The Cost of Owning a Drone May Be Higher Than You Think

A recent $200.00 price drop of the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced and Standard models means that investing in a drone is now more economically attractive than ever. However, as a recent drone recipient, let me provide a word of warning – the costs associated with drone ownership may balloon very quickly.
 
For example, you'll likely want a few accessories to go along with your drone. An extra battery, a case, extra props and/or prop guards are all high on the list of must-haves for many new drone owners. So let's look at our total after adding a few accessories at their current cost (subject to change) for the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced/4K as well as the cost of registering the drone:
 
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced (or 4K)$799.00
DJI Intelligent Flight Battery$124.99
Nanuk 945 Case for DJI Phantom 3$179.99
Polar Pro DJI Phantom 3 Professional / Advanced Filter 3-Pack$69.99
DJI Phantom 3 Prop Guards$18.59
DJI 9450 Self-Tightening Propeller Set (x3)$18.00
FAA Drone Registration$5.00
Total$1,215.56

Of course, the above totals are only a guide. A different case or a change in the price of the various accessories (a common occurrence, especially with the battery) will cause the total to shift one way or another. And while a new drone owner may not feel that filters are a necessity upon first purchasing the UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System), the filters may become an eventual purchase if not an initial one. Overall, I think the above list is a decent, average representation of desired accessories.
 
As you can see, our $799.00 drone investment has grown by more than 50%. But we're not done yet, not even by a long shot.
 
Being a responsible citizen, you're going to want to purchase insurance – liability, at the very least – for your drone. And that's where the dollar signs really start to add up. Unfortunately, insurance companies want nothing to do with drones. They're simply too risky. So when you find a company that will give you liability insurance covering your drone, it's going to cost you. Note that most photography gear/liability insurance plans will not cover drones without a huge modification to your premiums and deductibles.
 
So how much are we talking about? In my case, even with fairly low-risk usage, the lowest insurance premium I could find – with a $500,000 liability policy (the lowest coverage available) which does not cover gear replacement – was $695.00 per year. And at that price, the company would not allow me to pay monthly, but instead insisted that the total be paid up-front.
 
If that insurance premium total surprises you, you're not alone. I was aghast when my insurance agent told me how much the insurance would be. But keep in mind, that's also a rough number for relatively low-risk commercial use. You may be able to find something less expensive, but your intended usage may cause that figure to go up considerably. And if you want gear coverage too, that premium may seem small by comparison. If you're absolutely sure that your use will be limited to non-commercial purposes, a home owner's insurance policy may cover drone usage at little to no extra cost, which can certainly save you a bundle.
 
So lets look at our investment again, assuming any commercial use:
 
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced (or 4K)$799.00
DJI Intelligent Flight Battery$124.99
Nanuk 945 Case for DJI Phantom 3$179.99
Polar Pro DJI Phantom 3 Professional / Advanced Filter 3-Pack$69.99
DJI Phantom 3 Prop Guards$18.59
DJI 9450 Self-Tightening Propeller Set (x3)$18.00
FAA Drone Registration$5.00
Liability Insurance ($500,000)$695.00
Total$1,905.56

Now our $799.00 drone investment has grown by more than $1,100.00, for a grand total that is significantly more than double the cost of the drone itself. And if you don't currently own video editing software, you can add that to the list too. And if you're recording 4K footage with your drone, you may even need to upgrade various computer components to ease the burden of 4K video editing. As you can see, the costs associated with owning a drone can quickly snowball.
 
Should you still buy a drone? If you have the money to cover the costs, and you're interested in aerial filming/photography, then absolutely. I had so much fun flying the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced this past weekend that the cost seems well worth the investment at this point.
 

But just be warned, your bank account won't likely be flying as high as your new drone.
Posted: 1/25/2016 9:08:11 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
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