Drones! They are everywhere, in the stores, in the news, and in the skies. It’s very easy to see their appeal, I can think of five benefits immediately. However, before you head over to Amazon or Bestbuy, there are a couple of things you may want to consider before purchasing your first drone.
This article is for purchasing of prosumer drones. If you’re looking to purchase a first drone that costs over $2,000 I would highly caution against so.
Buying a Drone is very similar to buying a car
While you do not have to go to a drone dealership to purchase one. You are going to need a few components such as having a budget/price, knowing your make and model, laws and regulations, liabilities, and maintenance.
Why Do You Want a Drone?
When it comes to drones, the first question you want to ask yourself is “why?”. Are you a photographer looking for an edge? Are you a hobbyist that has a personal reason for wanting to fly? or are you looking to gain a career path in the emerging drone industry? Knowing why you want a drone will be very important while doing your research on when it comes to purchasing your make and model.
The True Costs of a Drone
Prosumer drone prices vary widely but a good range is between $500-$1500. So our example today will the median of this price range at $1000. Let’s say our base price gets us the drone body, four propellors (assuming its a quadcopter), one battery with a 25 minute flight time, one remote controller (not all base prices with drones come with remote controllers!), and finally the necessary chargers.
Propellors (props for short) are not expensive, however, many experts recommend replacing your props after every 10-25 hours worth of flight time, also props can get damaged for a myriad of reasons. You do not want to fly with bad props, because when it comes to quadcopters one bad prop can drop your drone out of the sky! For a cost analysis let’s say your props are $10 and you replace them four times a quarter, bringing the annual cost to $40.
Next and equally important is the battery (also known as the intelligent flight battery). The aforementioned flight time of 25 minutes is actually going to be closer to 22 minutes and that’s if your flying in temperate weather. If your flying in hot/humid or cold conditions you are looking at between 16-21 minutes worth of flight time. In addition, the battery is the most sensitive part of the drone and needs to be taken care of. DJI has a great manual which can be viewed here.
For this example, we’re going to say that each battery is $100. The amount of batteries needed per pilot varies, but I think 3 batteries is a good median number. Assuming you take care of your batteries and drone you are looking at a first-year total cost of $1,340. And that price is without other attachments including apps and software, skins, range extenders, etc., but the most important to add on for your drone, one that needs its section, and that is…
You Need Drone Insurance
No ifs, ands, and buts. Like cars, drones can cause damage, to both property and bodily. However, unlike cars, if a drone accident or crash occurs, it will be 99% percent the fault of the pilot. That makes you liable for any lawsuits or other legal actions. Even if you’re the best pilot in the world, you still need drone insurance because anything can happen while your drone is in the air.
That’s why ensuring your drone with full coverage is very important and not as expensive as car insurance. For most insurance, a policy of $1 million in liabilities should suffice.
There are three options, annually, monthly, an even hourly. If you fly frequently or use your drone for your business like myself, I recommend getting annual coverage. I get my coverage through a company called Global Aerospace. With annual coverage, I feel more at peace knowing that I am insured. The company also provides both liability and hull (covers the body of your drone) insurance. Currently, I am paying $691 annually to cover my Phantom 4 Pro.
If your the occasional flyer or hobbyist, “on-demand” drone insurance might be a better option. Companies such as Skywatch and Verifly, offer hourly and monthly options. Personally, I think monthly is the better and more economically viable option to go.
Similar to driving a car, one has to learn how to fly a drone, through practice. Thanks to GPS lock, intelligent flight modes, and return-to-home functions, flying a drone is much easier than ever before.
With that being said, if you want to learn how to fly a drone its best to do it on a $100 model than a $1000+ model, why? Because it will make you a better pilot in the long run by not having to rely on some of the more advanced functions, and especially when starting out you will crash!
Rules and Regulations
Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer who wants to scale up their business by using a drone or a real estate agent looking to spice up their listing utilizing drone shots, then you will need to obtain a Part 107 Certificate. Part 107 allows an individual to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle under 55 lbs or less, for commercial purposes. You can accomplish this by passing 60 question test administered by the FAA, you can find out more on the FAA’s website.
Whether you’re a hobbyist or commercial operator you still need to know the rules and regulations.
On October 5, President Trump signed the FAA Regulation Act of 2018. It put much-needed rules and regulations for hobbyists, that was lacking prior to the measure.
Some of the basic and most important rules include:
- Registering your drone on the FAA’s Drone Portal.
- Fly your drone at or below 400 feet.
- Beware of FAA-controlled airspace.
- Do not fly next to or near manned aircraft
- Do not fly over groups of people.
- Always maintain Visual Line of Sight (VLOS).
- Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
While flying a drone can be one of the best and fun experiences for an individual it is important to recognize the responsibility that individual must take on. So have fun, maybe make some money, but whatever you do fly safe!