How much does a drone cost? Not an easy question to answer since drones come a dime a dozen and there are many factors that influence price. However, in this article we’ll try to look at the drone prices per category and which category is best for you.
To ensure you’re getting the best bang for your buck when it comes to drones, one of the first things you should start with is utility. As in, what you’re trying to get out of your drone. That’s because as you’ll see in this article, drone prices vary greatly.
That’s right, you see…
The average drone price can go from $30 all the way up to $13,000 and beyond. Toy drones will cost on average from $30 to $90 while drones used for photographing and are considered entry level can range from $299 to $499. For mid-level consumer drones, expect between $600 and $1000.
So like I said, drone prices vary greatly… The gap between $30 and $13,000 is one of a myriad of features and utilities, some of which you might not even need. Which brings us to my original point: know what you want out of your drone.
Alright, so you spent the last 10 hours watching cool drone videos on youtube and you’re willing to pull the trigger and get yourself a drone…
The multiple crashing videos didn’t dissuade you from getting a drone anyway? No? Great, keep on reading then!
First things first, define what you want out of a drone. Because there are different kinds of drones at different price points (which we’ll get into in this article).
You’re trying to entertain your little siblings, race or take professional videos? There is a drone for every use!
How much does a beginner drone cost?
These are drones that you cannot go wrong with. Often called toy drones (because they’re small and look like… well, toys), these drones are usually in the $30 - $110 range and are perfect for anyone trying to dip their feet in the drone world.
There are several reasons why I think everyone should start on toy drones. First, their cheap price will make you fly more comfortably and not be scared from crashing. Second, even IF they crash, toy drones are usually very light and made from plastic, meaning they can take a crash or two.
And lastly, I think they’re a good way to familiarize yourself with drone flight and the remote control. That way you won’t – easily – crash your $1000 drone if you decide to get one.
There is also another bonus benefit to toy drones, flying them for a while will make you know for sure whether you have a passion for drones or whether it was just a passing whim. Better to pay $50 to realize that than to pay $1000.
A few good examples of cheap drones to start your drone journey with:
How much do intermediate drones cost?
So, you’ve spent some time flying toy drones and you’ve decided this is it, drones are for you!
You’re probably looking for something more now, after all, toy drones can only be so fun before they get boring. I recommend you move up by getting yourself a drone that is neither considered a “toy”, nor is it considered a photography drone.
Drones like these usually retail for around $199 - $299 and are perfect for beginners who got a taste for drone flight and craving something more… but at the same time still aren’t proficient enough to safely fly a more expensive drone.
Drones in this range usually have cameras albeit not high quality ones, and they usually include GPS-sensors making flight a little bit easier. You’ll also say goodbye to the 10 minutes flight times that are characteristic of toy drones.
Good examples of drones in this area are:
Entry-level drones for photography enthusiasts
Like most drone pilots, your aim is to probably take some good looking pictures and videos from your drone. If that’s more of a thrill to you than maneuvering in the air with agile drones, this type of drone is for you.
As you can guess, being entry-level they’re not exactly mind blowing in terms of features and specs. BUT, they’re actually good enough for you to take professional youtube-worthy footage, and are usually in the $300 - $500 range.
Drones in this range will tend to have video quality of 720p and higher and usually @30fps. Also worth keeping in mind that drones that have good gimbals and therefore shoot stable videos are on the higher end of that range.
Good examples of drones in this category are:
Mid-level drones (prosumers!)
Wow… and to think only 3 sections ago we were looking at toy drones, time sure flies…
Ok… bad puns aside, we’re starting to get serious here as mid-level (or prosumer) drones are usually in the $500 - $2500 range. At this point expect to see entirely different features and specs (though not that much different from some really good entry level drones), you’ll also notice increased camera stability as nearly all drones in this range have a 3-axis gimbal.
You can also start to see bigger sensors (mainly ½ inch) that have up to 48MP. These drones usually capture 4K footage at @60fps. The camera software also makes a jump as you move from entry-level to mid-level drones.
Furthermore, it isn’t just the camera that improves at this price range. Intelligent flight modes, increased flight safety, AI, obstacle avoidance… You name it!
This type of drone is good for you if you’re seriously thinking about making a career out of taking drone footage, or if you’re willing to spend more money on your hobby.
Good examples of drones in this range:
Professional drones (high-end)
Usually used by filmmaking studios, these drones are quite expensive as they range from $3000 and above. These drones are usually big in size and weigh heavier than the rest we’ve talked about so far.
Which is fairly normal, considering they usually carry big cameras used to shoot films. I doubt as a reader you’d be interested in this type of drones, but if your aim is professional filmmaking, you need to familiarize yourself with them.
Good examples in this range are:
Commercial & Enterprise drones – La crème de la crème of drone technology
We’re at the edge of drone technology here. Enterprise drones are the type of drones you grew up watching in movies… Thermal imaging, infrared, 200x zooms and crystal clear live feeds, you name it.
Drones at this range are usually made for specific tasks like surveying, search and rescue, fire control, etc… As for the price, it’s in the 5 figures. Most enterprise drones will cost $10,000 and above, depending on what accessories you add to them.
Some good examples of these type of drones include:
And that’s it, generally those are the type of drones you can expect to buy. This article is far from over though, because next we’ll look at the price for specific use-case drones (camera, surveying, etc…).
I’ll also go into some “hidden costs” of drones you should expect. So let’s continue…
There is no one size fits all answer to this but I’ll do my best to give you a clear idea. By camera drone, I’m assuming you mean an actual good camera which you can shoot viable videos with… not some shaky 480p camera.
Expect to pay between $400-$1000 for camera drones that are good enough to take clear pictures and smooth videos. Cameras in the lower end of this range are good for filming but don’t have other functions that the ones on the higher end have (waypoints, hyperlapse, etc…).
By good enough, I mean quality feed that is higher than 720p, a good gimbal that makes the camera stable and at least 20 minutes of flight time so you have more than enough time to make your shots and videos. A good drone that comes to mind then is the DJI mini 2, you can check my full review of it here.
As I said earlier, there are some enterprise (commercial) drones that have a specific use case. One of those use-cases is agriculture. I won’t bore you with the details of it since I covered it in a previous article.
Simply put, agricultural drones are high spec drones that capture what is called a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index map (NDVI), which helps farmers know which areas in their crops they should focus on and various other useful information.
As you can guess, they don’t come cheap. Agriculture drones cost from $3000 to well over $20000, but for most farmers, they’re worth every penny.
Another case where the drone is made for a specific task; surveying. When you hear surveying, it’s not only land surveying but also power line inspections, construction site surveying and mine surveying.
Since we’re talking about enterprise level drones here like the DJI Matrice 30, they’re not cheap. Drones used for surveying can cost up to $15,000 depending on the specs on it. Drones that have thermal imaging and high quality cameras cost more, and depending on which accessories you add they can shoot upwards to $20,000.
You’re probably noticing a theme here where drones for specific use-cases are priced in the 5 figure range. First, it’s because although commercials make these drones sound simple the specs and technology on these drones is nothing to scoff at.
Second, these drones are targeted at businesses rather than individuals, which is, as you guessed, merely a deductible expense that businesses can afford to take. This makes drone manufacturers a little more… “liberal” with their pricing.
Toy drones are scoffed at and treated by many people like consumables. As in, they don’t last long. There is some truth to that, but as I said previously they’re good if you want to get a feel for flying an object in the air.
Toy drones cost from $30 to $90 and are worth the price depending on which brand you get. However, keep in mind they aren’t made to last and will probably break or stop working sooner or later.
Does that make them an invalid choice? No. Pick one up for 50 bucks and have some fun!
When buying a drone you must keep in mind that other extra costs may apply depending on which type of drone you want to buy. These costs are as followers: Insurance cost, registration cost & license cost.
How much does drone insurance cost?
That depends on what you’re planning to do and what you're willing to pay. There are different insurance plans with different coverages.
Generally, for a one time flight, you can get drone insurance by the day for about $30-$40 per day (easily done through various apps that I’ll cover in another article). If you need $1,000,000 liability coverage for one month, expect to pay $60-$100 for a 30 day policy. The same coverage for an annual policy will cost around $500-$750 per year.
The topic of drone insurance is something that I’ve covered in more detail if you’d like to check that out.
How much does drone registration cost?
In order to be able to legally fly your drone in the U.S, you must register your drone with the FAA first, which doesn’t really cost that much.
You can register your drone with the FAA for $5 and your registration will be available for 3 years. Once registered, you’ll get a registration number that you’ll be required to put on your drone.
You can check the FAA’s official page for more information regarding that.
How much does a drone license cost?
Drone license is also an additional cost you may have to plan ahead for. First things first, who needs a license?
Well, both recreational pilots and those flying their drones commercially need a license, just not the same one. If you’re flying just for fun, you’ll need to pass a free test called the TRUST and you’ll be able to fly afterwards with no problems.
If you’re flying commercially though you’ll need to pass the Part 107 test and get a commercial flight license. The Part 107 test must be taken in-person at an FAA-authorized testing center and costs $175. Add to that the learning fees you’ll incur if you chose to take a prep course for the test.
These are basically the three extra costs that I could think of, other than that you're good to go.
By looking at drones that are worth more than $20,000 this question may have popped up in your mind. Or perhaps it’s not the price but just your love of building that made you consider making your own drone. Whatever it is, in this section we’ll break down the cost of each drone element you need to build a drone yourself.
Generally, building a drone yourself might be cheaper than buying something already made. However, it depends highly on the individual parts you’re trying to incorporate in your drone. It may even end up being more expensive than a branded drone.
I have good news! When I say building a drone I don’t mean you’ll be building it completely from scratch. Picture it like building a gaming pc. Which is why there are drone frames already available that you can get for as low as $20 or as high as $200, depending on the weight, material and design.
Electronic Speed Controllers (ESC)
A piece of electronics that allows you to control the drone’s speed. Typically, it’s a good rule of thumb to have as many ESC’s as the motors you have on your drone. A set of 4 ESC’s will usually cost around $50.
You guessed it, motors! You can’t fly your drone without these. How many motors you need will depend on the frame you bought.
If it’s a quadcopter frame then you’ll need 4 motors. 6 motors for hexacopter and 8 for octocopter. A good rule of thumb is to start with the number of motors you’d like to have first and then decide on the drone frame.
Typically, a single drone motor can cost up to $100.
Your drone can’t take off without these. Again, the number of propellers you choose will depend on how many motors you have.
Propellers can be as cheap as $2 and go upwards to $50, depending on the quality and blade diameter. A good rule of thumb is to avoid large and heavy propellers as they wear down the motors over time.
The flight controller is the brain of a drone. It’s a small box filled with intelligent electronics and software that monitors and controls everything the drone does.
Needless to say, you CAN’T build a drone without it! For a good quality flight controller, expect to pay $100 - $250.
Transmitter & Receiver
Pretty self explanatory, you need an RC to control the drone remotely and a receiver to receive the RC’s commands.
This is kind of hard to pin down in terms of price because it depends on the quality and range of the transmitter/receiver set. It can cost $50 all the way to $400.
Expect extra batteries other than the one you’ll be using for your drone. Drones use LiPo batteries, I’ve written an article about that before.
Generally a drone’s battery costs $20.
So… is building your own drone worth it?
If you’re merely building a drone just to save costs, that’s a hard no from me. As you can see in my selection we haven’t even discussed the gimbal and the camera, those will add big extra costs on their own.
For example, if you were to build a drone that has the same specs as, say, the DJI mini 2, you’ll be spending on it far more than if you bought the DJI mini 2. You’ll also have a cruder design and worse aerodynamics.
The reason for that is the economy of scale. DJI builds millions of drones in their factories, allowing them to optimize their production process and cut their costs and with it their prices down. You simply cannot compete in terms of price.
If however you like building and tinkering with things, then yes building your own drone is worth it and is also a satisfying experience.
We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. By now you probably have an idea on drone types and their typical prices. So which type of drones is best for you? There are a few factors to consider when deciding on what suits you.
Range & Flight Time
A really important factor to consider before buying your drone. Toy drones usually will not exceed 10 minutes of flight time and about 100 meters of flight range. That’s fine for beginners trying to dip their feet in the drone world but not for anyone trying to use their drone for filming.
If your aim is to take pictures and shoot videos, I recommend choosing a drone with at least 25 minutes of flight time. As for range, well, you aren’t allowed to let your drone fly beyond your line of sight anyways.
Size & Weight
Drones above 250g will sometimes be banned from flying in areas where sub-250g drones can fly with no problems, so consider that when trying to purchase a drone.
As for the size, it depends on what you prefer.
Most drones nowadays have good enough remote controllers. Some are better than others aesthetically, if that matters to you I recommend you check out a drone’s controller before buying it.
Does speed matter to you? It should only matter if you’re already proficient in drone flying and want something that’s fast and agile in the air.
Most good drones nowadays will have a speed that ranges from $30 to $50. Which is fine for most people, but if you want something faster you'll have to consider racing drones.
You’ll be sacrificing stability and the film shooting aspect of drones if you go that route though.
A valid thing to consider before buying your drone. It depends on the size of drone you want to get.
Small drones are easy to carry in a backpack or in their own pouch. They’re also easy to set up when you want to fly them.
Larger drones however (usually used for professional photography & filmmaking) will have bigger cases and sometimes even wheels on their cases for transportation. While that’s not efficient, you probably won’t be dragging a $15,000 drone around all the time so the people who actually use these types of drones don’t mind that much.
In this bonus section we’ll look at what I think are the best drones in the following categories: under $50, $100, $200, $300, $500 and $100.
Starting with what I think is the best toy drone…
Eachine Ex010 - the perfect beginner drone under $50
The perfect beginner drone for anyone trying to see if drones are for them or not. It’s also great for kids as it’s very light in weight and its propellers aren’t exposed.
You can get it for as cheap as $25.
You can also check out my full article about the top drones under $50.
DJI Tello - cheap drone with a great camera (under $100)
My favorite drone under $100, it can fly for 12 minutes and even comes with a stabilized HD camera. And which is more, it has sensors allowing you to fly a more stable flight.
I honestly think the DJI Tello is the crown jewel of drones under $100. The people who’d benefit best from it are those who’ve tried toy drones, got a feel for what it’s like to fly a drone and are now looking to move a little higher up the ladder.
Although I call it under $100, in some places it retails at a little bit over $180, but you can get it for a cheap price if you know where to look.
For my full article about the best drones under $100, you can check it out here.
Eachine Ex4 - the Best Cheap GPS drone (under $200)
The Eachine Ex4 (also known as the JJRC X12 Aurora) is a drone that I’ve tested myself and I can safely say it’s one of the best drones under $200 if not the best.
It has a 3-axis gimbal which is rare in this price range. It also has a 1km flight range which is more than enough for the people this drone is targeted at; beginners beginning to feel comfortable flying a drone.
You can find this cheap GPS drone for a great price on certain sites and it also comes with automatic return to home.
I made a full article on other drones in this price range that I think are worth the price.
Hubsan Zino - the Best Cheap 4k drone (under $300)
If you’ve been interested in drone space for a while you’ve probably heard of the Hubsan Zino. It’s the best 4K camera drone you can get right now for less than $300!
With a more than enough 1km flight range, a 3 axis gimbal and 4K footage camera, it’s actually a valid competitor of the likes of DJI. If you’d like to take professional looking footage or pictures and are on a low budget, this drone is for you.
You can get the Hubsan Zino, along with its several accessories for great prices most of the time.
Although the Hubsan Zino takes the cake when it comes to drones under $300, there are other great drones in this price range. You can check my full article about that.
DJI Mini 2 - the Best Cheap Professional Drone (under $500)
Kind of the face of the drone industry at this point, the DJI Mini 2 is hands down the best drone you can get at this price range. I honestly can’t believe it’s this cheap since it rivals drones that are priced way above it.
This drone is perfect for hobbyists as well as professionals on a budget. It’s sub 250 grams which means you’ll have quite a lot of freedom when flying it. It also has some intelligent flight modes making flight and filming really easy. Add to that the 4k camera, the 3-axis gimbal and the 31 minute flight time… what more could you want from a drone at this price?
There are other drones that actually rival the DJI mini 2, check out my full review of drones under $500.
DJI Mavic Air 2 - Best drone under $1000
A good drone that never disappoints. Perfect for starting professionals who want the best bang for their buck and are looking for something efficient, durable, but also doesn’t have a 4 figure cost.
I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a good drone and can afford to pay $750.
Well, this is it folks. This was an in-depth and comprehensive guide reflecting the current drone market. I wanted to give you a clear idea on what to expect and what drone do you think you’ll fit your taste and budget.
If you’ve found some of your dream drones to be expensive and you’re wondering whether you’ll actually like them if you do end up buying them… Don’t worry, there is also the option of renting a drone. Renting a drone is a great way to test a drone first hand and know for sure whether you like it or not.
I haven’t discussed it in this article because I’ve already written a whole article that you can check by going here.