When you are looking to buy a drone it is very common to see drones that are US$1000 +. Therefore it can be very tempting to think about waiting just in case drone prices drop. But is that a reality or is that just wishful thinking? In this article we will look at the reasons why some drone prices will drop and if you can expect a significant decrease in the average drone price in the coming years. So, will drone prices drop? Let’s have a look at what the data and market says.
In a way drone prices will drop. Prices will drop on the older models of drones. If you wait six months to one year it is likely that there will be some secondhand drones available to you. Also, as newer drone models get released manufacturers want to deplete old stock. However, drone prices of the latest models will not drop as manufacturers will most likely include more advanced, and therefore expensive, technology.
Are drones getting cheaper – what the data says?
In 2018, it looked like drones were getting more expensive. According to the 2018 Drone Market Sector Report by Skylogic Research, one-third of purchases in the last 12 months were for aircraft costing over $2,000. That was up on the previous year.
Just over 20% of drones purchased in 2017 cost more than $2,000. Whereas in 2018 32% of drones purchased cost more than $2,000. According to Skylogic’s analysis, the weighted average price of drones costing more than $500 is $1,718. That’s a $174 increase over last year’s weighted average price of $1,544.
There’s been some commentary to suggest that prices are unlikely to drop very much and will, in fact, get more expensive as manufacturers want to increase profit margins or invest in research and technology to outcompete their competition which results in a bigger capability of functions and features for their drones.
There aren’t many aspects of the current generations of drones that can be improved upon in a significant way. The current range of drones exist because they are at the limits of consumer technology. Consider it like the next generation of iPhone – there are some new cameras and new software features but the basic functions of the phone remain the same. I believe that drones are in the same part of the revolution as phones.
There are not many massive gains to be had with current technology (like lithium polymer batteries) we will need to see a massive improvement in drone technology and electronics before we see a massive change in drone prices. The advanced drones that are coming active research labs at the moment have more range, they are able to lift more things, and are built for specific functions and special abilities.
Drone manufacturers will continue to innovate in the drone technology space. My recommendation for buying a cheaper drone would be to buy “last year’s model” or buy a newer model that has recently become secondhand for whatever reason. If you want to know how to buy a secondhand drone check out my other article – how to buy a secondhand drone. A 50 part checklist – click here.
Should you buy a drone now or wait for prices to drop?
This is the ultimate question that comes up whenever you buy anything expensive but fun. There is a need and a desire to want the latest technology right now but there is also the thought that if you buy it this week the prices will drop next week and cause you to regret your purchase.
There are a couple of things that you need to take into account when you are considering buying a drone right now or if you are going to wait.
- Resale value – I think that buying an expensive drone is fine if you consider that if you don’t like it you can resell it at a good secondhand rate. If you can afford the purchase price i.e. it won’t put you in financial hardship and it is a mainstream product that has good resale value then there is no reason why you can buy a drone right now.
- Buying a drone is a risk no matter what – even spending a few hundred dollars on a reduced function model you still run the risk of crashing it and running it into the ground. Flying a drone is a skill that you need to build and you could buy a cheaper drone to practice before launching into a more expensive drone. For a piece of technology that you send out over water and into the air there is always a risk involved. Factor in those risk factors more than if the price was to drop.
Ultimately, it is completely up to you and your specific buying timeline. If you want to learn to fly a drone right now because you want to build up a skill, then do it. If you want to buy a drone for a return on an investment then the numbers will ultimately dictate if that is a good idea or a bad idea. If it is coming up to a sale time it may be worth waiting to see if your favourite drone goes on sale. But when is the best time to buy a drone?
When is the best time to buy a drone?
The best time to buy a drone is when you can actually get out and fly it. It is one of the under stated aspects of drone ownership. There is nothing sadder than a drone that is set in an office or in a drawer that isn’t being used. If you have a reason to buy a drone and you are going to use it imminently then buying a drone right now will be a good idea. But you can also wait until Black Friday sales or other mass sales after Christmas for example to see if prices will reduce.
You might think that waiting until after a new model is released by a manufacturer that product prices will drop. Most big companies, like DJI, do not actually drop their prices very much and just simply discontinued the old models.
If price is a massive issue for you then you should probably consider buying a drone such as the Syma X5C-1. And practice with that drone until you can afford a better one.
Before you consider skimping out on a drone and buying a cheaper model you may want to consider why drones are so expensive in the first place.
Why are drone so expensive?
If you want to know more check out my article – why drones are so expensive, what you are really paying for… – Click here.
Drones are expensive because they are at the apex of a load of high-tech software and electronics. A typical drone will contain advanced AI software, small motors, miniaturised electronics, and the manufacturer will have typical business costs too. Drones are the result of so many technical aspects that they can be very very expensive.
But when you are buying a drone what you are really buying is trust that your drone will do what you wanted to do and return to the takeoff spot in one piece. It’s common that we should want to skimp out on paying for high-end electronics as we are so used to getting cheaply made goods. However, buying a good drone that you can trust when you are out flying improves the piloting experience which in my opinion is priceless.
A drone will cost a lot of money because it contains:
- a camera – the higher end consumer level drones will have a camera which is installed on the front of the drone. Typically, the more expensive the drone the better camera you are getting.
- A gimbal – a gimbal is the part the drone attaches the camera to the body and it provides the camera with a large range of motion. It has tiny motors which keep the camera pointing in one direction and smooths out the lumps and bumps of flights. That is worth paying for as it can dramatically improve your drone footage.
- Batteries – cheap batteries are heavier. And therefore new technology is expensive and that only thing that can keep the drone in the air for a long amount of time. On average we expect that a flight time of a drone is around the 30 minutes mark. This was only achievable in recent years because of the advances of lithium polymer batteries.
All of these reasons mean that drones are quite expensive.
How much does a “nice” drone cost?
The great thing about drone technology is that there is a wide variety of options at the moment and the “best on the market” is probably not the drone your should be buying!
For children and people who don’t want a fancy camera set up with their drones, you can buy drones for as little as $50. At this price point, you will be sacrificing a lot of the best drone flying experience. You will not have a controller or have a very cheap controller and certainly no flight automation. The flight time will also be in the range of 5 – 6minutes as the batteries will be very small.
What is the best inexpensive drone?
So, let’s assume that by “nice” we mean a drone with a camera as well as a drone that will be a pleasure to fly. Here are the two entry level drones that you can purchase:
- Best small beginner drone – DJI Mavic Mini (click here for the current price on Amazon) – This drone is affordable, very beginner-friendly, and is the perfect first drone. It is under 250g and packs in HD video at 60 frames per second (you can do awesome slow-mo shots). It has auto return to home but lacks collision sensors in the more expensive drone. Fly it clear of obstacles however and you’ll never need them!
- Best for the camera – Parrot Anafi ( click here for the current price on Amazon) – This drone is inexpensive and is packed full of beginner-friendly features. It has an impressive 4K camera and zoom capability making it the perfect option for those looking for full camera features on a budget.
What is the best drone for the money?
However, this is what I would recommend for a first introduction to a “nice drone”:
When I first started to look for a drone – I was really tempted to get the Mavic Pro. But I’m pleased I did not! I was using my drone to capture B-roll footage for my daily LinkedIn vlog. So It needed to fit in my bag and not be too heavy. That’s exactly what I got and MORE!
The person I bought it off said I may not need another drone – and he is absolutely right…here’s why:
- It is small enough to carry EVERYWHERE with me – capturing b-roll footage is the best addition to a blog. This drone folded down to a tiny and lightweight package. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice any more space on my bag for its function.
- It is inexpensive – I just couldn’t justify spending a heap of money on the best drone. This was the least expensive non-toy drone around!
- Batteries are easy to come by – extra flight time was important to me. I was tempted to get the “fly more” package but on reflection, I only wanted the extra battery for extra flight time – so I just bought that.
- Good flight time – This drone has a good but not great flight time. At first, I was always a little annoyed that I had to return to home after about 16 minutes. However, after the excitement wore off I found I was always landing with plenty of battery to spare!
- NOT a toy product – the mini or spark were toys that DJI has produced for fun and easy photography. Tha Air is the first with the advanced features like those seen in the higher end drones like the Pro and Zoom.
Remember to choose a drone that suites your use case and you really can’t go wrong. Don’t buy a drone that you want – buy a drone with the features you need and nothing more. You can always upgrade later.
It’s a certain thing that as time goes on technology gets cheaper and smaller – so does that mean drone technology will get cheaper too?
There is a drone price competition on between manufacturers but we will not sure who will win. It is likely that drone prices will remain the same for the years to come as manufacturers incorporate more features and software into their drones for the same price.
Prices will drop on the older models of drones. If you wait six months to one year it is likely that there will be some secondhand drones available to you. You can all an event like black Friday to get a good deal on your drone.
The most important thing is that you buy a drone that you will fly and has the feature sets that you need. You won’t regret buying a drone that you are flying your start to regret it only when it is stuck in the office draw or in a spare room collecting dust.