Price of industrial drones

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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        • Apple product is made in china. please read the speech from donal trump.

          Again, my point is the manufacturing sector is no longer in USA, Many domestic brands are assembled from parts made in other countries Many components are from china.  To get a quality product, one needs to work with the manufacturer and do your own Q/C. To blindly say chinese components are bad only shows your lack of knowledge.

  • It makes no difference where the components come from. It is all about quality of the component and the quality of the assembly. The higher quality the component the more reliable the system will be. Typically cost does translate to higher quality, but not always. Some of the best motors on the market right now are T-Motor form China, and they are NOT the most expensive.

    Lift capacity is a factor that increases component cost exponentially. More batteries, bigger props, etc.

    Survivability is another factor which does not correspond to cost. Survivability is a design issue. It is inevitable that your flying machine will crash at some point. How much damage can you accept? A big DLSR will get smashed to pieces if it falls from 100 feet, but how often does that happen?

    Flight controller reliability is another aspect that does NOT correspond to cost. It doesn't take a lot of $$$ to produce one flight controller. A standard flight controller today has about $100 worth of parts and pieces.  What does affect cost is software. Reliability goes down with open system software. More expensive closed systems have a liability directly to the customer and greater cost since there are usually engineers on staff to solve software issues and take the heat; on call tech support. Open systems for the most part, which inherently have more bells and whistles, unfortunately have no direct liability of their product to the customer/user; there is no company to fail if the software is unreliable and nobody to get fired; you fly at your own risk. 

    The question to ask is how much damage can I afford when the machine crashes? The probability of system failure is significantly reduced when the assembly is put together by engineers one machine at a time.  One can see that the companies producing low cost drones are having serious quality control problems, and that is to be expected. The person assembling the drone is probably making $5 an hour. There is no proprietary interest in the product by the selling company.

    The bottom line is that you get what you pay for up to a point of diminishing return.

    • Talking down the quality  of china made components seems to be the favour of many forum members. But seriously, without them, where are you getting the parts. Unless you manufactur the parts yourself,  there is no other viable supplier. for example, name one non chinese company that build motors. Without the chinese, a sub 1000 quad will not exist, they will all cost north of 65K.

      The bottomline is, if you need quality, do your own q/c. For my company, I buy direct in bulk to get the discount, then only those the went thru rigid q/c procedure for client, the rest go to the R/D crash test program or to local flight club,

      • Yun,this is mostly USA forum so people like to buy domestic stuff...China components are the best there is,its only a question how much they are willing to pay...if you go to China and ask them for motor for 30$ wich elsewhere cost 100$ they will say no problem and make you 30$ motor..quality,hm,at the end,you get what you pay for...also,90% of strong rare earth magnets(neodymium) is in China... 

        • Fully agree with Yun!..  @Emin,  So what is the percentage of USA people on this forum to all the other of us in this forum I wonder? 

          Re comment "quality,hm,at the end,you get what you pay for " Just wondering, have you actually been to China and done manufacturing there?

          I work for a global company which is divided into three global regions. Europe/UK, Americas, and Asia, Middle East. The latter of which is my region of responsibility as the technical director. 

          Now the arrogance of both the Europeans and Americans even within our own company assuming we here in Asia are substandard is astounding. Yet whenever their equipment comes over into my region, we in nearly 90% of the cases have to rework all their work over again. In contrast what we send out from Asia to both those regions we have less than an 10% rework incident.

          The standards of QC we get from USA is worse the EU and is absolutely appalling and I often advise our US team to not bother servicing our equipment there at 4 times the cost they pay than we would, and send it as is and we will get it done a lower cost and at a much higher standard.   We consistently put out a much higher quality work in Asia and do more scope of work at a quarter of the cost compared to both our Europe and America regions.So that statement you get what you pay for many times doesn't hold true.

          What many also fail to take into consideration is the volume of products that comes out of China , Korea, Japan and rest of Asia relatively to what comes out of Europe and America to supply the "GLOBAL" markets. We don't find a lot of stuff now days made in USA or Europe in these global markets as compared to what you find made in those regions of Asia. Even in my home country Australia you would be pressed to find anything at all these days made in USA as an example.

          Then there's the question whether something labeled "Made in USA" whether it is actually made in USA or not, and we know of many these products are actually made in China. Okley products are a prime example I know for fact most are made in China and have labels "Made in USA" on them are are exported to USA. This is highly illegal for an Australian manufacturer to do this and possibly for most countries in Europe as well, but not in USA apparently.

          It is also logical that if there are 50 times more products made in Asia, it for sure might also appear a higher percentage of products fail from these regions, because the fact is most people buy mostly products made in China, Japan or Korea now days. Yet the actual ratios is probably not as bad as a lot might assume when you are only buying 1 local made  Europe or USA product out of 20 products you buy made in Asia.

          There are without doubt a wide varying rage of quality levels from different manufactures in Asia and for sure the statement you get what you pay for with some of them does apply. But you cant just go and generalize all manufactures in Asia are crap just on the basis because their prices are lower than USA and Europe.

          • Hey Yun(is this your name?)...do you want to argue or what,everything i sad was pretty much same as you...READ MY WORDS BETTER....and do you lecturing to someone else!!

            International mindset,great,i am glad you have it! Luckily  am not from USA but from EU,and yes i do buy stuff from all over the world...

            Second i know China is main manufacturer of UAV components and i have no problem with that.. 90% of time i had great experience with china companies...

            Both you and John Campen didn't understand so i will repeat,i am sorry ,my english is not at best...

            I wanted to say this;

            China is making great UAV parts and also many other things are manufactured in china,...problem is when lets say man from local UAV company want to make motors for UAV..he travels to China with some examples of excellent motors(motor A we will call it) and ask manufacturer there if he can make the same or better...motor A cost 200$ elsewhere and nice Chinese man tell him that kind of motor even better would cost 100$...but man from local UAV is cheap bastard and interested in big profit,so he ask if they can make that motor for 30$..nice china guy WILL ALWAYS SAY,YES WE CAN DO IT!and make similar less quality motor in order to make a profit too,otherwise he would lose job,buyer will go elsewhere..local UAV man will be happy,take that motor B and sell them locally for 150$...and then people will be mad bcs 150$ motor is not what they expected....but that is not Chinese mistake,they told UAV man motor for 30 cant be same as motor for 100$,but greedy local man does not care,he rebrands motors,fake specifications and sell them to inexperienced local people who patriotically  like to buy domestic things!!

            • my name is yun-tak or call me YT,  the "middle" character in chinese name normally represent the generation, my brothers all have same "middle" name, the third character is my name in the family, but unless you know me personally or is my elders, you don't call me tak. so the proper calling is either yun-tak or YT. I go by YT professionally in US. 

              As for quality of chinese motor, as you said, you can't give the chinese $30 and expect a $100 motor. No business can exist if it can't make a profit. However, if you have a design and done your costing homework, when you send out for quotation to chinese manufacturers that you have built relationship with, you will get  your motor as you specified at your budget.

              I worked in the petroleum industry for 40 years in usa, Petroleum industry uses a lot of motors.  I encountered so many rebranded product, Now, I completely bypass the middle man and only deal with the manufacturers directly. Even I'm a chinese,  doing business with the chinese is not easy, there are so many mistrust on both sides. It takes time to build relationship. Then again, so are relationship in every walk of life.

        • emin,

          Do you spec your UAV based on best available component or limited to domestic stuff only.

          If it is the later, you are not making the BEST UAV for your clients.

          In the age of internet, there is no such thing as USA forum nor china forum. If you don't have an international mind set, you will be an extinct spiece.

          BS about quality is pointless. people like you went thru this exercise regarding Janpanese cars, now, where is japanese automakers stand in usa public opinion

          If you can't accept the fact that UAV components manufacturing has been lost to the Chinese, you have no knowledge of UAV market.

          If you still argue, I challenage you to name an usa made UAV with 100% usa made parts..

          btw, I'm a chinese but live in usa for 50 years.

  • @HighVoltage: imho, Luc and Ausdroid make very good points. Given your response (you requirements, location, need for possibility of IR, possible map work etc ...) a Phantom won't cut  it, just not good enough  after sales support and transparency, nor, and most important, flexibility in terms of camera,  payload, and expandability. I'd go for something equivalent weight and size wise, maybe a tad larger.  Solos could be a  direction, or a fleet of custom drones with similar or better  characteristics (size, payload flexibility, features, flight time)  that are fully supported by the individual or company who will provide them and support you in a close business relationship.

    If you are rather new at this you could gain an enormous amount  of time by growing  your knowledge and experience with such a vendor/partner. By yourself it may  take you months if not years to get there, not to mention major disappointments, hard cash losses  and "learning the hard way". Someone like Rob, or a few that have commented here, are very good candidates, probably  ideal depending on their availability and terms of engagement ... Oh, might try to contact you too ;)

    • @highvoltage All the planning & specifications are useless unless you know what the regulations will be. Right now, there are two conflicting bills , one in the senate and the other in the house. For now, under the current regulations, all large scale commercial drone ventures are not economic viable.mainly it requires commercial pilot license to fly and can only fly line of sight. I advice you watch the house bill which ban all hobby and research drones. If it becomes law, all drone related ventures are basically dead in water. On the other hand, if the senate bill is passed phantom class drone will be out of faa regulation and can be used for commercial uses without commercial license. The language of the bill is so constructed YUNeec Q &H  and 3DR Solo will not qualify.

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