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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  • Martin, now that is original!

    What flight controller are you using, can you do autonomous flight?

    Also what sort of maximum speed can you get?

    • Hi  Olivier 

      To answer a number of comments on the RC Airship.

      Due to the high cost of operating with the type of RC airships that have been available for a number of years. I developed my own RC airship withe the primary goal of reducing the cost and complexity of operation, to allow a typical drone enthusiast and or professional drone operator to benefit from the long endurance that it can provide.

      Key points-

      1)   Keep it as small as possible  -  1m3 Volume of helium is optimal, at current prices UK that is £10-15, even if       you have to deflate at the end of a flying day. Envelope volume can be increased with same payload bay to         provide longer endurance. Note the airship always operates heavy up to 400g, though 100g is optimal.

      2)  Recover and store the Helium with minimal loss -  I have a simple storage solution that allows ease of                  transport (typical family car etc)  and it takes 5 minutes to inflate /deflate.

      3)  Very survivable on hard landings for your payload /camera etc, the envelope acts like a giant car air bag and        any holes can be quickly and easily repaired, with min Helium loss.   The envelope material is light and can          be replaced (low cost), and as per point 2)  it is not the primary store for the helium, so any small leaks are          not an issue.

      4)  It can operate in up to 10 -15 mph winds, though like multicopters the calmer the better.  (most video footage       of drones on You tube all seem to be in calm conditions?). I will test higher speeds soon, check out my videos     for the airspeed and amps consumed for the current configuration.

      5)  Vibration free platform, engines located well away from payload so sensitive monitors can be carried.

      6)  Relatively simple components all off the shelf from commercially available drone suppliers.

      7)  Can utilise a number of different flight controllers I currently use a MyFlyDream for autopilot/way points and a        separate off the shelf camera Gimbal controller.

      8)  Great potential for solar power with Photovoltaic cells on envelope surface.  I will be looking at this with a local      Univ, endurance will then be all day.

      9) Ability to hover like a multicopter with vectoring motors and operate like a rc Aeroplane for long distance flights.

      10)  I would look to keep costs of the platform at around £1000. 



      • Difficult to believe someone would allow flying with helium tank near high voltage facility...

        also wind resistance is close to nothing,gusts can come any moment and surprise you...

        My friend had something like that but for light camera his was at least 5m long zeppelin,i can't remember,that was more than 10 yrs ago... 

        $1300 for that?what is platform?

        helium balloon and storage,min 3 motors,radio communication,electronics,camera platform,monitor,certification....pffff....i say buy Phantom 4 ,its 1m3 of volume too!!

      • Difficult to believe that something that have 1 m3 of volume can operate with 6,6 m/s winds....

  • Have you considered a RC Airship option.

    I have developed  a low cost RC Airship with endurance of 1 hr 400g payload and 1 m3 vol helium and with a helium  recovery system. Has Camera gimbal and flight controller etc.  Endurance and payload could be increased easily.

    Welcome to the LED - Long Endurance Drone

    Brushless gimbal -
  • Developer

    Something to consider.

    Commercial and industrial are not the same thing

    Commercial just means that you are making money flying whatever. Industrial on the other hand, means a whole lot of testing, and large piles of paperwork and certifications. With that in mind, many so called industrial drones are not. A proper industrial product would have documentation, certifications (including strength calculations) etc. for every part used. And that for better or worse, is where most of the price tag comes from.

  • Dear High Voltage, to our best calculation, the main difference is the RTK on board that adds to the price, however 65K is completely over the top. Leading surveying brands to tend to overprice, and to resellers they are around 40K. Add the dealer margin and ground station and it might arrive to 60K.

    However a well produced factory made professional unit, should be no more than 18-20K, at top quality, this considering a full GNSS double frequency RTK GNSS with UHF radiomodem.

    I hope that this helps.

  • +1 ...

  • @HighVoltage Lots of focus on the frame and the components in this thread.  All important but also just part of the overall system required to deliver a capability, or a set of capabilities.  Here are some of the things I would look for in the commercial space:

    sUAS capable of supporting your requirements:

    -- Well designed airframe that can carry your payload(s) and meet your mission profiles.  Including regulatory or any other special requirements for overhead flight of critical infrastructure.

    -- GCS with proper specs.  Do you need want joysticks?  Is a tablet interface good enough.?  Does it need to be daylight readable and/or ruggedized?  Do you need any special flight planning or other flight related software or hardware?  Comms requirements such as security and range?

    -- GSE (Ground Support Equipment).  Chargers.  How many required?  What kind of power requirements?  12V or 24v DC.  Do you need separate chargers for the bench/shop or can you get away with AC-DC conversion?  Other GSE such as tools.

    -- Spares.  Batteries.  Props.  Other consumables.  What's included?

    -- Other logistics considerations.  How big are the batteries?  Can they ship air or do they need to go ground?  Do you have a ready source if they have to ship ground? Does the system come with transport cases?  Can they ship air or are they too big?

    And then you get into stuff that is likely to start adding up beyond the cost of the system...

    - Factory Training.  Do they offer it as  standard?  How many Operators and/or Observers can you send?

    - COA applications with N number registration

    - Maintenance and Warranty.  I would expect 12 months on non consumables at least.  Do they pay for shipping if something goes wrong?   I might also expect that it's overnight shipping both ways.

    - Service agreements.  Can you add to the coverage?  E.g. Can you get a temp replacement while yours is being worked on?  Will they ship it to you overnight?

    And now you have an sUAS with support and well trained people that can collect all kinds of great data.  What do you do with the data?

    - Software included for post flight analytics/mapping/etc

    - Hardware included?  Most of this stuff requires some serious iron if you are not going to wait overnight for results.  Time is money.  You can use cloud based systems but Murphy says your first customer is in the booneys and you have little/no backhaul.

    - Training/support for any of this?

    Other considerations that come to mind..

    -  Are they local, or local enough?  Can you afford all the shipping and or travel if not?

    - How long have they been in business?

    - Do you like dealing with them?

    - Are you locked-in to a proprietary system and if so, is that OK.  E.g. are there code audits required or other requirements to operate near critical infrastructure?

    - ITAR restrictions if you plan to operate other than in US?

    - What can your team handle and what might need to be outsourced?

    - Can it be insured and if so can you reduce your insurance rates by implementing specific programs/policies?

    Disclaimer.  I am the founder of Rocketship Systems.  We do BoxBotix, which is an open source modular robotics system.  Part of the reason we open sourced BoxBotix because it was clear to us that the aircraft was the easier part (in large part thanks to many of the smart people on DIYDrones who are active contributors).  It is a tool, like a hammer.  There are many more issues involved when swinging a hammer than just the choice of hammer.  What I just described above are some of the issues we are working on helping our customers solve.  Will it be 65K?.  The RTF robots will not be, but the entire package might reach that kind of money.  Hope to have an answer to that in a few more months.  You said you needed it "right now", and we are not in a position to help you "right now", other than to give you a bit of info.  Hope that helps.



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