A Meeting of Minds – the Best Drone Communities and Forums of 2019
Learning how to fly your drones is easy enough to be done on your own, especially with the current crop of user-friendly drone models. While you can certainly go at it solo, there’s still so much that you can learn from the experience of other people. As with many niche hobbies and industries, an active community has become one of the strengths of the field of drone flight.
If you do run into technical issues with your drone, you will very likely end up stumbling into one of these forums and groups in your quest for solutions. Why not just go ahead and join them? Check out our list below of our most favorite and frequently visited drone-related communities and forums.
Let’s kick off our list with the good old DronePilots Network, a site that practically every single drone pilot has gone to at some point. The DronePilots Network isn’t just a single forum – it’s a collection of forums geared towards pilots who use different types of drones, with each one maintaining a significant number of active users.
If you’d like help with issues that are specific to the drone model you own, such as firmware updates or hardware mods, then the DronePilots forum for your drone model should be a great place to start. Just about all of the popular drone models are represented with a forum in the network, such as the PhantomPilots and the MavicPilots forums. The CommercialDronePilots forum is also a great forum where commercial drone pilots can share advice, tips, and their outputs from their particular commercial niches.
The DronePilots Network is considered a giant as far as drone communities go. The different forums in the site collectively get up to 800,000 unique visitors each month. Despite having so many visitors, the fact that the forums remain relatively clutter-free is a testament to the quality of moderating that the site owners do.
The site owners are very particular about keeping the site free of posters with commercial or political agendas. They do offer advertising packages for those who want to advertise their businesses on the forums, but these are done in a transparent manner that prioritizes the overall good of the community.
If you own a Mavic, Spark, Phantom, or any models from Yuneec, Autel, or 3DR, then we highly recommend signing up to the appropriate forums at the DronePilots Network. Being one of the most active forums in existence, you’ll be sure to pick up a lot of useful tips from these communities.
Signing up to the Commercial sUAS Remote Pilots group is easy, just because it’s simply hosted on good old Facebook. The brainchild of Daniel Herbert, the Commercial sUAS Remote Pilots Facebook group has been around for just as long as ‘commercial drone pilots’ has been a thing. The group has been running for more than four years now, making it one of the oldest communities dedicated to commercial drone flight. As of writing, the group has close to 16,000 members who make an average of 30 posts per day.
The group is founded on two core values: cooperation and education. The group takes a community-based approach to help the forum users gain new skills and knowledge with the ultimate goal of training them to be good ambassadors of commercial drone flight to the rest of the world.
The priority of the group leans heavily on posts that share knowledge. With education at its core, the group moderators believe that the whole community benefits whenever someone shares their own experience on commercial drone applications or even small tips.
The biggest drawback of the Commercial sUAS Remote Pilots comes from the very fact that it is a Facebook group. Although the choice of platform gives the group a virtually limitless reach, the Facebook interface isn’t exactly optimal for keeping an index of useful posts. Group moderators aren’t able to pin multiple posts, and many of the posts turn out to be redundant.
There’s no reason for you not to sign up to the group if you’re already on Facebook. Just make sure to search for similar posts before you make one of your own just to help keep the place clutter-free.
Before drones became popular, there were all sorts of RC vehicles and a large community of hobbyists that loved playing around and tinkering with them. The RCGroups online forums were founded on this much older hobby, although drones have now become a significant part of the community’s daily activity.
Because of the age of the forum and the wider scope of interests of its users, it’s hardly surprising that the RCGroups community now has close to 2 million members. Drone pilots may take some interest in the sub-groups for multi-rotor drones, fixed-wing drones, or FPV flight.
In terms of sheer size, there’s probably no other online community that can rival RCGroups. Aside from groups and threads on various types of RC vehicles including drones, electric airplanes, boats, and cars, the site also has a very active trading zone where users can buy or sell individual parts for their vehicles. The users in this forum are also some of the most experienced. Indeed, many of them have several years’ worth of experience, and it’s always worth picking their brain.
The RCGroups forum is so big that you’re likely to run into several redundant threads should you do a search on any topic. With millions of users, it’s probably impossible to filter all the content that is generated in this forum. More content isn’t always a good thing, so we suggest that you be more discerning when looking up tips and advice on these forums.
SkyPixel is a community built by and for drone photographers. The site eschews any sort of discussion forums in favor of an easy-to-navigate platform where drone photographers can easily share their work and comment on the work of other photographers. If you’re a photographer who is curious about the possibilities of aerial drone photography, then this is the site you should sign up for.
The SkyPixel gallery is just huge with hundreds of thousands of amazing photos and videos. The site is sponsored by DJI, so all the content you’ll see on the site has probably been shot using some sort of DJI device. This isn’t exclusive to drones, as the site is also home to the butter-smooth videos shot from the DJI series of handheld gimbals.
What we really like about SkyPixel is how organized everything is. The interface looks sleek and professional, and each media entry comes with an extensive set of tags that make them easy to index. Some of the stuff on feature in this website is simply impressive – truly a great site to browse if you’re looking for inspiration for your next drone photography project.
When you sign up for an account, you can upload your own content or download any of the famous photographers and companies featured on the website. Every now and then, SkyPixel also hosts contests that are open to all members. Who knows? This might be your chance to get your work featured and win a few nice DJI gadgets to add to your photography arsenal.
As its name implies, this Facebook group focuses on topics revolving around the field of commercial drone-based mapping. Mapping is one of the most technically complex fields in commercial drone applications, so the founder of the group thought that it was a good idea to establish a group where like-minded professionals could ask questions and share their experience. The group was started in 2016 and has now grown to have over 7500 members.
The advantage of defining such a small scope of topics for the community is that discussions are more organized and streamlined. The group focuses on dispending business advice, experience, technical knowledge, and any news related to the drone mapping field. Outright promotion of businesses and services is prohibited in the group, which helps keep it relatively clutter-free.
If you are interested in going into drone mapping as a profession, then signing up to this community is going to be a very wise decision. The members of the community are very knowledgeable and helpful, and you should be able to pick up some useful knowledge just from the daily discussions. The moderators actively recommend that you use the group’s search function before starting a thread – many of the basic questions should have already been answered and dissected in the past.
Again, the Facebook interface isn’t exactly the most conducive for organized discussion. However, the group isn’t likely to migrate out of Facebook anytime soon.
The NODE community is somewhat of a special advocacy group that focuses on promoting fair and responsible drone-related legislation. While the group recognizes that drone pilots play a role in keeping airspace safe, legislation on drone flight must not hinder the advancement of technology and the commercial applications of drones.
When you sign up for an account in NODE, you are encouraged to share if any drone-related regulations are implemented in your city, town, or state. NODE will then take your inputs into account and alert local drone users about them. Should there be any complaints about local drone regulations, NODE will actively collaborate with legislators and work with them to produce a more sensible and practical alternative.
Signing up to NODE is worthwhile if even just for the regular updates they release regarding new local drone laws in various places around the US and Canada. You never know when there could be new drone rules that apply to you, so NODE’s well-curated news feed could certainly come in handy.
Obviously, NODE isn’t like the other drone communities in this list where drone pilots can practically talk about anything associated with drones. In fact, NODE doesn’t even really have a community where members can freely talk to each other. One more thing to take note is that NODE is sponsored by global drone manufacturer DJI, so everything that the community releases may come from an inherently biased position.
At first glance, the DIYDrones feels like a tough community to get into. It doesn’t have a fancy interface, discussions are all over the place, and it doesn’t follow the usual format of forums that we commonly see nowadays. However, give this community a shot, and you’re bound to see all the wisdom and value that lies beneath this community that has been around for more than ten years.
The DIYDrones forums were designed after the Ning social community platform. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a social network platform where users can create blog posts, start a discussion, and post images and videos. Instead of just categories of threads, the community is divided into groups with members who share a set of interests. Right now, the community has more than 200 groups.
Within each group, members can create discussion threads, post articles, or just leave miscellaneous comments. However, it’s easy to notice that activity has died down in many of the groups in the site. If you do end up in a group of your interest where users are still discussing actively, then count yourself lucky.
DIYDrones feels like a community that is already past its heyday. You might still be able to unearth some valuable discussions from the old threads, but drone technology has evolved greatly since then.
Tips when joining drone forums and communities
1. Learn the community rules and etiquette first
Each community has its set of rules, so take the time to read and understand them before you sign up for an account and definitely before you make your first post. Some communities are particularly finicky about reviving old posts or starting discussions that have already been made several times over in the past. Lastly, don’t be rude, don’t attack other people, and don’t feed the trolls – all of which is basic Internet wisdom.
2. Take technical advice with a grain of salt
Everyone can act as an expert on the Internet, and that also applies to any of these drone-related communities. If someone gives you a step-by-step solution to your technical problem, ask yourself first: does the solution make sense? If it doesn’t work, can I end up with more problems than I started with? That being said, there are a few prominent figures in the drone community who actually know what they are talking about. As with anything you read on the Internet, do your research first.
Most communities frown upon “lurkers” – people who only read posts, but don’t contribute as much as a word of appreciation. While you will most likely start out as one, you will need to more actively participate eventually. User engagement is the lifeblood of any online community. Ask questions, share your knowledge, say thank you’s – do anything that can help people get talking.
Any hobby is best shared with other people, which is the reason why there are online communities for practically anything. Drone flight is no different. Aside from the happiness of having people to share your passion with, signing up with an active drone community opens up your eyes to the global drone flight experience and will help you widen your horizons as a drone pilot.
Whether your interest lies in drone photography, drone-related laws, commercial drone flight, or just drone flight for fun’s sake, there’s certainly a drone community out there that you will feel like you belong to. Signing up to these sites is completely free, so why don’t you give each one of them a shot?