How much does a drone cost? There’s not one drone for all but a variety for different purposes. As a drone pilot, you want to buy the best drone for your needs. But with the combination of brands and models to consider, it’s a good idea to go through an extensive guide to how much drones cost.
The average cost of drones ranges from $50 and $10,000. A beginner toy drone costs $30-$90, while an entry-level camera drone costs $300-$500. For a mid-level consumer drone, expect to pay in the range of $500-$1,000. What you plan to use the drone for will determine how much you need to spend on it.
Read on for a guide to the different costs of drones and select the right one for your needs.
What drone do you need, and how much will it cost?
You want to buy a drone. Great! So, which type do you want?
This is the first question you need to answer in your drone search, but you also need to include what purpose you want the drone for.
It becomes pretty easy to choose the right drone after determining the reason why you want to buy it. The next thing you need to figure out is to know how much you can afford.
Bear in mind that a high drone price doesn’t necessarily signify high quality at all times.
Below, I’ll discuss various categories of drones available in the market, plus their cost.
Drones for first-time pilots
First-time pilots are those exploring flying a drone for the first time. Whether you want a drone for photography, racing, or simply fun, starting from the beginning is the best approach.
Even though spending more on a drone opens you to better features due to advanced technology, you might not want to break the bank on a hobby you’re not sure you’ll stick with in the long run. So what should you do?
Despite your long-term goals, it would be best to start with a low-cost drone as a beginner pilot. Starting low doesn’t mean sticking low, but it helps to build more confidence through frequent practice with a cheap drone. Besides, imagine crashing a $10,000 drone on your first day of flying!
Preferably, starting with a $30-$90 drone would be ideal and means you won’t flinch if it crashes. Though cheap, the drones in this category also teach you to operate the controls at a minimal financial loss.
Moreover, you may realize your drive for flying a drone is fading; hence not a thing you want to continue. So, spending a lot isn’t a good idea when you’re just starting out.
Some good examples of cheap drones to start with include:
- Hubsan H107 – Sturdy starter drone
- Syma X5c – Easy and simple to learn
- Ryze Tello – Advanced
Your second drone – moving on up!
When you finally decide that you’re going to stick with flying a drone, you need a second type of drone. Preferably, it would help if you had a more advanced drone in the price range of $150-$300.
This category presents drones that are faster than beginner models. Also, they have more features but aren’t something you need to settle on long-term, either. You get to enjoy GPS-enabled and camera drones for the first time at this level.
Because of the advancements, they’re easier to operate, making you have more fun.
Examples of good second drones include:
- Hubsan H502S Desire – Reliable
- Walkera Rodeo 110 – Racer
- Hubsan H501S – Competent motors
Entry-level drone for photography
If photography more than the thrill of flight control is your forte, this is your starting point. This category enables a photographer to take high-quality images from above.
An entry-level camera drone costs $300-$500 offering an excellent camera experience. Though the camera is the feature to admire in this category, the actual value lies in the camera gimbal. Here’s why.
Drones are naturally unstable while operational. Moreover, an unsteady camera provides blurring, and jitters impact video quality. It would be best to have a high shutter speed camera to capture excellent images, rather than an unsteady one.
Therefore, drones in this bracket have a video resolution of 1080p to 2.7K and a 12MP sensor and fixed lens of 1/2.3-inch.
Alternatively, racing drones in this category hit the $500 mark. Still, they’re better quality models if you’re ready to spend more. But, the $500 types offer a decent setup for you to win a competition, mainly at the regional level.
This category has drones like:
- DJI Mavic Pro – Sophisticated camera
- Potensic Dreamer 4K – Excellent structure quality
- DJI Mavic Mini – Rock-steady camera
Mid-level (prosumer) drones
Increasing your budget to this category opens you to see more possibilities and dramatic improvements in your drone. Primarily, nearly all the drones in this bracket feature a 3-point steady axis for the camera gimbal.
The outdated versions use a camera sensor of 1/2.3-inch, compared to the latest models of a 1/2-inch camera sensor and 48MP. Also, the camera sensors offer video resolution of 4K and 12MP images better than the smaller sensor.
Furthermore, the higher quality computing ability and higher-end software enable more image processing. For instance, this category provides HDR captures with much better white-balanced photos.
Aside from the advanced camera, these drones also provide improved flight safety, flight features, and better image capture settings.
Because they’re in the $500 – $1,000 range, many of them also come with obstacle avoidance sensors.
- DJI Inspire 2 – Interchangeable camera system
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro – Best hobby-class camera
- DJI Air 2S – Consumer camera drone
Do you want a drone for professional video coverage? Here’s what to look for.
Professional drones come with inbuilt cameras as they provide flying platforms for your video footage.
Also, they’re large in size and costly. Their large size is because they can carry big and heavy cameras and even tow all the remote controls.
Some examples are:
- DJI Phantom 4 Pro – Custom-made lens
- Yuneec Typhoon H Plus – Dedicated android
- DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise – High-quality attachments
The slight difference between professional and commercial drones since many models can handle both roles is in the loads.
Specifically, commercial drones are for special functions like mapping, inspection, passenger flight, and even package delivery. A common feature in most commercial drones is the infrared camera that produces practical thermal imaging in location search, surveying, and rescue tasks.
Most commercial drones carry the required payloads and safety kits, such as more lights and parachutes.
Commercial drones include examples such as:
- DJI Matrice 300 – Adjustable
- Yuneec H520 – Best inspection drone
- UVify IFO-S – Swarm model
Building a drone DIY
How much is a drone? Sometimes, this question can leave you with your mouth gaping if you compare it with the features you get for a specific price. So, if you come across the option of building yourself a drone, you wonder if it’s worth taking it.
So is it?
The best thing about building a drone is the wide range of features you can put on a single drone. There are no restrictions for using any element in your built drone compared to what the name brands offer. Thus, you have the freedom to create a drone just the way you desire.
However, most people wonder how expensive it is to build a drone compared to buying one. Frankly, making a drone is only slightly cheaper as long as you buy a drone kit and set up the whole drone yourself.
But, it also relies on the type of equipment you add to the drone kit, and your skill level.
Let’s see how much it costs for specific parts of a drone kit.
Typically, the drone frames cost $20 to $200 or more. However, the average cost of a drone frame is $100 featuring a decent structure that’s durable and offers good performance.
Electronic Speed Controllers
The ESC enables your drone to perform at the speed you prefer. It would be best to have ESCs equal to the number of motors you want to use. In most cases, a set of 4 ESCs costs from $30 to $50.
How much you spend on motors depends on the number and quality you use. A regular quadcopter requires four motors; two clockwise and two counterclockwise.
So, if the propellers are more, you need motors that match the propeller set—for instance, eight motors for octocopters and 6 for hexacopters.
Quality is a significant determinant for the price of the motors. However, the cost is $10 to $100 for a single motor.
Propellers are a significant part of a drone. Without propellers, your drone can’t leave the ground.
Therefore, you should buy high-quality propellers to enable a good takeoff and stable flight all through. Mini drone propellers cost as low as $2 and up to $50.
Still, ensure you choose propellers that match the characteristics of the drone you want. For example, you can’t use mini-drone propellers on a large drone.
What’s a drone without a flight controller? A flight controller allows you to give your drone instructions right from the ground. It handles the instructions sent from the controller. For a good quality flight controller, you need to pay $100 to $250.
Transmitter and Receiver
If you want a better link between your drone and the flight controller, you should buy a suitable transmitter and receiver.
A transmitter and receiver set is available at different prices, with the cheapest one as low as $50 and a high-quality model for $400.
Having some extra batteries aside from the standard ones is very important. This way, you’re sure of prolonged aerial action as you’d want. Batteries cost from $5 and $20 per set for a standard self-build type drone.
Having a budget for additional or miscellaneous parts is very crucial. Such components comprise wires and connectors necessary for finalizing the DIY process. Usually, it shouldn’t be a lot, but it would be best to spare something like $50 on the higher side.
So, which is cheaper, buying vs. building a drone?
It costs roughly $350-$500 to build a standard drone and $1,000 for an advanced one with quality features. This is surprisingly just a bit more than what you might spend in buying a drone in these categories.
If you like the challenge of building and tinkering with technology and gadgets, it may well be worth it to build your own, but not because it’s actually going to save you a lot of dough.
How to select the right drone for your needs
When selecting a suitable drone, there are several crucial factors you need to focus on. These include:
Range and Flight Time
Most drones fly for a limited period. Usually, toy and racing drones fly for a maximum of 10 minutes compared to commercial drones that go for up to 45 minutes or more.
Still, factors like battery, weather, connectivity, and more can affect the range and flight time of the drone.
Size and Weight
Usually, racing, toy, and mini drones measure a maximum of 11 inches (30cm) and weigh no more than 0.55 lbs (500g).
But with the continuous advancements of commercial drones, the size and weight increase for drones used for more advanced purposes.
This is a crucial feature since it’s what you use to control a drone. The controllers are similar to those running the RC toys.
Moreover, the drone pilot doesn’t have to be with the drone but can operate remotely using the controller. They also come in different sizes and shapes. Some also have LCD screens, not to mention that many can use smartphones and tablets.
Preferably, the controller should feature at least four channels. Additionally, most drone controllers use a 2.4 GHz frequency. The more extended range drones use controllers with lower frequencies. RC transmitters can also function through Wi-Fi.
Aside from the technical specifications of a drone controller, the pilot should also get a controller that is ergonomic, comfortable, and easy to use. The knobs and buttons on the controller should be adequately sensitive and feel easy on the hands.
Get lightweight controllers to avoid straining your hands, especially when operating a long-range drone.
The drone’s speed depends on several factors like the motor power, weight, and dimensions of the drone.
The large professional and camera drones can go as fast as 30-50 mph. Usually, the heavier they are, the better they can manage flights, especially during poor weather conditions to achieve a more extended range and flight time.
Conversely, the lightweight racing drones are the fastest, reaching 100 mph and beyond.
Most drones, depending on the size and type, are usually portable. Such drones like racing, hobby, and toy are lightweight and compact. Others can have an integrated design that is straightforward for easy transportation.
For the high-end camera drones, they come with quality carring cases. Still, other drones are foldable, allowing you to retract the arms and propellers to have them fit in the bag pack.
This guide to how much drones cost explains thoroughly that the cost depends on the drone’s objective and extent.
Whether you want your drone for fun or professional use, ensure you do extensive research putting a lot of consideration into your preferences and expectations of the drone. Most importantly, it would help if you started from the lower end as you move up, matching the experience you’re gaining in each step.