need it most.
One company, Energen, offers portable powerbanks designed to be used with drone batteries.
Expand your creativity
Some accessories are both practical and fun to use. These could include lights for flying during the twilight hours.
As well as improving your drone's visibility, light rigs - such as those offered by LumeCube - can expand your creativity during shoots, illuminating scenes or objects in ways that wouldn't be possible otherwise.
Another accessory that's both practical and helps you push creative boundaries? ND filters.
Neutral density filters are easily placed over your drone's camera and work by reducing the amount of light the lens is exposed to. This gives pilots the power to slow down shutter speed and capture shots that emphasize motion. That's why ND filters are ideal for aerial photos of clouds, water or even moving traffic.
ND filters also mean you can increase the aperture in bright conditions without overexposing your shots.
What good is having a high resolution, stabilized camera if the weather or local regulations mean you can't take off? One way to film anyway is to attach your drone to a handheld rig, which allows you to walk along and still make the most of all of that camera technology.
One company that manufactures a rig for handheld drone photography is PolarPro. This kind of system works better with smaller drones like the DJI Mavic Pro. It's a great way to use your drone's camera indoors, preserve battery and add some variety to your shots.
There are a few things every pilot needs which don't come straight out of the box.
The first, as we've mentioned, is probably spare batteries. The second is a way to make sure your drone is safe and secure during transport.
To do this, we'd recommend investing in a good-quality soft case (for keeping your drone safe while driving) and a hard case (for international travel and long-term storage). There are also plenty of customized backpacks available for carrying drones safely in the wilderness.
One frustration for drone pilots is the need to fly with a mobile phone or tablet. Often these don't give enough detail to show you exactly what's being captured. They are also hard to use in bright conditions. A good solution is to invest in a dedicated monitor, such as DJI's CrystalSky.
If that's beyond your budget, make things easier on yourself with a phone mount. Several popular drones, such as the DJI Mavic Pro, fix your smartphone beneath the controller. A phone or tablet mount can sit your device above the controls for a more natural setup.
Those are just a few accessories that can help take your aerial photography sessions to the next level.
One last thing: All the gear in the world won't save your drone from our list of classic drone pilot mistakes. Take a look, stay one step ahead and avoid any needless face-to-palm action.