Buying_a_Drone_vs_Building_a_Drone

Buying A Drone Vs. Building It: Which Is Best?

Introduction

After years of flying DJI drone models (Phantom 2 and Inspire 2), I decided to build my own drone. The motivating factors were the need for customization and the drive to try something new.

I began drone building with plenty of hope and assistance from DIY YouTube tutorials. And what a journey it was! 

Having successfully built one, I have all the insights to help you decide whether to buy a drone or build one.

Buying is easy, straightforward, and convenient, while drone building is hard work, learning, and fun. I’m here with the hard facts to help you decide whether to buy or build your drone. 

Pros and Cons of Buying a Drone

Here are a few factors to take into account when you choose to buy a drone.

Advantages

1. Ready to Fly: A built drone is ready to fly as soon as it’s out of the box with minimal or no assembly required.

This convenience is valuable for those who cannot spare the time or do not possess the skills to assemble a drone from scratch. 

2. Lower Learning Curve: The instruction manual, tutorials, and built-in features make it super easy to fly these drones.

Most DJI drones are aimed at recreational flyers and can be flown with minimal practice.

They also have various modes that make professional-style photography accessible to the amateur flyer.  

3. Reliability: Drone brands like DJI are known for their robust, built, and tested products.

The readymade drones are always covered under warranty. This makes it easier to get replacements when required.

4. Assistance: The customer support offered by reputed drone companies is a blessing.

I cannot recall the number of times I’ve reached out to them for troubleshooting as a beginner pilot!

5. Safety: The drones that hit the market have undergone strict testing procedures to ensure their safety and those around it.

They are certified to meet the standards set by regulatory bodies, which makes purchasing readymade drones a safer option. 

6. Advanced Features: Drone companies allot a significant portion of their earnings into R&D.

This process of technological innovation adds contemporary features to drones that are nearly impossible to replicate in DIY drones.

Even if your drone is not the latest model, you will continue to receive software and firmware updates that keep it up-to-date. 

Disadvantages

1. Limited Customization: Customizations become necessary for those like me who have been flying drones for years.

There are times when you feel the need to add a new camera or make other tweaks. 

Sadly, most readymade drones limit the ability of the consumer to customize based on their preference. 

2. Potentially Higher Costs: Mass-produced drones are cheaper than DIY when you are looking to create a replica.

Yes, the ready-to-fly drones come with some stellar features and modes. 

But if you have very specific requirements, then the fancy paraphernalia accompanying most models might not be for you. 

Pros and Cons of Building a Drone

If you are leaning towards building your drone, here are some insights from my drone-making journey.

Advantages

So, what are the advantages of building your own drone? Here is the answer:

1. Creative Customizations: Are pre-built drones less customizable? Yes. That’s why, most of the time, the room for customization is the entire allure behind drone building.

You can tailor the drone to your needs using DIY drone kits or buying all components separately. 

2. Learning Experience: Building a drone offers a wealth of learning! Firstly, you need to choose the components and parts that are compatible in size and shape. 

After that, it involves working with tools and putting your knowledge of electronics to use. 

When building a drone, you learn the function and significance of each part, which enriches the flying experience.

It also makes you self-reliant when undertaking periodic maintenance and repair. 

3. Potential Cost Saving: Building a drone might be cheaper if you are able to secure a good deal on the components.

However, this is not always a possibility, and mass-produced drones tend to be more cost-effective.

So, always run a building drone cost analysis beforehand.

Disadvantages

1. Complicated Process: Every step of drone building is risky and experimental, even with access to drone building guides.

Buying the various parts itself is a time-consuming endeavor. Once all the components are available, the assembly involves soldering and a basic knowledge of electronics. 

People often wonder what safety considerations should be taken into account when building a drone?

Well, be prepared to work with plenty of tools- hex drivers, wire cutters, soldering iron, etc. even when using beginner drone kits.

It can also get quite dangerous if you are not accustomed to using them deftly. 

2. Safety Compliance: The FAA has strict regulations for drones, including possessing a remote ID and flying in allocated areas.

With readymade drones, these flight and safety regulations are adhered to by the manufacturer and built into the drones. 

However, for DIY drones, special care must be taken to make a compliant device. 

3. Time-Consuming: Do you know how much time does it take to build a drone? Expect to devote significant time and expertise when building a drone.

Depending on your accuracy and knowledge, it could take between a few hours to a few days. Of course, this is subject to all components being at hand.

4. Cost: I’m often asked is it cost-effective to build a drone compared to buying one?

The price of the drone will include the drone parts, accessories, and shipping costs.

The price of the parts you procure will depend on the material, quality, capacity, etc.

The essential components are a frame, flight controller, transmitters & receivers, ESC, battery, propellers, and motor. Accessories like gimbals, guards, drone cases, etc., are optional.

The most basic drone can be built for under $100, and this cost can go up to $500 and more for advanced ones.

To directly answer the frequently asked question – What is the average cost difference between buying and building a drone?

It can be anywhere between $300 to $500. 

Factors To Consider While Building A Drone vs. Buying It

Ultimately, the factors below are decisive in determining whether you build a drone or buy one:

A.   Skill Level

There is little to no skill required in getting a store-bought drone ready. Some models may require basic assembly, which can be done without tools and following detailed instructions. 

But can beginners successfully build a drone from scratch? Building a drone from scratch requires familiarity with working with tools, dealing with electronic components, and possessing deep knowledge of drone parts and their functions. 

Verdict: You cannot consider a DIY drone without the required expertise, as mentioned above, which limits its consumers.

But a readymade drone can be used by anyone regardless of skill level. 

Hope this answers the question – What skills are required for building a drone?

B.   Budget

Mass-produced drones tend to be cheaper as the costs are offset by the quantity. But the manufacturer charges you for features you may not need, as well as the warranty, future assistance, and other services.

Building your own drone means you get to decide what you pay for. Besides the essential components, you can decide the budget to allocate for accessories. 

This gives you more control over the cost. But do account for the shipping charges of individual parts and the cost incurred in case you break any parts during DIY drone assembly.

Verdict: It might seem that building your drone costs less than buying one.

But you need to factor in the skill involved and time required, besides other considerations like safety. 

Overall, buying a drone is cheaper as you get more features and dependability. 

C.  Purpose of Drone Usage

Buying a drone is ideal if your purpose is recreational flying. A readymade drone can be flown without much practice. 

It also lets you capture stunning photographs without being an expert in maneuvering. 

I’ve been using the Intelligent Modes in DJI drones to create videos that look and feel professional. The same task requires considerable piloting skills in self-built drones. 

However, professional photographers and drone racers could benefit from building a drone. It allows them to use the camera of their choice and keep the desired weight. 

Verdict: To address the query- which option is better for aerial photography: buying or building a drone?

If you are a professional with time at hand, then building a drone is for you. 

But buying is definitely better for recreational and hobbyist flyers. 

D.  Time

The only time you will spend with a ready-to-fly drone will be in unboxing it! Everything needed to fly a drone is available in the box, and all you need is to find the appropriate space.

The time commitment for building drones can be anywhere between a few days to a month from inception to the final product.

This includes the time spent researching and procuring components and building the drone body. 

Verdict: Custom drone construction can be quite time-consuming. Even then, you are not assured of a reliable outcome. 

So, it is better to put the speculation aside and save time by buying a branded drone!

Conclusion

I’ve listed all the pros and cons of the buy vs. build drone conundrum. Having done both, my recommendation would be to buy a drone and enjoy the quick convenience it brings.

But if you are someone who revels in the satisfaction of their fruit of labor then this article serves as a guide of what to expect.

Either way, I hope the end result is an enriching flying experience for you all!

FAQ

1. Are there kits available for building drones?

If you want to find a middle ground between buying a drone and building from scratch, then these kits can be very useful.

2. How much do drone frames cost?

Expect the drone frame price to be between $30-$250, depending on the material and build quality. 

3. How do I decide the number of propellers when building a drone?

Whether you need three, four, or six propellers will be determined by the frame of your drone.

 4. Do I need a remote ID for my drone?

Yes, if your drone weighs more than 250 grams or is used for commercial purposes, then a remote ID is mandated by the FAA.

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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