Why you should not buy a drone [8 important reasons]

Getting the latest and greatest gadget is sometimes more exciting than using it. Drones open up a whole new world of photography, but they can lead to an emotional purchase. A purchase that will sit unused in a draw for a very long time. Many people have purchased a drone only to let it sit unused for many weeks and months. Drones are there to be flown!

You should not buy a drone if you haven’t factored in the full cost of running and operating a drone. You may need to get your drone licence, or if the laws and regulations around your house are very restrictive, you may never be able to fly.

When looking for a drone, I had a very specific use case. The targeted use meant that I had been flying my drone nearly every day for about one year. In my mind, this is a perfect way to purchase a drone and get the most out of it.

This article will cover everything you need to know on whether or not you should buy a drone and, in particular, why you should not buy a drone.

By reading this article and checking in each of the items in the list, you may save yourself a lot of expense and time searching for a drone that you will never fly.

If you haven’t factored in all the cost

You should not buy a drone if you have not factored in the entire cost of purchasing and operating a drone.

Why you should not buy a drone

Drones can be a very expensive gadget. You certainly shouldn’t put yourself under any financial strain for the sake of buying a new tool, no matter how cool it is. There are plenty of hobbies that don’t require a large investment. For example, purchasing a second-hand DSLR camera may be the tool you need for starting your new hobby.

The cost of a drone goes beyond the drone itself. You should factor in the time you need to spend to become a certified pilot, and you also need to factor in the cost of a capable smartphone or tablet and extra batteries and propellers. Some drone manufacturers offer relatively good value drone bundles, which can help minimize the start-up cost.

Here are the most expensive components you should factor into the cost of purchasing a drone.

  • Drone – the actual drone can cost anywhere from US$40 to many thousands of dollars. Purchasing a drone with all of the features you desire (and no more) is an important way of minimizing the initial outlay. Sometimes, the most expensive drone is not the best drone for your use.
  • Time – there is a time investment in purchasing a drone. Manufacturers have made it very easy to get flying, but your local laws and regulations may require that you invest time in getting your license.
  • Licensing costs – most jurisdictions are now bringing in drone licensing and pilot training. There is typically an annual fee for registering your drone and a one-off test and cost associated with becoming a certified pilot.
  • Smartphone/tablet – unless you purchase a drone with a screen built into the remote control, you will likely need to supply an up-to-date smartphone or tablet. Drone applications are best to run on smart devices that can handle the most up-to-date firmware.
  • Extra batteries – extra batteries should be purchased for your drone. Not only does it give you extra flight time, but it also means that you have spare batteries should the manufacturer discontinue the drone—something which is less planned for than it should be.
  • Maintenance costs – a small but real amount of money is associated with keeping a drone in the air. I recommend purchasing propellers regularly and stockpiling a few when you first purchase your drone. If you crash your drone, you will likely need to replace components, get it fixed, or buy insurance to protect against any accidental damage.

The price of purchasing your drone may double as soon as you factor in the extra requirements and items required for future-proofing your drone purchase – such as extra batteries and propellers.

You don’t have the time to fly

You should not buy a drone if you do not have the time to fly it regularly. I have been able to fly my drone nearly every day for a year while I was producing content to promote one of my businesses.

Nowadays, I fly my drone when I visit new exciting places with friends, and I travel for holidays.

Some people are lucky and can fly their drones at their houses. Because I live within 5 km of an airport, I need to fly my drone somewhere. A 20-minute ride to the beach soon turns into a whole morning or afternoon of flying my drone.

Incorporating the drone into existing plans has been one of the best ways I have been able to maximize my drone flying time. Make sure that you are familiar with the rules in the new location you are flying in.

I use the open sky app to tell me where I can and cannot fly.

You don’t want to sit exams

You shouldn’t buy a drone if you do not want to sit exams to obtain your pilot’s license and register your drone.

Since I have owned my drone, it has gone from a permissionless activity to requiring a pilot’s license and registering the drone.

Even though the online exams are straightforward to take, there is still a level of admin that can put some people off purchasing a drone.

In some places, you can buy a smaller drone (lighter than 250 g) and circumvent any requirements for regulation or licensing.

Buying a drone comes with the responsibility of staying up-to-date with all drone regulations and ensuring you are on the right side of the law.

You have nowhere for the footage to go

Make no mistake about it – a drone is a tool and should only be purchased if it solves an issue or provides a capability required for fun or business.

You will very quickly get bored of a drone if you do not have a purpose for flying.

For most people, purchasing a drone provides them with the capacity to record aerial footage and take Birdseye photographs of stunning places. Even this is not enough to stave off the boredom that accompanies purchasing a drone without a solid reason.

Having a clear and defined purpose for purchasing a drone means it will get used much more often. In my case, I saw myself as a bit of a casing oyster and wanted to create videos to promote my business.

A dedicated use case meant that I use the drone very often.

Even if you only use your drone to take photos and you wish to display them in your home, this purpose is more than enough to get you excited about flying and buying a drone.

Be completely clear about the purpose of buying this new tool, and you will avoid buyers remorse once the initial excitement wears off.

You are always seeking the next best drone

If you purchase a drone because you think it is a cool new technology, you should probably wait a while before purchasing.

After the initial purchase, the coolness of a drone quickly wears off. It can become a very expensive hobby if you always buy the latest and greatest drone in the market.

Manufacturers have perfected the art of marketing the excitement of a new drone. The manufactured excitement can easily cause drone enthusiasts to part with loads of money, keeping up with the latest and greatest gadget.

My recommendation has always been to only upgrade your drone when it has serious issues or have reached the limits of its capability and want to upgrade to perform a certain task.

The drone laws near you are restrictive

For some of you reading this article, you may not even be able to fly your drone in the places you want to. As drones become commonplace, more countries are creating laws to protect the public. Laws typically include:

  • Being a certain distance from people and cars (30 m in Australia)
  • Flying under a certain height (200 m in Australia at the time of writing)
  • Staying clear of airports
  • Staying away from national parks
  • Not flying above people
  • Not taking photographs of people without their permission
  • Paying attention to no-fly zones
  • Doing training or flying lessons
  • Obtaining permits for certain drone activities.

A country can choose to create laws around a load of different regulations. One of the most annoying aspects is that all of these laws and regulations can change without warning. Similar laws and regulations are popping up worldwide, so make sure that you understand your obligations before you buy a drone.

I have had to cancel drone flights when I have realized that I cannot fly in a given location or the height restrictions on a given location means that I cannot capture the sorts of footage that I want to.

You don’t want to learn to edit

Learning to edit and colour grade photos and videos captured by a drone takes every drone video and photo to the next level.

If you want to know more about the best drone photography editing software, I will go through everything you need to know in my other article. Click here to discover the 73 and paid options.

Drone photography editing software - header

Editing and organizing your drone footage is another time-consuming component of owning a drone. Good drone photo editing software with artificial intelligence tools is becoming more affordable, and editing can now take a fraction of its time.

There are two options that I think you need to consider when buying software for drone photography seriously:

  • AirMagic – affordable AI-driven tools made specifically for drone photos. It’ll make the editing process fun, and make sure that you look forward to getting back out flying again!
  • Gimp – if you don’t want to spend money on things you won’t use but need the power of a full-featured image manipulator, download GIMP right now!

I have turned photos considered the worst from the flight into some of the best photos from the day using simple software corrections such as colour grading and exposure balancing.

You don’t like confrontations

Some people don’t like drones flying in their area. I get it. For people without a drone, it can feel like an invasion of privacy.

After all, you can peer into their property with ease; I’ve also had a couple of people approach me and tell me that I’m not allowed to fly in a particular area. I apologize and land as quickly as possible most of the time – I don’t want to give myself or other drone flyers a bad name.

This type of interaction is the reality of flying a drone – some people don’t like it – and will tell you how much they don’t like it.

It can be awkward but being humble is way better than being in an argument. If you feel like these sorts of interactions will put you off flying your drone, and it’ll be hard to avoid flying near people, then maybe buying a drone won’t be worth it.

Summary

This article has been through all of the important reasons you should not drone. A drone is not for everyone. Ensuring that you have the appropriate understanding of its capabilities and purchase a drone that matches the problem you are trying to solve. You will not be left with buyers remorse.

Trying to get past the emotional components of any purchase is particularly difficult in today’s hyper marketed world. However, sticking with the features you need in a drone and creating a list of those features means that you will have the best chance of overcoming any potential emotional buying.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones. His favourite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!