Here is what I did. Step one: I bought a GoPro with the idea of buying a quad copter later on.
Learned the GoPro. Had a ball using it underwater - at the range etc. The only real learning curve is in the editing.
On the fourth of July I had a family gathering wished I had a drone for areal shots. Sooooo...I took my "roof rake" poles out of the shed mounted the GoPro on the poles and viola' I had my drone shot. Even got a shot from the bottom of the pool coming out and going up to the roof. Much cheaper than a starter drone.
The FAA has determined that in the land of the Free, using a drone to take pictures as a business is illegal. So when you get your drone and you want to start a business, don't charge for taking the video with the drone. Your fees are for editing the video (perfectly legal).
GoPro editing is fairly simple but there are a few obstacles. The results however are outstanding.
My research has lead me to a WL Toys quad copter as a good entry level drone. Big enough to be stable and lift a GoPro and under $100.00
Drones today are like digital watches in the 70's. Started out at hundreds of dollars and now they sell them at 7-11 stores for a few bucks.
Eventually Drones will be declared illegal like guns in NY . WE MUST BE A DRONE FREE STATE! Except for the Police and various other tax collecting entities and Google.Just remember you heard it here first. FORGET WHAT THE HOBBYISTS SAY! NOBODY NEEDS TO TAKE PICTURES WITH A DRONE!. NOBODY NEEDS 10 DRONES TO TAKE PICTURES OF DEER!
I have two drones in my collection now. My Heli-Max 1SQ Quadcopter V-Cam is about 6"x6" and contains a camera that can record still pictures (decent quality) and video (choppy quality) that cost me $125.00 from Tower Hobbies website. I gave up on it recording video, but it's perfectly good for taking still pictures with it's camera during flight. Here's two pictures I took with my 1SQ:
The 1SQ comes with a 2GB MicroSD card so you can take a ton of pictures with it with no need to get a larger memory card. It also comes with a nice little MicroSD/USB Card Reader Adapter. If you get the 1SQ or a similar quad copter with a removable battery. I reccommend that you buy 2-3 extra batteries so you can get more flights before you have downtime to recharge the batteries. This is because you'll only get 5-8 minutes of flight time off of a fully charged battery.
The 1SQ and smaller quad copters can not be flown in anything but a light breeze. I got my "first" 1SQ above tree level (about 75 feet in the air), and the prevailing winds carried it away. I tried to chase after it but the battery eventually went dead and it fell out of the sky. I looked everywhere for it but never found it. Keep it below tree level though and it'll be a hoot to fly around.
Also the AMA (Academy of Model Areonautics) recommends that any model flown should have a sticker on it with the pilots contact information. I negelected to do this on my first 1SQ, so if anyone did eventually find it, they wouldn't know who to contact. I put labels on all my full sized R/C Airplanes, Helicopters, and Cars, but didn't think of putting one on my 1SQ. That's a $100.00 lesson learned!
I later on wanted a mini Quad Copter for some fun flying around indoors (the 1SQ is a bit hard to control indoors as it can fly as a good 20-30mph) and bought the Estes Proto-X Nano Quadcopter. It's a little larger than a quarter, costs $40.00, and is the most damn fun you can have for a 5 minute flight time! It doesn't have a camera, but if you want to learn how to fly a quad copter on the cheap, I would purchase this one first as it has a six-axis gyro and flys silky smooth!
I've got an AR Drone, the 1.0 version. It's an interesting tool, that's fun to fly. It certainly intimidates my dogs and the cat. There is certainly a learning curve flying it, and it's a good idea to have replacement parts on hand. As Timelord pointed out, they are difficult to fly in anything but the lightest breeze. Some of the newer ones will actually return to it's origin point, if the controller signal is lost. The larger drones are good tools that can carry a small payload. Of course larger equals more money.
We hired a guy to use a drone to take aerial video of some project sites we were working on. They're still being edited but the rough cuts look pretty freakin' cool so far! Drones with go pros that only last 15 -20 minutes in the air used for a hobby don't bother me so much. The drone with hellfire missiles and long range optics to look in my windows that are flown by NSA/CIA types are what bothers me a lot.
we used to call these 10 years ago "remote flying model airplanes or model helicopter" flying in a farmers field just outside of Albany-he'd mow it for us like a runway. When I think of the word Drones I think of Military (unmanned) flying aircraft.
I have a drone detector, which is almost as much fun as flying a drone. The Drone Shield uses a sensitive microphone which feeds the audio to a processor which has a database of acoustic signatures. It's essentially a type of sonar, and it can actually identify the type of drone. I'm not sure that I'd trust my life with the device, but it is an interesting tool. I picked mine up through a crowd funding site.