We’ve all been excited to buy a new piece of tech, or some other dopamine-releasing purchase, only for our eagerness to result in overpaying and finding out days later we could’ve saved at least a couple bucks.
Because drones are such a popular piece of hardware, and an evolving one at that, understanding pricing and what you can expect to pay is key to guilt-free drone purchases.
How much does a drone cost? Well, let’s find out in our drone price guide where we’ll cover the costs of toy, entry-level, racing, camera, professional, and industrial drones, and what kind of features you should expect from each price range.
Drone Prices: How Much Is a Drone?
We’ve decided the best way to approach drone prices is to divide them up into 6 groups, from the lowest to highest cost.
Surprisingly, we find more variation in the quality of drones between the $100 to $2000 mark, whereas after that point we begin to encounter industrial drones which are much more specialized and can range from $2000 to tens of thousands.
Drone Price Guide
Low-Cost Drones & Toy Drones
- Drone cost: up to $200
- Expected Features: Ready-to-fly, comes with transmitter and controller.
If you’re completely new to drones, this is where your eyes need to be. Regardless of what your plan to use your drone for – camera, racing, or commercial use – learning how to fly and adapt to the mechanics is best done with a low-cost or toy drone.
This is because the cost risk is low. If you mess up or something happens while learning, you’re not faced with costly damages, and it’s the perfect inexpensive way to get your pilot legs.
These drones are also great for kids and families that want some tech to play around with.
For under $200, you can expect to find some great 1080p camera drones, tough battle drones, as well as kid-friendly and user-friendly options. You’ll also work with advanced software that allows you to draw flight paths with your fingers, handle GPS-enabled flight, and get up to 20 minutes of flight time with some models.
Overall, these low-cost and toy drones excellently embody the main aspects of drones that make them perfect for new flyers.
- Check out Best drones under $100
- Check out Best drones under $200
- Check out the best drones for beginners
Entry-level Camera and Racing Drones
- Drone cost: $200 -$500
- Expected features: Ready-to-fly, full kits, advanced camera stability, longer battery life, GPS positioning
This is where we begin to see serious technological enhancements, like drones shooting videos up to 2.7K resolution, 4K HD cameras, complete flying kits for racing drones, better battery life, and GPS positioning.
In terms of capabilities, a $500 drone could be considered a mid-range option, but considering that prices range from $20 to thousands, we’re considering this just the beginning of the more expensive drone options.
On top of better camera quality, camera drones in this price range will offer better smartphone-camera calibration and camera gimbals. When you think about it, smooth photos and videos shouldn’t even be possible with drones since they’re constantly battered from wind and operating in choppy movements, so a gimbal-stabilized camera is literally the difference between abstract art and gorgeous 4K video and images.
A perfect example of this is the FunSnap DIVA, which has many of the attributes above. Or the Ruko F11 Gim2, which gets up to 56 minutes of flying time in a session.
When it comes to racing drones, you’ll easily find full kits for $500. Now, these aren’t the best kits out there, and better headsets and controllers cost more than the kit itself, but it’s enough to get you set up and competing in regional competitions.
There are even drones in the price range that can still skim by on FAA registration by weighing less than 250g, but boast the same level of capabilities like the DJI Mavic Mini. However, don’t let that be your deciding factor.
In general, this is a great place for those starting to become serious about the craft and want their first, and maybe second, serious drone.
- Check out best drones under $300
- Check out best drones under $500
Mid-Range Consumer Drones
- Drone cost: $500 – $1000
- Expected features: Improved optics and speed, cutting-edge software, better automation
This is arguably where we see the biggest jump in consumer drones, not only in optimized features, like better camera quality and AI technology, but also in application. You’ll start witnessing professional-grade drones with higher performance and flight safety compliance.
If you’re still wondering “how much do camera drones costs?”, well they cost around $1000 if you want stunning 5.4K video resolution and 48 MP one-inch sensors, which is leagues above $500 camera drones.
On the whole, drones in this range get a total software and tech overhaul with the introduction of useful additions like AI facial recognition, smart flight, forward and downward obstacle sensors, and faster image processing. You’ll also get longer transmissions up to 12 km compared to the before few kilometers and of course, increased durability like waterproof drones.
The Powervision Poweregg X is an amazing example of this advanced waterproof and AI technology, which gives it deep learning training and the ability to synchronize sound to audio, all inside its .08 protective shell.
We also mentioned professional drones. The Parrot Anafi Work couples with 3D modeling software for cutting-edge modeling capabilities due to its 180º aerial orientation and 3-axis gimbal. You’ll be able to model entire work sites, architectures, and loads of designs all for under $1000.
We don’t recommend users buying in this range unless they’re serious about the craft, but if you’re willing to shell out just a bit more than the $500, you’ll be greeted with some investment-worthy upgrades.
- Check out best drones under $1000
High-End Consumer Drones
- Drone cost: $1000-$2000
- Expected features: Larger sizes, DIY drones, improved camera quality
We’ve finally made it to the high-end consumer drones. Anything past this price point and you’re verging into professional and commercial drone territory, which isn’t necessary for casual or hobbyist drone pilots.
If you can believe it, camera drones get even better in this price range, moving from 4K to 6K, and even 8kKvideo recording. You’ll also find camera drones with 21MP full one-inch camera sensors, improved obstacle avoidance sensing, and better internal processing so you get more out of your shots.
This is also where you’ll get DIY drones. Most cheaper drones come ready to fly out of the box, with their transmitter and controller in tow. Now, you can upgrade those items, but for the most part, you just have to purchase the drone and it’s good to go.
With DIY drones though, you’ll buy the parts instead and create your own dream drone. This is extremely popular with elite drone racers who want to optimize performance and want greater control over the hardware and software. It’s also a favorite of experienced pilots and tinkerers who prefer to build their own drone kit.
Needless to say, this option easily becomes more expensive than ready-made drones and requires a higher level of competency to ensure all the parts are compatible.
In addition to all of this, the drones typically come in larger sizes, which makes transportation tricky, but you’ll get more flight use out of the drones like carrying larger cameras and things like first aid equipment and fishing bait.
You should shop in this range if you’re already an experienced drone pilot and are looking to maximize on long-term use as well as personalization.
Professional Camera Drones
- Drone cost: $2000 and up
- Expected features: Made to suit professional camera setups
This area is very specific, and you’ll know if it pertains to you. This is for those working with professional video or photography teams.
These camera drones will of course have built-in cameras, but there’s also a majority of drones in this area that essentially become flying platforms for your camera gear. There’s a limit to the ability of built-in cameras, so the drones are better suited to carry the cutting-edge camera gear rather than provide it. For example, these drones are perfect for maneuvering DSLR cameras and allowing you to capture aerial shots that would be impossible with the help of this machine.
A great model for this is the xFold Cinema X12 U7, which carries up to a remarkable 35lbs, is made out of carbon fiber, and has the power of 12 rotors. The catch? It’s nearly $25,000, so this option isn’t for the light-hearted, however, it’s one the best in the field and not even xFold’s strongest drone.
- Check out the best heavy lift drones
- Drone cost: $2000
- Expected features: Developed to support more logistical applications including cameras
The difference between industrial and professional drones is less about price and more about the application. When it comes to industrial or commercial drones, they may have cameras as well, but they’ll be used for mapping locations, inspections, deliveries, and potentially even passenger flights.
Infrared cameras are common in industrial drones because thermal imaging is crucial in site inspections and search and rescue operations. They also carry food, water, and clothing in search and rescue situations, with some even carrying up to 100lbs worth of supplies or gear.
Industrial drones are also popular in the agricultural field. They’re often used for crop monitoring, which allows farmers to monitor soil quality and crop damage with a hyperspectral lens, and for spraying pesticides.
The Aurelia X8 standard is a great example of an affordable commercial drone. Costing around $5,000, this drone is extremely customizable and used by the likes of government agencies such as NASA and the US Airforce. It’s known for being highly customizable and supporting programmable routes, which is ideal for companies wanting a specific result.
Keep in mind though, for heavier payloads, the price increases, with some industrial drones costing upwards of $20,000.
Along with special uses, you should expect industrial drones to have enhanced GPS positioning, travel distance, battery life, and software making them the perfect solution to many of your industrial needs.
How Much Does It Cost to Register a Drone?
Unless you’re buying a drone that weighs under 250g, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of registering your drone with the FAA.
According to the FAA website, it costs $5 to register one drone, and that license will last up to 3 years. This amount works for both the Part 107 registration and the Exception for Recreational Flyers registration. You’ll also be able to register online as long as the drone weighs under 55lbs.
How to Choose Your Next Drone
Now that you know what to expect, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding which to buy.
You’ll want to think about your experience level. As tempting as it may be to get a cool sleek drone, opt for a more cost-efficient option for your first drone to help you learn the ropes.
Next, consider what application you’ll be using the drone for. If you’re looking for a camera drone, focus on models that offer long-range flights, good battery life, camera stability, and resolution. If you’re wanting a racing drone, then go for speed, portability, and performance over range and durability. And if you’re looking for professional or industrial drones, the payload will likely be a reigning factor.
Finally, think about all the costs. Whether you’re choosing a DIY drone or a ready-to-fly model, there will likely be external costs. Drone accessories like goggles, gloves, backup batteries, memory cards, carry cases – the list goes on – can cost a hefty sum, with some more necessary than others. And remember, the more expensive the drone, the likely more expensive the accessories will be.