Having a drone is definitely rewarding and enjoyable, whether it’s used competitively or as an engrossing pastime. But, particularly if you love experimenting with electronics and components, there is something quite special about successfully launching and flying a drone that you’ve built with your own hands. So, how much does it cost to build a drone?
Building a typical DIY drone generally costs around $350 – $500, while more advanced drones would cost around $1000 to build, due to the expense of some of the additional features.
While building a drone certainly demands various skills and knowledge with regard to all of the necessary components, it is definitely possible and may very well be worth it even for a relative newbie. Stick around to find out just how much building a drone will cost, as we break down the general price of all of the basic components needed as well as prices for nifty accessories.
What Are The Essentials For Building A Drone?
When it comes to building a drone that will successfully be able to launch and fly, you will need to focus on the components that allow basic functionality. These components are crucial for the drone’s ability to fly, and as the foundation they will need to be figured into your budget before anything else.
There are plenty of technical aspects and fine details to consider when selecting all of these parts. In addition to the fact that these choices will be dependent on several influential factors as well as specific considerations for your unique case, professional advice is highly recommended before you go ahead with buying parts and constructing your drone.
Drone Frame: $20 – $200
Your choice of drone frame will depend on your intended use for it. Your options include a tricopter, quadcopter, hexacopter, and octocopter frame. Hexacopters are quite large and durable, and have the added bonus of being able to maintain stability in the event of one motor failing. Octocopters are generally used for drones that need to carry greater amounts of weight.
However, quadcopters are the most commonly used type of frame. It is possible to get a decent frame for around $100, which will cut down your essential costs quite a bit when starting off, but it’s highly advised that frames should be made of carbon fiber. These are pricier but are better options than aluminum or plastic since these are less durable in many conditions.
Motors: $10 – $100
This is where the cost can really start to add up, as prices can vary greatly depending on the quality. The number of motors needed will be based on the type of drone you are building, thus one would need 3 for a tricopter, 4 for a quadcopter, 6 for a hexacopter, and 8 for an octocopter. Brushless motors are more durable and resilient over time as opposed to brushed motors, but also tend to be a bit pricier.
ESC: $30 – $50
The ESC, or Electronic Speed Controller, is essential, and the number needed will depend on the type of drone you are building. Each motor needs one ESC, so you’ll have to buy a number equal to the number of motors you are using. These are generally sold in sets, which could vary in price.
Flight Controller: $100 – $200
It’s an absolute must to have a flight controller, as it will be necessary to actually operate your drone when launching and flying it. Prices can vary quite a bit for this category, but it’s well worthwhile to invest in one that has a decent quality.
Transmitter and Receiver: $50 – $400
This allows your drone and your flight controller to talk to each other. Getting gear that will allow good communication between drone and controller is invaluable for functionality and performance while in the air. Prices for these can range depending on their quality, but advanced versions may or may not be necessary in your case.
Propellers: $2 – $50
Propellers are obviously essential components, and the choice of which you select should be based on the nature of the drone you are building. The number of propellers will also depend on the type of drone; you would need 3 for a tricopter, 4 for a quadcopter, 6 for a hexacopter, and 8 for an octocopter.
The length of the propeller blade will also be influenced by the intended use, since shorter diameter blades are great for speeding up or slowing down quickly, while longer blades can help achieve longer flight times as they offer more stability. These come in a range of materials with either 2 or 3 blades, which will also influence the price.
This is, however, the most fragile component of a drone, and these break far more frequently compared to other components, so it’s always advised to stock up on these beforehand. I also recommend purchasing carbon fiber propellers if the budget allows for it.
Propeller Guards: $4 – $20
While these are labeled as accessories, they are quite important for the safety of yourself and others, as well as for the overall longevity of your drone. They prevent the drone from getting stuck in odd places, and lower the chances of damage or harm if they come into contact with anything or anyone while in use.
Batteries: $3 – $20
Depending on the type of battery being used and the type of drone you are building, the price could vary drastically. However, the most important aspect is that the battery needs to be compatible with the voltage necessitated by the motors. Some batteries are more effective, being able to last for around 25 minutes, while others last under 10 minutes. They do take some time to charge up, and it’s a good idea to have extras on hand.
What Would Make A Drone More Expensive To Build?
Although there are plenty of essentials, the overall cost of building a drone could amount to far more than expected with the addition of some specialty accessories. That being said, the addition of these accessories will really depend on your intended use for the drone you are building, as well as what your budget allows.
Drone Case: $30 – $100
This is not essential, but it will definitely be worth it to help extend your drone’s longevity, especially since you are planning to put so much time, love, and effort into building it yourself. Drone cases are relatively affordable, while drone backpacks may cost a bit more at around $100. Adding extra cushioning may raise costs further but will provide extra protection against damage.
Camera or Drone Flight Recorder: $100
This is definitely an accessory that isn’t essential, but it can be a lot of fun if you really want to capture the moments of your drone flights as vividly as possible. These can become quite pricey, but it’s possible to find decent quality cameras and flight recorders for around $100.
Camera Gimbal: $10 – $75
This will only be needed if you have a camera, but it will do a lot to ensure that the shots you’re getting are steady and not shaky, since it keeps the camera steady and levels on the horizon. The price can vary greatly depending on the features it offers, but what’s most important here is that the camera, camera gimbal, and drone are all compatible.
Micro SD Card: $5 – $25
If you want to use your drone with a camera or recorder and catch all of those scenic moments forever, then you’ll need an SD card. The price of these will vary greatly, depending on their capacity. An 8GB SD card is generally sufficient, but one may opt for a better SD card which will be slightly more costly.
LED Lights: $8
Adding LED lights will not just add some pizzazz to your drone, but will actually make it easier to keep an eye on especially when flying to higher altitudes or flying at night.
Pros And Cons Of Building A Drone
Of course, there are some pros and cons when building a drone. For one thing, having a customized drone allows you to upgrade your drone as you please. But while building a drone offers you an incredible sense of achievement once the mission is complete, and is in itself an invaluable experience, there are a few negatives to consider before going ahead.
There are absolutely no guarantees, which is generally quite an important aspect when spending money on anything electronic in nature, and there is also no guarantee that your drone will fly as smoothly as a drone that is bought out of the box. Despite the fact that it is possible to build a drone on a budget, building a high-quality drone may cost more money and definitely more time than simply buying one, with a somewhat vague prospect of actually launching and flying it once it’s been built.
Building a drone is definitely not for the faint-hearted, and there are countless aspects to consider over and above the cost of each component and the reasons for their selection. One must have in-depth knowledge of the technical aspects and methods which will need to be used to build the drone, and will definitely require a ton of patience and learning curves (read: frustration).
If you are seeking to build a drone quickly without any mishaps, with the intention of getting your drone up into the air in no time, you may need to reconsider the approach as it may be worth it to simply buy a drone preassembled. But, if all these ins and outs sound like an incredibly exciting and fascinating long-term project for you, then building a drone may very well be just the thing for you.