Buying a drone can seem like a challenging process. Understanding what is considered expensive and what is considered cheap when it comes to drones can also seem difficult when you don’t have much knowledge on drones.
That’s why today we aim to make it a little easier on you by telling you everything you need to know in this guide on cheap vs expensive drones.
So, what is a cheap drone and what is an expensive drone?
Cheap drones fall under the price range of between $30-$200. Expensive drones fall under the price range of between $300 and up. Cheap drones will be harder to control due to the fact that they lack things such as sensors, GPS and hovering stability which all contribute to a much smoother experience. Expensive drones will be made of better quality materials providing additional durability and resistance to things like crashes.
By the end of this post, you should know what a good price is for your drone whether you’re just starting out, or you’re experienced.
What Are ‘Cheap’ Drones?
Cheap drones are any drone that is less than $200. In general, drones that cost this little are not made with quality in mind and therefore lack when it comes to performance.
These kinds of drones come in all shapes and sizes.
When buying drones that are cheap, you should not be expecting much.
Are cheap drones any good?
Cheap drones are good for kids as toys and for those who are trying to learn how to fly a drone with the intention of upgrading later. They are also good for those who don’t have much of a budget and want more flexibility when flying. However, these drones are usually made of cheap materials and simple systems that make them easy to break from minor mistakes.
These drones allow the operator to make mistakes without much consequence as you won’t be losing much if you crash them because of their cheap prices. This allows for a lot of flexibility and less stress especially when it’s your first time flying a drone.
Cheap drones do not have many uses. Usually, they are just used to get some flight experience by flying around a bit for fun.
Are cheap drones hard to fly?
Cheap drones can be quite challenging to fly at first. The more you practice, the better you will get. As the saying goes, practise makes perfect.
Cheap drones can be quite challenging as they do not have any sophisticated technology in them to aid in stabilisation which forces you, the operator, to do all the work.
This is why when just starting out, cheap drones can give you an added bonus. By this we mean that once you understand how to fly them, moving to a more expensive drone will be a piece of cake as you’ll have gotten the hang of it.
Of course, you’ll still need to get used to the drone when you change, especially if your new drone is a lot larger than your old one.
How long can cheap drones fly?
Cheap drones will have batteries with less capacity and power. This will obviously lead to shorter flight times.
Most cheap drones will only be capable of flying for 5-10 minutes in the air on average.
Examples of cheap drones
Here are a few examples of cheap drones you can buy on the market:
What Are ‘Expensive’ Drones?
Expensive drones are any drone that is $300 and up. Expensive drones have a lot more features in general and can be built specifically for speed, distance or other drone features related to drone technology.
Why buy an expensive drone?
Expensive drones are built with better materials that are more resistance to shock and weather.
This can make a drone more or less resistant to water. It can also make a drone resistant to crashes depending on how severe the crash is.
This makes the drone more durable which allows the drone to last much longer.
Due to these features, they are less faulty than cheaper models which further prevents accidents from occurring.
Keep in mind that you most likely won’t ‘outgrow’ a more expensive drone compared to a cheap one as there is a lot more you can do with one. They have a lot more features which can be used in many different applications.
Are expensive drones easier to fly?
Yes, expensive drones are easier to fly than cheap drones.
These drones usually have a lot more features that lead to better stability such as GPS and things like sensors which allow them to automatically adjust themselves providing an easier experience in the air.
These drones a built with very organised and optimised components which can also increase stability if done properly.
It’s also important to note that they have the ability to go a lot farther from the controller (over 4 miles) rather than just a few hundred feet for cheap drones.
How long can expensive drones fly?
Expensive drones use better batteries that are capable of holding more energy.
Expensive drones are capable of flying for 15-30 minutes on average.
These batteries (usually lithium-polymer or lithium-ion batteries) remain relatively small and lightweight in comparison to the drone they’re attached to which reduces the drone’s overall weight, therefore reducing the load the drone has to carry which reduces the speed the batteries get drained.
Examples of expensive drones
Here are a few examples of expensive drones:
What Are The Different Types Of Drones? [Price Ranges Included]
Before choosing which price you’re willing to spend on a drone, you’ll need to decide on which type of drone you’d want to purchase and what you intend to use it for.
Fixed-wing drones are drones that resemble planes due to their fixed wings. They are usually capable of flying for a lot longer due to their gliding capabilities.
The above video is on a popular fixed-wing drone (Parrot Disco) and what it looks like in action.
Fixed wing drones can range from $50 on the cheap end to over $300 on the pricier side.
They can be challenging to learn to fly at first. Some require a runway to take off, some can take off vertically and others need a person to throw the drone for it to fly.
Fixed-wing drones use a lot less power and are usually quite large in wingspan.
Some are light and others are more on the heavier side.
These drones are not available to the public but are still a type of drone nonetheless.
We’ll be honest, we just added this one because of how cool they are!
These drones are on a whole new level to consumer drones available on the market today.
The Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV) 2 was a drone developed by the DARPA Falcon project.
This drone was capable of flying at 13,000 mph (Mach 17.53 or 21.000 km/h)!
We’ll let the short video below explain it’s insane capabilities.
Tricopters, quadcopters, hexacopters and octocopters
These types of multi-rotor drones are pretty simple to remember once you understand what they mean.
A tricopter is a drone that has 3 arms or if you prefer, propellers. These drones usually require more power due to their lack of propellers to generate lift.
If you’re trying to carry heavy payloads with your drone, then this may not be the best option. Tricopters are usually much cheaper than the other options due to the fact that they usually have less of every component.
A quadcopter is the kind of drone most are more familiar with. This drone has 4 propellers which work in unison to keep the drone in the air.
These drones are very common and have an immense amount of uses and range in price.
Quadcopters range from $30-$2,000 and come at very different quality depending on their price.
Hexacopters are drones that have 6 propellers and octocopters have 8. These drones usually begin to become very expensive because of their wide range of abilities.
They are capable of taking professional photos at incredible quality while staying very stable. They are usually very durable and are capable of carrying heavy payloads. They can be used for almost any application.
The only downside is that they are expensive and are very difficult to travel with or simply to transport them from one place to another.
Professional hexacopters and octocopters range in prices anywhere from $1,000 to $16,000.
Of course, you can still find some that are of lower quality and built more for beginners with prices that could range from $100 to $400.
Remotely operated vehicles (ROV)/Underwater drones
Underwater drones/ROVs are drones capable of exploring the depths of the ocean. These drone’s prices range anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars depending on the size and overall capabilities.
These drones can either be tethered (when an underwater ROV is attached with a cable to a buoy or boat), or wireless.
Take note that wireless underwater drones cannot go nearly as deep.
If you’d like to find out a little on how deep underwater ROVs can go, whether this be consumer drones or professional drones not available to the public, then check out our post on this topic here:
Camera/video drones are very broad terms as they incorporate many of the types of drones in this post. We’ll only give a quick explanation.
Camera/video drones are any type of drone (racing, underwater, octocopter…) that can be used to capture footage.
When we talk about camera/video drones, we usually talk about the drones that were primary built to capture the highest quality footage possible but in general, it can mean most drones on the market today.
Racing drones is a very cool activity that’s widely becoming known by many. It’s incredible to watch people who have mastered the first person view (FPV) by looking through goggles going at speeds exceeding 100 mph (161 km/h).
These drones do not come cheap however, and most require custom builds to reach speeds like mentioned above.
Drones like these start around $500 but can easily break the $1000 mark if you’re aiming to exceed 100 mph (161 km/h).
There are many racing drones currently available on the market but most cannot exceed 50 mph (80km/h).
If you’d like to learn more on all kinds of drone speeds for different types of drones, check out our detailed post below:
Here is a link to the drone racing league’s website if you’d like to learn more on this sport:
Mini and nano drones
Mini or nano drones are drones that are very small. They are usually meant to be used by novice drone pilots but have been used by the military or for some professional applications.
These drones are used mostly indoors and usually cost quite cheap. The lower quality drones can range from $30 to $70 whereas the higher quality ones can cost $300 and up.
These drones are mostly used as toys and for those trying to get the hang of flying a drone.
Toy drones are meant for children and even novice drone pilots. They are widely available and usually cheap to buy. These drones are compact and of lower quality than most drones.
Some can have some cool features such as a stunt mode which allows them to automatically flip and roll for example.
Toy drone prices typically range from $10 to $250.
What Are The Main Differences Between Cheap And Expensive Drones?
One of the main reasons some drones are a lot more expensive comes down to what the drone will be used for.
There are many different application of drones such as 3D mapping of mines or construction sites, inspections of power lines and buildings, and even to rescue individuals or track criminals in police forces.
Drones that need to be equipped with advanced technology such as thermal cameras or 3D mapping technology need to be durable, resistant to things such as rain, and at times capable of carrying small payloads.
Drones that are also intended for professional photographers or videographers that are equipped with very high definition cameras are going to be priced very high because they were made to be high quality for that reason.
These types of drones are usually very stable to provide the best footage and are usually very durable as they’re made with high quality materials and better designs to protect the drone’s components.
Cheap drones are not usually made for specific reasons other than to help new people get the hang of flying a drone or to entertain children.
They are not made for specific reasons and are not made to be high quality. They allow an operator to make mistakes without consequence because of their cheap prices and availability.
Cheap drones often don’t come with controllers in order to reduce their overall cost.
What’s A Good Price For A Drone?
This will depend on the way you plan on using your drone.
If you’re buying a drone with the intention of using the drone professionally, then you may want to buy a drone in the $500-$1000 range or more.
If you are a beginner with this same intention, then you may want to buy a drone in the $30-$200 range to get the hang of it, and then upgrade to a higher price bracket later on.
If you’re buying a drone with the intention of using it for fun, then the $30-$200 range may suffice.
However, if you plan on using it for things such as photography or videography and you want a drone that is capable of taking high quality videos and images then you may want to upgrade to the $500-$1000 range.
We believe that starting out with a cheap drone is the way to go as a beginner drone pilot.
It may be harder in most cases, but once you learn to fly your cheap drone, you’ll never forget and you’ll have a better understanding of how drones work and what not to do while in the air.
This will allow you to smoothly transition to a more expensive drone and improve your overall experience.