I’m a huge fan of B&H Photo in New York City. I’ve ordered from B&H for probably more than a decade now, and the products and customer service are excellent. The store itself? I’ve been twice, and wow – that’s an experience. There’s just so. Much. Stuff.
Anyway, I got thinking about some of the accessories I could use (and some of which I already use), and thought it might be fun to take a quick trip through the site and see what’s there that might be of use to drone geeks like myself. Some of these selections are just fun, and some – at least in my view – are true “must-haves” for a positive day of flying.
Let’s get going.
One thing before we start…
I recently created a B&H affiliate account. That means if you purchase something through a link, I’ll receive a small commission (though your price stays the same). I say this now both in the interests of full disclosure and also because these kinds of posts are exceedingly rare for me. In the business, we sometimes call posts that are simply lists pointing people to buy things as “affiliate grabs” – often because they don’t have any extra added value.
That’s not my goal here. Sure, it would be great to test that my account is working, but mostly, I’m interested in offering up a few products that might not already be in your toolkit – and offering up reasons why they’re worth having.
The first thing I’d recommend for anyone flying their drone in the field is a good landing pad. Drones really don’t like landing in tall grass (ask my Mavic Pro!), nor is it great to take off and land in dusty conditions. A whole lot of grit can quickly get into your motors (as many have discovered), so protecting your drone from these bits and pieces on the ground just makes sense.
I recommend the Hoodman Drone Launch Pad. Hoodman was the first to this game, and the company makes a quality product. Yes, you can find others for less money (and we’ll show you one), but the Hoodman units have ample weight around their rim, which is handy when the winds kick up. They’re also a super useful visual aid to help keep onlookers at a safe distance from your takeoffs and landings.
Depending on the size of your drone, the 3′ diameter model is a good middle ground, allowing you some leeway for RTH landings and for those tiny gusts that always seem to kick up when you’re landing. The 3′ model features 3.2 pounds of weight around the perimeter.
If you’re looking for something a little more inexpensive, consider the PGYTECH landing pad. A 43.3″ diameter version (available in orange or blue) is a mere $24.90. You won’t get the heft of the Hoodman, but you’ll still keep dust, grass, and moisture off of your machine.
While we’re here…
There’s nothing worse than squinting your eyes at an iPad or tablet that’s acting like a reflector screen. They can be almost impossible to view in bright daylight. Hoodman also offers a variety of what it calls “Drone Aviator Hoods.” These attach to your iPad Mini, iPad, or other tablet to offer you a viewing platform that keeps reflections out. There’s also a little slit in there that allows you to touch the controls on your screen.
Hoodman makes a variety of these products, pending tablet size. You can check out the options here.
How windy is it?
Yes, I’m sure you’ve got a weather app on your phone or tablet, and they’re great, but they do not actually measure real-time where you are. For that, you’ll need an anemometer. These devices can accurately measure wind speed (and temperature and humidity, depending on the model). And that’s really useful to have before commencing a flight. All drones come with manufacturer’s recommendations regarding maximum wind speed and woe to those pilots who ignore that number.
The Brunton Pro Atmospheric Data Center is a bit like having a mobile weather station in your pocket. Yes, t $112.37; it’s a little pricier than something you might find elsewhere, but it has excellent reviews and gets the job done — and it’s super portable.
A quick aside, some people also swear by the anemometers made by Kestrel. They’re not sold by B&H, but you can find them here. (These are what many of my storm chasing pals use.)
Just remember, wind speed tends to increase when you get up in the air, so if you’re close to the maximum recommended wind speed at ground level, you could well be taking a chance. In the event a strong wind does start to carry away your drone, reduce altitude and get it closer to ground level and bring ‘er back. If it’s still struggling, land and walk to pick it up.
Neutral Density Filters
We’re happy to see some manufacturers start to ship ND filters with certain combos, including DJI’s AIR 2S combo. Particularly if you’re flying a drone that does not have a variable aperture, these things are worth their weight in gold. By reducing the amount of light entering your camera, they allow you far greater control over shutter speed and other parameters – which plays a huge role in how cinematic your drone videos will look. If it’s a bright day and you don’t have ND filters, prepare to see your video looking choppy (and, if you’re not careful, overblown in the highlights). Good ND filters, like this set from Polar pro, are an absolute necessity if you want to get the most out of aerial cinematography.
This set includes ND64, ND128, ND256, and ND512 filters. They will serve you well even in intense conditions — more info on this set here.
Sure, that Hoodman device for helping you view your tablet free of reflections is great. But there are times when you really don’t want to have your face buried in something like that. Higher-nit (brightness) monitors are really useful on sunny days because – providing you get a bright enough one – they punch through those reflections. It’s almost magic when you can see clearly on a really bright day.
DJI, of course, is well-known for its CrystalSky monitors. These feature 1000 nits of brightness (your average phone or tablet is generally 400-500 nits) and also feature video recording to dual MicroSD slots.
The CrystalSky comes in a 5.5-inch version for $499 and a 7.85″ model at $749. Personally, I prefer a little more real estate and – with cash to spare – would go for the 7.85″ version. More details, including reviews, can be found here.
It should be noted there are other options around, but they’re not going to integrate quite as seamlessly as the CrystalSky products.
If you’re still dragging your DJI FPV Drone combo around in its box, do yourself a favor: buy a decent case. We know the good people at Go Professional cases and really like their products – so that’s the one pictured here:
This particular case is $199, but it’s going to keep your drone safe and dry – and there are slots for all the key accessories. There are some other models by different manufacturers, including such solid names as Nanuck. You’ll find an assortment of cases right here and can go on to search for more.
Accessories by drone
B&H also sells accessories based on drone brands. DJI? Yuneec? Parrot? They’ve got that and more, including Autel, Blade, and even 3DR.
You can find their accessories page and pick your brand here.
That might seem like an odd thing to cap off this list with, but it’s a useful one. When you’re out in the field for a few hours on a hot day, it’s important to hydrate. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll remain more alert. We own this Coleman water bottle, and it’s great. Throw in some cold water and top with a few ice cubes, and – trust me on this – it will still be cold like eight hours later. This is the best water bottle I’ve owned.
As you may notice, none of the products we’ve pulled together here are superfluous. There are no gadgety landing legs (though they may be useful for some) or anything else we don’t think would be absolutely useful in the field. Hopefully, there’s something here for you now or down the road to make your flying experience even better.
And if you’re shopping for non-drone-related gear, we recommend B&H from experience. Great products, great expertise, and no-hassle returns. Just don’t start looking at its daily Deal Zone – because that can quickly become, well, somewhat addictive.
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