Navigating Drone Prices: A Guide to What to Expect at Different Price Points When Buying a Drone

BY Zacc Dukowitz
25 October 2019

Why are some drone prices really cheap and some really expensive?

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While the Scoot Mini Drone only costs about $30, the Intel Falcon 8+ is so expensive that Intel doesn’t publicly list its price (it runs anywhere from $25,000 up to $35,000, from what we’ve found).

The reason for these huge differences in price comes down to what the drone will be used for—is it made for basic flying, or is it made for high-end drone work?

Right now on the work front, people are using drones for all kinds of jobs, from inspecting power lines, to creating 3D maps of construction sites, to using an ‘eye in the sky’ to find people lost in the wilderness. There’s even a drone designed just for indoor inspections that sits in a cage, allowing it to collide and continue flying.

And on the hobbyist side, people are flying drones in FPV racing, using them to capture high-quality videos and photos, and flying just because it’s fun.

The drones people use for these activities are all different, which means that the corresponding drone prices are different, too.

In this guide we’re going to walk you through how to navigate all these different drone prices to find the right drone for your needs. We’ll make sure to include actual examples of drone prices throughout so that you have a concrete sense of the types of drones available at each price point.

Want to jump around? Here you go:

Why Are You Buying a Drone?

So you want to buy a drone? Great!

But what kind of drone should you buy?

This is the first question most people ask themselves when they start their drone search. But we recommend taking a step back and asking: What do you want to do with a drone?

Once you’re really clear on what you’re going to do with your new drone it will be a lot easier to navigate drone prices and make a final purchasing decision.

Not sure what you want to use your drone for? We’ll walk you through that too.

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Flying for Fun

Even if you’re just interested in flying for fun there are still a few things to consider when looking at drone prices.

Are you brand new to flying?

Then a cheaper toy drone—in the $30-$150 range–might be the best fit, so you don’t invest in something you might crash right away. (On this note, a drone flight simulator is a great way to get your flying skills up to speed.)

Are you an intermediate drone pilot?

Then you might want to look at drone prices that are a little higher—in the $200-$500 range—so you can challenge yourself.

Are you a professional drone pilot who also wants to fly for fun?

Then you might want to look at even higher drone prices—in the $500-$2,000 range—because you may end up wanting to use your drone for both work and for hobby-related activities, like photography and videography.

Are you into FPV racing, or think you might want to be?

If you get serious about FPV racing you’ll eventually want to look at drone prices just for racing drones. But you can start out exploring your FPV racing interest with any basic FPV drone—drone prices start out at around $150 for intro-level FPV options.

Flying for Work

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you’re looking at drone prices for commercial drone work and trying to decide what platform to buy.

Are you already proficient at flying?

If you’re brand new to flying you might want to start by looking at less expensive prosumer drone options in the $300-$500 range, like the DJI Phantom series or Parrot’s Bebop 2. But if you’re more experienced, professional drones that run north of $1,000 are probably worth considering.

Do you have a specific niche in mind?

If you know you want to do drone work in agriculture, then you might want a drone made just for that kind of work, like the Parrot Bluegrass. Or if you know you need a drone for inspections in tight indoor spaces, then Flyability’s Elios 2 might be just the drone for your needs.

But you may not need a drone made just for your niche. Most professional drones in the $1,000-$2,000+ range can be outfitted with the payload you need for the specific type of work you want to do. For example, if you want to do roof inspections with a thermal camera, you can just attach a thermal camera to several different types of professional drones.

Make sure you have your niche in mind when shopping and look for options that can be outfitted for your needs.

What if I’m Just Not Sure?

If you’re not sure what you want and you’re brand new to flying then it might be a good idea to go with something inexpensive.

If you stick to the drone prices in the $30-$100 range you’ll be buying something that will be a good introduction to flying and won’t break the bank. And if you end up falling in love with flying, you can always level up with the next purchase you make.

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Drone Prices: What to Expect at Different Price Points

As you may have already noticed, drone prices can vary a lot depending on the type of drone. So what can you expect at different price points?

Let’s take a look.

Drones Priced Under $100

Drones that cost less than $100 fall into the toy drone category. Even though they’re inexpensive, there are a lot of good options in this price range that can be fun and provide a great introduction to flying.

Here are some things to expect when you buy a drone that costs less than $100:

  • They’re usually small and don’t handle wind well—flying indoors might be your best option with these drones.
  • Since they’re light-weight they can often crash without a lot of damage done, which makes them a great fit for beginners.
  • Battery life is usually pretty short at just 5-10 minutes, so you might want to buy a backup set of batteries along with the drone, or look for drones that come with extra batteries.
  • Because these drones are small and light-weight the smallest nick on the propellers can impact flying. Propeller guards can help with this, and it also might not hurt to have an extra set of propellers on hand so you can switch them out.

Want some examples of drones in this price range? Here you go:

[Check out our guide to cheap drones for more options.]

Drones Priced Under $500

Drones that cost less than $500 are usually still in the toy category, although we’ve started to see some higher quality options come out at lower price points as drone technology improves.

Here are some basic things to expect when you buy a drone that costs less than $500:

As you move up in price from $100-$500 you’ll start seeing improvements to the camera that comes with the drone.
These drones will handle more smoothly than the ones in the $100 or less range, and will often include intelligent flight features like altitude control.
These drones will typically weigh more than the ones in the $100 or less range, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it can help with flying in stronger winds.

Want some examples of drones in this price range? Here you go:

[Check out our guide to cheap drones for more options.]

Drones Priced Under $2,000

Drones in the $500-$2,000 range make up the majority of the prosumer drone market. By prosumer we mean drones that are of high enough quality to be used for professional drone work but that don’t have a professional price tag (remember that Intel drone that costs $25K?).

Here are some basic things to expect when you buy a drone that costs between $500 and $2,000:

  • Drones in this price range typically come with higher quality cameras and can be used for professional purposes.
  • These drones are a great fit for the amateur aerial videographer/photographer who would like to leave the door open for pursuing professional drone work.
  • Some companies only use drones in this price range for all of their commercial work—the only reason to look at more expensive options is if you have a specific niche or problem that you know can only be solved by spending more.
  • DJI dominates this price range (as you’ll notice when you look at our two examples below).

Want some examples of drones in this price range? Here you go:

[Check out our guide to the top camera drones on the market for more options.]

Drone Priced $2,000+

Ok, it’s true—not many people are not shopping for a drone that costs this much. That being said, there are plenty of good reasons you might be on the market for an expensive drone.

One thing to note is that $2,000+ is pretty vague. A drone could be $3K or $30K in this range, and there is a huge difference between those two price points—not just in the cost, but in what you get for your money.

The basic rule of thumb for drone prices over $2,000 is that the more expensive you go, the more customized you get.

So what would you ever use an expensive drone like this for? Here are just a few examples:

  • High-end aerial cinematography for movie, commercial, or television productions
  • Industrial inspections
  • Niche applications, like seed-planting or fire fighting in forest fire scenarios

It’s worth noting that the reason your price can go up in this range is because of add-ons and extra features. Just like with a car’s trim levels, high-end drones often add more and more features as you go up in price.

In fact, many companies that sell drones in the $10K+ price range will often send out a devoted person or even a team of people to train new customers in how to fly the drone and how to take advantage of all the features. Some companies charge extra for these trainings while others don’t, since they view the training as baked into the original cost of purchasing their drone.

Want some examples of drones in this price range? Here you go:

[Check out our guide to the top professional drones on the market for more options.]

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Drone Prices for Commercial Work: What’s the Difference Between a $1,000 Drone and a $2,000 Drone?

Since most people will be on the market for a prosumer drone in the $500-$2,000 price range we wanted to spend a little more time looking at what you get as you go up in price, especially from around $1,000 to $2,000.

If you’re just starting out doing aerial videography as a commercial drone pilot you’ll probably be fine getting a drone that costs closer to $1,000.

[Want to learn more about how to become a commercial drone pilot? Check out our guide to the Remote Pilot Airman Certificate.]

Drones at this price point have high-quality HD cameras, handle well, and have the intelligent flight modes you’ll want to help you get professional-looking shots.

The DJI Spark is a selfie drone that costs around $1,000 and can do a lot of the basic shooting you might want for commercial videography. The DJI Mavic Air is another example of a solid option at this price point (it costs closer to $900).

On the other hand, if you’re a more experienced or high-end videographer then you might want to look at what you can get when you jump up in price. Both the DJI Inspire I (around $1,300) and Inspire II (around $2,600) come highly recommended for professional needs.

As you gain more experience flying and working with drones you’ll become more and more aware of exactly what you need, and that knowledge will help tremendously when it comes to navigating drone prices. If you start with a less expensive option, you can always scale up from there as you learn.

We hope you found this guide to drone prices helpful. Blue skies and safe flying out there folks.

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