It's honestly quite surprising how many people we meet who have been flying drones for quite a while, but remain completely unaware as to the wide variety of accessories that are out there and how they can unlock the potential of your drone. I know because I'm speaking from experience, and I can tell you that moving from the 'uninitiated' to the 'initiated' really shows you just how much some simple add-ons can up your entire aerial photography game - think of Saiyan to Super Saiyan...or beyond.
In the article below we've put together a comprehensive list of drone accessories for you spend your hard earned money on. For the sake of simplicity (and your wallet), we've separated them into three categories: Must Have, Good To Have and Sure, Why Not. These will help you differentiate between what to buy if you have a limited budget. We'll also explain the positives and negatives of each accessory, the price and give you a link to the relevant product page so you can check it out for yourself. Without further ado, let's look at the accessories the BV team have deemed as Must Haves.
MH - Get The Best Out Of Your Drone
A good drone bag: The bags that come as part of the fly more bundles for most drones are good temporary solutions for carrying your drone from one location to another, but as soon as you start to build out your kit you'll find that they don't offer much space to pack your additional accessories, fitting only your drone, controller and a couple of batteries. For this reason, we recommend in investing in a slightly larger drone bag that can carry multiple batteries, filters, cards, props and more so that you can keep your kit together and organised. A good drone bag should be durable, offer protection against bumps and scrapes, and be large enough to carry essential kit. If you're a Mavic Pro pilot we recommend the Polar Pro Mavic 2 Minimalist Case, which seems to be a good all-rounder for drone accessories. One disadvantage of this bag to be wary of is that the seams can start to split if the bag is packed too full, something we've fed back to Polar Pro and hope they will solve in upcoming releases.
Grab yours from their website: Polar Pro Mavic 2 Minimalist Case ($30 USD)
Spare drone batteries: We expect you already know this, but more batteries = more flight time and more flight time = more photos. For a lot of drone enthusiasts, the fly more combos offer additional batteries and charging solutions to give you added air time, but depending on your frequency of use you may want to invest in additional batteries to have on hand. How many batteries is too many? This question is extremely subjective and depends on multiple factors but, if you've read our article on drone batteries bloating, you'll know that it always helps to have spare batteries on hand. We also recommend that you have enough batteries to cover key photographic opportunities - a sunrise shoot, for example, would require 3-5 batteries depending on how much content you want from before, during and after the sun has risen. Depending on your drone model and flight time, pick up some extra batteries - you'll definitely use them.
Spare props: Not much explaining needed here - accidents can and do happen and, as the most fragile part of the drone, the props are likely to get damaged easily. Keep an eye out for any cracks, breaks or wear down on your props and replace them regularly.
Micro SD cards: Our rule is that you should have enough SD cards to switch out in between battery changes. The reason for this is that if anything happens to your drone, you'll at least have the images you've taken on previous flights safely stored in your bag on your SD cards. Losing a drone is extremely painful - the only thing more painful than losing your drone is losing all your footage and content along with it. Good SD cards can run you back $30-40 USD, but will usually last a while and ensure your images and videos are safe. That's why we've included SD cards in 'must haves', and trust us on this, you won't realize just how essential multiple SD cards are until you think you've lost your drone.
Our recommendation: Sandisk Ultra 128GB Micro SD Cards
Camera Filters: There is an argument that this should belong in the 'Good To Have' section, but after seeing the difference in using and not using camera filters, we deem this accessory a 'must have' if you're serious about aerial photography. Obviously the need for certain types of filters will be greater than for others - we've found that we end up using ND8/PL, ND16/PL and ND32/PL filters the most, with ND16/PL being good enough for most bright sunrises and sunsets. If you're on a budget, we'd also recommend picking up GNDs (graduated neutral density filters) over regular NDs, as they serve better for landscape shots and it's relatively easy to adjust the lighting in post if you want to do a regular top down. If you have the spare change, consider picking up a set of GNDs and NDs for your specific needs.
Our recommendation: Polar Pro Vivid Series GNDs
Good To Have: Recommended, But Not Essential
Phone/Tablet Bracket: For pilots who like to use a tablet for droning, it makes sense to pick up a bracket for convenient use. Bear in mind that the new design of the Mavic Air 2 controller with its expandable device port could mean that there is less requirement for a bracket such as this, but it's good to have the option if you have an older model of drone and want to use a tablet with it.
Our recommendation: Hanatora Aluminium-Alloy Tablet Holder
Landing Pad: This accessory is of huge benefit when taking off or landing in dusty or sandy conditions. On many occasions we've taken off on a beach or path, only to send sand flying up everywhere. Carrying around a landing pad can definitely help with providing an easily accessible and stable spot for your drone to take off and land. If you get a little stressed out when you're bringing your drone back, consider investing in one of these to give you that extra piece of mind.
Our recommendation: PGYTech Landing Pad for drones
Explosion Proof Battery Bag: Especially useful in hot environments and for transporting batteries if they show any sign of bloating or other wear and tear. Just a reminder here, if your batteries have been damaged in any way or show signs of bloating - get them replaced. If you're someone that likes to air on the side of caution, pick up a bag to keep your batteries in for extra protection if they go rogue. Different bags exist for different drone models - have a look on Amazon to find the best one for you.
Monitor Sun Hood: Useful for landscape photography when you can't find a bit of shade. Glare from the sun can severely reduce the visibility of your screen, no matter how bright it goes. Investing in a sun hood can solve that issue ensuring that your monitor remains visible at all times. Not expensive, but potentially hard to fit in your bag.
Our recommendation: Foldable Monitor Sun Hood
Sure, Why Not: Sometimes Pricey, Sometimes fun, Usually both
DJI Digital FPV System: If you're an FPV pilot, you probably know what you're doing and already have a good grasp of what accessories you'll need to get the best out of your drone. DJI’s Digital FPV system offers great quality and low-latency video feed, for a price. If you're into FPV and want to feel like a bird, pick up a pair for $1,225 USD. Ouch.
Get yours: DJI Digital FPV System
Lume Cube Lighting Kit for DJI Mavic Pro: We've had a lot of fun with our Lume Cubes, combining them with different flying modes to get some stunning results with drone light painting. The kit Lume Cube have put together will provide you with everything you need to start your drone light painting journey, including two Lume Cubes, charging cables and the attachment for your Mavic 2 Pro. You should know that the lighting kit isn't cheap and adds additional weight to your drone, reducing battery life and making it harder to pilot. If you're a photography and drone enthusiast who has time and money to experiment with some cool lighting effects, pick up a set. We'll also be posting a separate tutorial about how to get some Lume Cube light painting shots.
Our recommendation: Lume Cube Lighting Kit for Mavic 2 Pro
DJI HD Racing Goggles: One of these things that you think will be cool until you actually try them and discover that you'd prefer to fly without them. Sure, in certain situations using DJI goggles to pilot your drone can offer an immersive experience that gives you a new perspective on flying. In the majority of cases though, they can be hot, sweaty and a hassle to set up, meaning that you may lose valuable time as you try and adjust the head band or connect to your remote. Don't get me wrong, these are fun, but there's a time and a place, and we're not entirely sure exactly what they are yet.
DJI Smart Controller: For an extra $750 USD you can pick up a DJI Smart Controller, an accessory that lets you pilot your drone without using your phone and delivers exceptional clarity and brightness in the process. The controller supports OccuSync 2.0 and has a battery life of 2.5 hours, boasting a 5.5 inch 1080p screen with a bright (1000 nit) display. If you're looking for that something extra and have spare cash lying around, consider picking one of these up, but in our point of view this is very much a luxury, rather than a must have.
Get yours: DJI Smart Controller
Thanks for taking the time to read - we hope you found it useful. We'll be updating this list as new and exciting technology makes it's way to market. Check back here for more updates to take your photography beyond visuals.
See you in the next post.
The Beyond Visuals Team