At Droneflyers.com our mission is customer education. Those interested in this pursuit would be well served to start out by understanding the various types of drones…or segments of the market in more businesslike terms.
Toy Drones – Millions of these machines are sold and they are somewhat disposable. They are used as pilot trainers and for fun and indoor/backyard flying. In general, the prices run from $15 to $100.
(Popular brands include Syma, Hubsan and UDI)
FPV (First Person View) and Racing Drones – These tend to be mid-sized machines with cameras designed to give the operator a “drone view”. Many operators use headgear (goggles) to get a real feeling of flying. These are usually not equipped with GPS as they are flown within relatively close proximity of the pilots. FPV drones are often sold ARF or “Almost Ready to Fly” and may require some additional parts and labor before they are ready to fly. Some companies are starting to offer RTF (Ready-to-Fly) kits at higher prices. The average price range for FPV quadcopters ranges from $250-$600 although you can certainly spend a lot more if you get high resolution goggles and other upgrades. FPV-type quadcopters can be purchased for as little as $100 without the FPV gear (cameras/monitors/etc.). This type of system can provide some fun while being a step up in speed, longevity and skill level from the toy grade drones.
(Popular brands include Walkera, Eachine, TBS and Blade)
Aerial Photography (AP) Drones – these are, by far, the largest part of the market by revenue and we will likely see 2-3 Billion dollars worth (at retail) sold in 2016. They are GPS stabilized and full featured and can take video and pictures of impressive quality (not pro-grade, but still very high quality). AP drones often function as “crossovers” into light commercial uses such as roof inspections, public safety (some fire departments). You may have heard of DJI – an innovative Chinese company that currently has the largest share of this particular market segment. Prices for these models range from $400-$1400+. Prosumer AP Drones sell for $2000+ and feature better cameras than the lower priced models. The output from these drones can be used for more professional productions.
(Popular brands include DJI and Yuneec)
Hobbyist/Hacker/Developer Drones – A lot of hobbyists enjoy the pursuit of building as much or more than the actual piloting. The roots of the entire industry are in the hobbyist arena and these users often advance the technology by being the first to try various schemes and designs. The “build your own” hobbyists will often spend from $300-$700 on their frames, motors, flight controllers and other parts to build a mid-sized quadcopter. They do not get more for their money than prebuilt or mass-produced machines, but they learn a lot more and have the satisfaction of building something to their own specifications.
(Hobbyking and many others supply parts and kits)
In addition to these 4 segments there are the agricultural, commercial and industrial (and military) uses. There is some crossover as low cost AP drones can often be equipped with mapping and other software to expand their capabilities.