A guide to drone-buying in Toronto
Drones are no longer just the clunky passion projects of garage-dwelling geeks. The newest models are sleek, affordable and a whole lot of a fun to fly. Here, we break down the essentials of the burgeoning hobby.
Sweet machines for every breed of flyer
For drone neophytes
First-time flyers won’t find a better, more affordable way to flirt with droning than the Hubsan X4 Plus. The tiny gadget feels like a toy but packs unexpected power; it can perform flips and barrel rolls at the push of a button. It comes ready to fly out of the box—it just needs a charge via a USB cable. Bonus: it’s virtually indestructible. $58. hobbyhobby.com.
For DIY hobbyists
The ZeeMR 210 kit by Scarborough shop Autobotix offers the geeky fun of DIY construction without the headache of sourcing parts. The kit includes everything necessary to assemble a racing craft—carbon-fibre frame, electronics, a handful of 3-D printed parts. Remote and accessories are extra. $265. fpvracingproducts.com.
For flush (and lazy) pilots
DJI’s Phantom 4 comes with a remote, but it’s hardly necessary. The sleek, state-of-the-art machine uses sensors to avoid hitting things, and a dangling lens that can capture stills and 4K video. It can fly itself just about anywhere via a synced-up phone or tablet (including back home, should it lose connection). $1,889. dji.com.
Toronto’s fledgling drone stores
531 Yonge St., 647-699-9894, dronesplus.com
This narrow room is part of North America’s largest chain of drone retailers. Sandwiched between a comics shop and a purse-and-perfume outlet, it’s an excellent resource for rookies who want to learn about unmanned aerial vehicles (a.k.a. UAVs). Walk-ins can fiddle with floor models and quiz staff on all things airborne, while veteran pilots can ask the shop to order just about any machine or part.
211 Oakridge Dr., 647-391-0350, dronestoronto.com
Over the past year, drone guru Danny Vrekalic has transformed his Scarborough home into one of the city’s most trusted UAV shops, packed with ready-to-fly craft, UAV cases and camera gimbals. Most of his clients are commercial—filmmakers, Hydro One and TV shows like the Rick Mercer Report—but recreational flyers can browse the store’s website or book an appointment.
25 Lesmill Rd., Unit 10, 647-479-4153, rotorgeeks.com
Rotorgeeks is the Bulk Barn of the droning world. The industrial North York space is overflowing with bins and boxes of screws, propellers, wires and everything else to get a racing drone to the finish line. It looks like a mess, but there’s order to the chaos: owner David Klein eliminates the hassle of dealing with manufacturers, shipping costs and duties—so pilots can focus on flying.
6404 Alderwood Trail, 416-779-5164, canadadrones.com
Computer engineer Dany Thivierge started building drones nearly a decade ago, when nothing flew straight and simply getting off the ground was cause for celebration. Once he realized crash-prone pilots would need replacement parts and repairs, he founded this online store, using his Mississauga basement as an HQ and a pickup location for local customers by appointment only.
25 Crouse Rd., Unit 4084, 416-712-6010, fpvracingproducts.com
This Scarborough shop specializes in racing drones and sells parts—frames, motors, racing goggles and other paraphernalia—primarily through its website. Customers can book in-person appointments at the workshop, which is basically a storage locker stuffed with electronics, works-in-progress and drones custom-built by owner Paul Dowling.