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Book Review: 'Drones for Dummies'

Updated on January 25, 2018
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of 2, and a published sci-fi and horror author.

Introduction

“Drones for Dummies” is written for someone wanting to learn about how to use a drone, though it touches on a variety of other subjects as well from video editing to how to share your drone footage on Youtube.

This 2015 “Dummies” series book is the first edition; there is no second edition as of this writing, but given how fast the technology is changing, I expect there to be a second edition soon.

The Back Cover of "Drones for Dummies"
The Back Cover of "Drones for Dummies" | Source

The Strengths of “Drones for Dummies”

The book is less than 300 pages. The book is broken up into sections on picking a drone, setting up the drone, controlling it and the laws regarding its usage. You can skip immediately over to the relevant section for your stage in working with drones.

Information on the characteristics of different drones and their built-in cameras like frame rate and resolution is useful for a true newcomer. The information on example drone models is already out of date.

There are many children and young adults need to read this book’s section on how to avoid being hurt by the drone or violate various rules and regulations regarding the use of drones. The book came out before the December 21, 2015 mandate that all drones over 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds must be registered with the FCC. It refers to the early drafts of those rules prior to the final version was made law. State and local laws are constantly changing and something you have to research on your own.

And they need to read these chapters of the book to avoid damaging their new drones, too. Much of this advice is basic, but if it were widely known and followed, you wouldn’t see so many people wreck the drones they received at Christmas. For example, if you drop or crash the lithium polymer battery, the damage from impact may damage it so that it reacts uncontrollably before it stops working – or catches fire when you try to charge it.

Advice like how to test the “return to home” function before you go out in the field is a must read for new owners.

Mini Talon Drone Demo

The Weaknesses of “Drones for Dummies”

This book doesn’t discuss the options for upgrading the antennas in the drone to improve its reception and signal broadcasting, though that is probably an intermediate skillset beyond the introductory “Dummies” book on drones.

The book states at the beginning you need to go to the Dummies website to get updates for the book, as well as extra information. Having to read the book and then go to a website is almost counter-productive.

I think “Parrot” drones sponsored the book given how often it is the example referenced throughout the book and the first drone users’ forum recommended by the authors. And the pages dedicated to this are another example of “here’s the book, we’re telling you to go to a website for more information”.

The several pages on joining Google groups for drones and modifying your Google alerts is a waste of space. It also ignores multiple dedicated drone user forums with much more information by drone owners ranging from amateur to commercial professionals.

Observations

This is truly a book for responsible beginner drone owners. The book contains checklists on how to set up the drone, how to use it and things to check before putting it away.

The section on drones in the military and companies like Amazon wanting to use them for product deliveries are a mixed bag. They give you a short overview of these subjects if you care about them but don’t go into enough detail to be useful if that’s why you picked up the book.

The book assumes you’re going to take pictures and save video to the camera and not live-stream it.

The advice on taking clear pictures is almost the standard advice on lighting and shooting conditions you could read in a generic photography how-to book, and it compounds with all of Chapter 14 dedicated to image and video editing. Only the section on how to keep the vibrations of the rotors from making video and pictures taken by the drone shaky early in the book is new information to most readers.

Wheel antennas like these are perfect for drones because they can send and receive signals from any direction.
Wheel antennas like these are perfect for drones because they can send and receive signals from any direction. | Source

Summary

“Drones for Dummies” is truly written for those who have the sense to read the book before breaking their drone or the laws regarding its usage. Some of the information is already dated, while it points you to a number of websites with limited value. For newbies, I give the book four stars. For those who already know how to operate their drone without breaking it or local ordinances and FCC regulations, there isn’t anything of value here.

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