Need Help Selecting a Drone for a Class Project

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I am working on a school project where we want to use image processing/machine learning to process the live video taken by a drone. What recommendations do you guys have for a drone that can feed output live video with GPS coordinates and path planning abilities? A bonus would be for it to be able to carry a small payload.

I've done a bit of research and have looked at the FPV drones, DIY drones, and 'ordinary' drones. I'd prefer to buy an ordinary drone and modify it for our purposes, but I'm open to making my own drone.

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Start w looking at the software you will want to use...many drones now are not compatible with flying automated grids...check the compatibility list at pix4dcapture or dronedeploy....

second...looks at a drone camera's bitrate to the sd card...many new drone cameras are over 100mbps...if your SD card is not rated for that rate, much or all your flying will never make it to the card.

if your serious about lifting....get a lift will overload your motors on non lift drones if you try to carry will get warnings right after takeoff...i know.

we have an m600p, and its a true lifting drone...$7500

my opinion that the best entry photometry drone is the mavic air version one.  you can find them on amazon or dji refurb for under $ can running mapping missions in pix4d, do panoramas, and photo/video in 4k....they go anywhere and are tough as tanks.

you could consider a used phantom 3 advanced or pro from ebay...for $500 you could get a case and full compliment if could lift up to 8 ounces for 12 minutes...just stay close to home..

also, with new Remote ID coming Sept 2023, we may be strapping those units on our drones as well.

good luck....start with software compatibility as to what drones to consider....


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I would start looking at the flight stack software of which there are 2 major open source projects.

These have large communities and forums so you can get a great deal of support and being open source its free.

Of course it does mean building your own drone but there are some kits available that use these stacks. 

Another feature of these stacks is the ability to create a simulation environment which would help evaluating the software without having to initially invest in hardware.

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On 4/5/2021 at 5:18 PM, CookiesNCream23 said:

I've done a bit of research and have looked at the FPV drones, DIY drones, and 'ordinary' drones. I'd prefer to buy an ordinary drone and modify it for our purposes, but I'm open to making my own drone.

What level of class is this for?  A couple of things to keep in mind. All Chinese manufactured drones are very tightly vertically integrated. You can’t use a P3 battery in a P4, an M200 battery in a M300 etc.. and DJI published a list several months ago sunsetting all products except the Mavic and M300. The Mavic can’t lift much, the FPV camera would not be very resolute for machine vision.  There are a lot of used Inspires but getting new batteries can be difficult and used ones are going for $275 each, you need two per flight and I doubt you could get 50 cycles out of them so you’d be spending more than $10 per flight just for batteries. You can’t take M300 batteries on planes.  This is just batteries, you probably don’t want to hear about firmware update and all of the incompatibility on the same drone.  

Most of the DIY drones are open source - PX4/ArduPilot. I’d recommend checking out ArduPilot, great user community. PX4 is becoming too commercialized and political.   There’s a bit more of a leaning curve with open source, in part because it’s much better and it gives you a lot more control of your destiny.  

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