Aside from the potential return on investment, which is different depending on the type of service the UAV is providing, here’s a cost breakdown just to purchase one UAV.
- Drone & Controller: $1300 (quadcopter)
- Enough batteries to work for 5 hours: 6 (@$100/each = $600) These will need to be replaced every 250-300 cycles
- iPad for camera control: $800
- Extra props, miscellaneous equipment for minor repairs: $200
- Time invested to become proficient in piloting and working camera functions: 400 hours
The camera person will need to work closely with the pilot to develop communication skills and perform as a spotter. It’s not just taking off, taking pictures and landing. It’s understanding lighting conditions for superior camera control. Flying with precision into areas without incident, and building trust in your piloting skills.
- Assuming a $4000/month per employee (x2)
- 2 people for 2.5 months = $20,000
- Total: $22,900 (and this is for 1 UAV. It’s best to have a minimum of 2 or 3 for unexpected outcomes)
- This cost can be offset by the return on investment (ROI), which is different for every user in every industry
If you plan to provide a service to customers, you’ll need a fleet of drones (at least 2, but having 3 is much better), as you’ll crash it and need to be up immediately to finish the job. If you send it out for repairs, it could take anywhere from a week to 3 months depending on who you send it to.
Lost flying time is lost money. The drone makes you money when it’s flying for a purpose. It takes hundreds of flight hours to be proficient in not only flying but to react quickly with confidence when something arises with technology or the elements of weather.
Then you have insurance, usually a 2 million aggregate is acceptable, but check with your insurance agent on specifics because some companies will cover you - but only if you are qualified to fly. (Don’t you just love that small print?) So if you are in an accident and can’t prove you’re FAA qualified, you could not only be out a drone but liable for a lawsuit by flying in federal airspace without proper authorization.