by Charlotte Moss Published 01/10/2016
The marketplace is awash with drones - they start at just £10 for goodness sake! These do not have cameras, you need to step up to £50 before you get a camera. Tech Advisor lists 10 drones starting at £100 and finishing at the DJI Phantom at £1,299 inc VAT. Thus you have to sift your way through lots of consumer drones before you get to something suitable for professional work. Pro film-makers are not necessarily interested in flying about at speed and looping the loop; you will be more interested in the camera capabilities, the payload and flying time.
A drone for commercial use is unlikely to cost less than £1,000 at today's prices.They are falling though, the Yuneeq Typhoon H ticks many boxes and comes in at £1,200 for this six-rotor machine with a flight time of 25 minutes and a new obstruction avoidance system. The camera does not have interchangeable lenses and is probably not as sophisticated as the DJI Zenmuse X5R which takes M4/3 lenses made by the likes of Olympus, Panasonic and Sigma. By way of example, an Olympus 45mm lens costs around another £180.
This is only your starting outlay, here is a breakdown of a full commercial kit (street prices):
Note that you can get kit deals which might save you about 25% of this total.
If you feel the need to haul a Canon 5D into the air then the costs shoot up dramatically. A DJI S1000 Octocopter comes in around £3,500, delivering a flight time of around 15 minutes. Spare batteries are almost essential for many applications so you are likely to need a couple more, costing at least £180 each.
Talking of spares, the distribution and availability has been patchy, bordering on the criminal and certainly of little use to the busy professional. Do make trial enquiries about the availability of spares for you chosen airframe before you take the plunge. If you can't get a spare prop to replace a failure, you are out of business until you can - there are tales of such things taking months to arrive. This is an advantage of buying a kit with everything in it including spares - you can check the contents before you hand over your credit card!
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