Why are drones so expensive?

Why are drones so expensive?

Last year, I promised my 15-year-old a drone for Christmas. I should’ve checked before committing because the drone prices blew my mind. This sparked a deep dive and spent countless hours researching into understanding why drones have such hefty price tags.

So, why are drones so expensive? Here’s what I learned. Drones are expensive due to the sophisticated technology, R&D, hardware, and software that go behind manufacturing them & regulatory compliances required to operate them safely.

Of course, not all drones are expensive. But then the price you pay is proportional to the quality and features you get! Read on as I explain the reasons that justify the massive price tags of drones.

Factors That Make Drones Expensive

As I said, there’s not one, but many aspects that contribute to the costs of drones. Sharing what I learned from my extensive research and lengthy conversations with drone experts.

Factors contributing to drone costs:

1. Drone Components & Technology

The drone components and technology are major factors contributing to the price. The tiny craft packs within it a plethora of tech components like batteries, sensors, motors, etc.

Each of these components is responsible for making the drone fly with stability, control, and precision. Let’s discuss each in detail:

a. Motors: A quadcopter needs four powerful motors to make the drone fly. At the same time, they also must be lightweight to keep the overall weight of the drone low.

On expensive drones, these motors are typically brushless for enhanced efficiency and tolerance.

Brushless motors are fairly costly compared to brushed ones due to the materials used and the manufacturing process.

b. Sensors: A drone uses multiple sensors to avoid collisions and undertake a smooth flight.

These include GPS for navigation, obstacle avoidance sensors to detect objects, and accelerometers to control orientation.

The IMU (inertial measurement unit) contains the accelerometers and gyroscope.

Without these sensors, a drone’s flight will lack control and stability. Depending on the number and sophistication of the sensors, the drone’s price will vary.

c. Battery: The function of the battery is to provide power to the drone’s electric and motor parts.

The price of the battery will be determined by its capacity and type (Lithium-ion batteries are costlier than nickel-cadmium).

Premium batteries that last longer or are rechargeable will cost more (up to $139), thus adding to the overall cost of the drone.

d. Propellers: Drone propellers generate the thrust that lifts a drone. Plastic and carbon fiber are the commonly used materials in propellers.

While plastic is more affordable, it can break easily in the event of a crash. Carbon fiber, on the other hand, is expensive but lighter and more durable.

The number of propellers also adds to the drone’s price as well as performance. This is why four-propeller drones are usually more expensive than those with a two-propeller configuration.

e. Flight Controller: The most vital part of a drone, a flight controller controls the ESC (electronic speed controllers) and motors.

The price of the flight controller will depend on the features provided. Typically, a flight controller costs about $100 to $250 and contributes significantly to the drone cost.

Multi-rotor flight controllers are considered the most advanced and found in high-end drones.

Each of these parts needs to be powerful and advanced in tech, as well as light-weight.

This requires the use of special materials and cutting-edge manufacturing, which leads to higher costs.

2. Research And Development Costs

Every few months, there are drone software updates, and new models that enter the market.

Being a relatively new and fast-evolving tech, drone manufacturers are constantly innovating.

The designing and testing of new equipment, software updating, field testing, etc., are all cost-intensive undertakings.

The cost incurred in developing radical tech is passed on to the consumers by way of higher drone pricing.

Just as the next product in the iPhone series will be more expensive, the same goes for drones.

3. Regulatory Compliance And Safety Standards

Drone manufacturers must comply with government regulations and obtain the necessary certifications.

These certifications include safety and performance standards that are mandatory for a safe flight. To get these certificates, the drone must be fitted with all the necessary tech.

This implies an additional cost of documentation, product testing, and assessments that will be necessary to pass the stringent regulations.

Drones that are compliant with all compliance and safety standards tend to be on the expensive side.

4. Quality And Durability Considerations

The durability of a drone is mainly determined by the materials used in making it. For an optimal flight, the material needs to be light-weight yet sturdy enough to escape unexpected crashes.

Manufacturers use a mix of high-quality drone materials to design its parts. The frame in consumer drones like the DJI Phantom and Mavic is made of magnesium alloy.

This alloy is light, incredibly strong, and resistant to corrosion. And it doesn’t come cheap!

5. Manufacturing And Production Costs

A drone manufacturer incurs several costs, of which raw material & components, and labor is the highest.

A study conducted to analyze the pricing of DJI drones found that 80% of the cost is due to the presence of electrical & electronic components in various sub-systems of the drone.

Of this, 68% of the amount is consumed by drone sub-assembly such as vision position sensors, transceivers, PCB, GPS antenna, and controller – all of which are high-cost items.

With such high costs in manufacturing processes for drones, the price of the end product is bound to be expensive.

Apart from the above, there are also other expenses like logistics, marketing, insurance, legal, accounting, and machine repair and maintenance.

All of this forms a part of the drone production cycle and adds to the overall cost.

6. Branding And Market Positioning

Most popular drone brands invest significant sums in their marketing and brand positioning in the drone market.

This cost forms a part of the margin on final pricing that manufacturers keep on a product.

This is why sometimes a non-branded drone may offer the same features as a popular one but at a lesser price. So, why pay this price premium?

The reason is the quality assurance that comes with a popular brand. You are, in effect, paying for the reliable after-service and spare parts availability that only a brand can offer.

Comparison With Other Technology Products

Depending on the purpose you are buying a drone for, comparisons could crop up.

For instance, drones v/s GoPro is much discussed. GoPros have been around for some time now and come studded with features.They are light, portable, tough, and now wearable, too.

But when it comes to aerial photography, camera-fitted drones take the upper hand.

Although, you could buy a regular drone and mount your GoPro on it for some stellar captures!

Future Trends In Drone Pricing

With an extensive and impressive array of uses in multiple industries, drones are the most promising future tech.

Drone makers are in a rush to develop more powerful and quicker drones for both commercial and hobbyist’ use.

Even space agencies like NASA are working with drone tech for future space missions!

As the demand for drones increases across various sectors, the manufacturing costs are likely to come down due to increased efficiency.

Also, the rampant competition will reflect on drone pricing, thereby bringing it down.

With drones becoming more mainstream, it is expected that the prices will decrease.

Of course, you will still have to pay for sophisticated futuristic tech, but overall, you might be able to purchase drones at a slightly lesser price.

Conclusion

As you can see, the costly price tags have valid and justified reasons. You are paying for the quality, durability, and brand reliability that high-end drones promise. 

Would I want to trade these for a cheaper drone? Personally, I don’t think so. Given the wear and tear drones undergo, I’d want mine to be made of sturdy material and innovative tech!

Go ahead; you can now buy that pricey drone with conviction.

FAQ

1. What are some features that form part of consumer considerations for drone investment?

The camera quality, battery life, and storage capacity are some features that people consider when purchasing a drone.

2. Are cheap drones worth it?

Cheap drones are worth it only if you are willing to compromise on image quality, build, and the overall degree of control over the drone.

3. How do you buy drones on a budget?

The best option for a budget buy is to look for older versions when a new model is released, as the prices will drop.

Alternatively, you can opt for second-hand drones from reputed companies available at lower drone costs.

4. Why are expensive drones safer?

This is because, in higher-priced drones, you will find reliable software and sensors.

Also, the quality of the connection between the app, drone, and controller is more stable.

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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