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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If he wants to learn the in & out of drone building, P4 is not the answer. First, it is a close system, second, P4 is too easy to fly not much chance for learning. third, p4 cost too much as crash dummy.

I learned the rope using cx20 which is about $300 per crash. cx20 is APM open source version, it has its DIY followers. it has quality issue, a lot of learning experience. Now iris is about the same cost as cx20, better quality but still plently modification opportunities, a great learning platform.

I build custom drones since 8 years now.

My drones are usually very efficient , Hexa 40 minutes with 1kg payload, or Quadro,  70 minutes with 250 grams .

My customers are the major research centers in my country , Italy .

Some have been used for scientific projects like SKA, Square Kilometer Array telescope, https://www.skatelescope.org/

The main element in my opinion that makes the difference is the after sale service.

First , I do not sale just a drone but rather a solution to a customer problem .

Second, it is a duty to understand and foresee the customer needs, beyond what he thinks it is right for him.

In a word, you must see the whole scenario of customer application and suggest the best approach.

It is not only a technical matter , you must  also considering the human ressources that will operate the drone, one of the most important element for the success.

Yep.  The bigger the multirotor gets, the more difficult they are to manage.  Transportation, battery charging, etc.

The drone pictured would require about 3000 watts of electrical power to charge those batteries in one hour.  In the field, that would be a fairly large generator (ie: more than 40lbs, on a wheeled cart), going full-chat, for our hour.

You could use multiple batteries and charge them before hand, but each set will cost $2400 and weighs 24lbs. 

You would need 4 $300 battery chargers to charge all 4 simultaneously, plus 4 $350 power supplies.  All told, another $2600, per set of batteries that you want to charge.  Then you need 4 separate 110V 15A circuits.

Logistic problem is right.

IMHO, Gryphon does not seem the most industrial platform on the market and the connectors, in the arms, seems a big point of weakness, electronically and structurally. Perhaps a Vulcan UAV with smaller KDE could provide better weight / autonomy? KDE engines have really amazing specs compared to T-Motor.

 To me, "industrial" or "commercial" grade UAV serves a specified purpose, a $10 toy quad is also an "industrial" UAV if it is for use-once-&-dispose design. 

Hence, without knowing spec, we can't said brand x or brand y is better or worsier than brand z.To me comparing this engine to that engine is pointless.

We have tested both and KDE specs are way far from reality (not to say that they are false).

KDE motors are good quality ones and really love how they work but the thrust / Efficiency charts in the web are just not true. Hope none base their calculation on them.

again, saying this xxx is best is pointless. How do you know KDE is not over design for his requirement. Over design means cost overrun, cost overrun is a sin in any commercial/industrial design.Would you use a $65K drone for taking picture of a porthouse

If the motor harness and connector is in the arm, that could be an elegant design solution for shielding without adding more weight. That assume that this was the original intent and not purely for aesthetics of course.

@High Voltage,

The reason those drones cost $65k is;

1) Product liability insurance (you want a comeback if it crashes)

2) Investor's return on investment (i.e., the people that set up the company want a profit).

3) Amortisation of the R&D that went into developing the package

4) Advertising, sales support, technical support

5) Documentation

6) Warranty claims

7) Ongoing R&D

Yes, you can buy a kit drone and a Pixhawk, but you don't have any of the above to worry about.

You need to put more detail around your task and payload before the question can be answered.  We do inspections in the mining industry and use extremely cheap drones (less than $2k) to do it. We can trash 30 of them and still come out under your $65k. You're not as concerned if you are carrying a cheap camera and need to get right into a structure to have a look if you're only losing $2k. If you're flying a $75k rig, you don't want to get that close. We trashed 5 drones just trying to get a single view of blocked ore pass in an underground mine. You wouldn't even have bothered with a $65k drone as the dust alone was going to stuff the motor bearings and your gimbal.

Look at the phantom 4. If you're just doing inspection, what can go wrong? It has collision avoidance built in, has a 4k camera, a flight time of half an hour and costs $2k. Best thing is that if it falls out of the sky, it's not going to do a lot of damage.

If you're flying in a scenario where you simply can't have the thing fall out of the sky, then your best protection is experience. No matter how good the drone is, you need a damn good pilot and an engineer watching the data. 

In terms of redundancy, there are tripple redundant autopilots out there, redundant ESCs and multirotors that can limp home after losing a motor. If you want to spend the money, you can have extremely reliable gear, but there is a price. The autopilot will cost you about $25k. We find the best defence is to test your gear hard. We run our motor, ESC, propellor combinations up to full power and leave them there for 10 minutes, monitoring temperature, before we build them into a drone. 

OR....if you have no experience, you buy a Sensfly drone which flies fully autonomous missions and you can claim against the warranty if it falls out of the sky. In fact, I don't think your warranty covers you if you fly manually. That's why you pay $65k. Those drones have been so thoroughly designed and tested that they rarely fail. They come as a kit that gives you the full work flow from planning to flying to post processing the data. It's an of the shelf package that just works.

What is it that you actually want to achieve?


This is what I need to achieve.

We have a lot of substations to take photos of we don't have to get down inside the substation but we have to fly the perimeter and take photos from every angle. A lot of these substations are located in urban areas and are surrounded by homes or businesses. This would be a bad spot for a crash, you either come down in the substation or in somebody's back yard. Energized transmission towers also need to inspected. These are in a more rural environment. You need to keep your distance so you have to have a good camera with some zoom and a high megapixel rating. Wind turbines also require inspection the problem is the constant high sustained winds.

We need to be able to do some IR work with it and occasionally some map work of construction projects. Electrical Utilities are very conservative and are slow to accept the drone movement as they should be due to safety concerns. A crash in the wrong location would most likely slow down there acceptance even further. I don't know what the best answer is, so that's why I came here and I greatly appreciate everyone's input and advice.

In order to further the work progress of drones in America it needs to be done proficiently and professionally. Fail isn't an option. I'm also considering the possibility of new commercial regulations that might be put into place by the FAA requiring redundancy like other countries have in place. The biggest hurdle is I need this now!

Direction? Input? Ideas?


Ah, a surveying drone that never fail.I think you need to do more homework.

Does Boeing build a plane that never fail, how about airbus. In fact, have any one encountered a manufacturer who had build a machine that never fail?

If you make that as a specification, anyone who said his/her company can. you better run away from them as far as you can.

If you are looking for idea, forget UAV design, educate yourself with risk management.

BTW, Utility companies have been floating a drone for surveillance for age, unless FAA and OSHA change strip, it is not going to happen.

@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 ;)

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