I have been getting qoutes for a drone to add to our inspection business. So far I have quotes from Aibotix, Ascending Technologies, Aeryon and Altus. We currently use a Draganflyer X4. These professional drones have a massive price tag attached to them and I am wondering how they can be so expensive compared to a cinematoghraphy drone thats carrying a red epic camera around a movie set. What makes them so expensive? Whats in there that can add up to 65K. If you ask the manufacturers you get the same answer. There industrial grade, there not mass produced in china, there safer more reliable. yada yada what separates a 65k dollar drone from a drone that can be built with the best motors and best ESC's on a solid platform. Is it the flight controller? Is the flight controller in a falcon x8 or an Altus what separates these drones from the rest? I was wondering if someone could shed some light on this for me. 

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My (obviously subjective) opinion ...

They are no more "industrial grade" than a well build custom drone. Nor safer, nor more reliable.

As far as the quality of the flight controller code, since it is closed no customer can have  an idea. And since they can't  have the sort of massive user testing that Ardupilot, or even closed DJI has, I actually think they may be less reliable.

They ask 65k for them because ... they can. Just like that run of the mill hex that was sold $35k for a police department here:


Some agencies, corporate entities, etc ... swear by the "you get what you pay for" rule. That statement is usually true, yet when it's not   it's still a safe bet . And if a  few 10's of thousands is no big deal, why challenge it?

So I could build myself a comparible inspection drone with the finest over the counter parts and pieces I can find and end up with something just as reliable as one of these 65k dollar units? I like what your telling me here John. 

If anyone uses the term "chinese made" in a fashion so as to make you question, I would ask you to look at the 100's of millions of iphones, android phones, tablets, macbooks, computers - and, yes, even those DJI drones which start at $499.

These guys wish they could have that reliability.

I think it's more a matter of low sales volumes having to pay for the C-Suite and profits. Not to say they are not making a good product, just that they are selling it for what the market will bear.

This has happened with a lot of stuff in the industrial commercial field...especially in the beginning. 

I don't think most people have the capacity to properly build, test and troubleshoot a DIY model which is as advanced as some of those units. Also, those who need their drones to work for a living need a phone number to call when things go wrong. That costs a lot of money.

I guess it depends on whether you have any alternatives as to the exact features you need. This is from years ago but it should do away with the myth of cheap chinese made.


There is still a virtue to buying RTF and paying extra as it does take time to make something reliable (and time is money). There are Pixhawk powered RTF commercial options. For example for 4-5k you can buy a Steadidrone Mavricks for example, which is powered by Pixhawk or an Action Drone AD1 (also Pixhawk powered) for probably even less. Both support a wide variety of sensors and have good GCS options. Both of these companies would put together a custom system and support it for a fraction of the cost of a fully proprietary platform. 

Although Ascending Technologies do have some excellent EMI hardened, dual redundant IMU platforms.

I have no problem paying someone to build me a RTF unit thats what i will probably do. I agree time is money. I guess my hangup was the price seperation of these units and the only thing I could see that might create this gap was the flight controller. I was wondering if the A2 or Pixhawk would be reliable enough to put into commercial use where crashes could be dangerous and costly.  

@High Voltage: Definitely, if you have the experience. But don't forget the price you put on your time, research,  testing, quality of *all* components (reliability is only as good as the weakest link, e.g. PDB, current sensors, structural integrity, ESCs, motors, etc ... etc ...) and support as you'll be on your own ...

On the higher end realm of things, with a $10k budget you can build something as reliable as the most expensive "$65k" drones out there, (or more, since we don't even know how reliable they are and don't know how they've been tested), and way more reliable than just about any RTF (maybe not all) sold in that price range.

@Marc: Agree.

Well it sounds like I need to start educating myself on how to build my own custom built unit and I need to get started ASAP. Any suggestions where I might start. I would spend 10k building myself a drone all day everyday over the price tag there putting on these units like the Aeryon Sky Ranger and the Trinity Falcon 8 

Actually the S1000  is the last copter to think about  when thinking industrial quality and reliability, and a  really bad example. For starters the A2 flight controller sent way too many $50k+  Red Dragons and other high end cinema gear to the deck when it was released and for a long time after that, many insurers and movie production houses  learned their lesson the hard way and won't come close to  it.

It's not necessarily bad for the price now, but not even close quality and reliability wise to something like Freefly Alta, only need to ask high end aerial cinematographers who do this for a living and for whom prosumer just doesn't cut it.

John give me your opinion on what would make a solid unit. Freefly Alta? Gryphon? what flight controller should i put in the frame? Its not hard to research motors and ESC's. How about some advice on what flight controller to put in a solid frame. The FreeFly Alta is 11,995 how does this baby rank as a solid reliable unit?

Btw, and just to keep things in perspective here, HighVoltage ...

While this guy is more than double $65k,  you *may* have a hard time replicating quality  on your own  ;)


Don't know about its "reliability". Actually interesting  they use Pixhawk or A2 FC as option, after originally going with very proprietary Picollo FC.

But as far as quality, seems reasonable to guess these guys know what they are doing ...



I don't have one (alta) so I can't really say. The proprietary FC bothers me some, but then I am partial to open source where code is there for everyone to inspect, issues very quickly identified, openly discussed, and fixed. So more trustable than anything else imho.

But what I can say about Alta  is that the top pros in the aerial cinematography use it and swear by it  ... Most of them  won't touch DJI with a 10 foot pole (too many bad experiences or unknowns) , and won't use Pixhawk either as they want RTF and FC only for filming. Also feel very confident in saying that the Freefly Movi  gimbals, when it comes to high end, are the best on the planet. Well, except maybe for the Shotover ...

FC: I'd go with Pixhawk. For the reasons first stated.

Frames: I know a few high end flyers who like Vulcan. Falcon? Gryphon also, with some re-inforcements for the removable joints. No experience with Rimcopter and don't know price but they sure look very well built.

You might want to check out the  X8 Coax Multicopter group on FB for ideas. Although I don't like FB, lots of guys there who know their stuff, fly for a living  and build ...

Ya they know what there doing, what a beautiful machine. Thanks for sharing. Looks like the moneys in the gimbal. What happens if there is a motor failure? The same thing that happened to my 10k dollar draganflyer she shoots to the ground like a rocket and breaks into several pieces.

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