I get asked a lot of questions related to starting or growing a drone business. By far, the number one question is, "what drone do you recommend?" My answer is always the same, "it depends."
For most commercial drone pilots, the drone you decide to fly will be the most important decision you make. It will also probably be your most expensive investment when beginning your career.
Before starting your journey as a UAV pilot, I'm sure you took some time to look at the types of work available to pilots. You quickly found that an entry-level drone could easily complete jobs like real estate photography and basic 2D and 3D maps. The higher-paying and more technical jobs required specialized equipment. Some of the gear required for more technical work can get pricey.
While a standard camera drone may set you back a couple of thousand dollars, a good LiDAR camera without the drone may cost well over one hundred thousand dollars. So, it all depends on what you want to do with your drone. The more technical and specific the work is, the more specialized your drone will need to be. That being said, most pilots are not starting their business with six figures to spend on gear. I know I certainly wasn't when I began.
So, let's assume you are just starting out and looking for your first drone. Hopefully, you have already built your business model. You have your marketing down, understand what customers you are looking for, and have decided how you want to price your services. These should all be addressed first as part of your business plan. If you need help with how to do these things, keep an eye out for our upcoming business course.
A quick side note. Drone recommendations are only good for six months to a year from when they are given. UAV technology changes quickly, and within a year or so, you're likely to see a better product on the market. The drone you get will probably still be good, but just not top-of-the-line.
A good case for this can be seen in the first good commercial drone I had for my business, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro (P4P). The P4P came out in November 2016, just a few months before I started my drone business. I loved the P4P, and for the time, it was revolutionary. It is still a great drone that can be used even today for real estate photography. However, when you compare it to current offerings on the market, it is very dated and limited.
So, if you are looking for a great starter drone right now, I recommend the newly released DJI Mavic 3 Classic (DJI RC). The Mavic 3 Classic was announced on November 2, 2022, and the basic model will set you back around $1,800.
This drone is a good starter platform because it has the right mix of cost, portability, and impressive specifications. A few highlights include a 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad Camera, 5.1K HD Video, 46-Min Max Flight Time, Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing, 15km HD Video Transmission, and advanced Return To Home features.
The camera is 20MP which is perfect for real estate and basic 2D and 3D maps. Remember that your maps won't have survey-level accuracy, but many clients do not need that. The drone is lightweight and portable. With the DJI RC, you don't need your phone as the remote comes with a built-in screen.
Additionally, the drone has all the standard DJI pre-programmed flight modes like QuickShots, MasterShots, and ActiveTrack 5.0. So, even if you are new to flying drones, many of the great shots you need for real estate are just a tap away.
With a low-cost point, ease of flying, excellent camera, and portability, I think the DJI Mavic 3 Classic (DJI RC) is the perfect starter drone to buy right now.
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Article Written by David Daly