Building a Drone vs Buying One – Which is Best?

Posted by
September 24, 2014

Should I build a drone or buy a drone? People ask this a lot, so let's answer it once and for all!

Today I'll be pointing out the differences between building a drone vs buying one off the shelf (or in most cases the internet). It's surprising how many people want to get their own drones these days.

Reasons Why You Should Buy a Drone

There are a lot of people out there who just want something to fly around, or shoot some good looking videos with. If you're one of those people, then there's absolutely no reason for you to build a drone from scratch. There are tons of ready-to-fly kits out there, and a lot of times, it can actually be cheaper to buy a drone prebuilt.

Building a multirotor can also take a long time if you're doing it for the first time. You should expect the "building and setup part" to be a weekend project, whereas a ready-to-fly (RTF) model could be up and flying in just a few minutes (if the battery is charged).

Reasons Why You Should build a Drone

If you're the kind of person who likes to mess with every part, screw, setting etc... Then building is the way to go. When you build a drone, there's nothing you can't change. Every part can be modified or replaced with something better. It's also a great learning experience because you're seeing how everything works and goes together. Another big advantage to building, is that when something goes wrong, you'll probably already know what it is and how to fix it.

Always Ask Yourself "Why"

Before building or buying your first drone, there's a few things you should think about. The first question you have to ask yourself is "why am I getting into drones in the first place?" Everyone has different reasons for wanting a multirotor, whether it's for a school project, or maybe the next big Hollywood movie shoot.

Building vs Buying Price Comparison

Phantom 2                                  DIY Drone

$680 .                                          $683

$960 (With Hero 3 Gimbal)         $1033 (With Hero 3 Gimbal)

$1000 (With Hero 4 Gimbal)       $1053 (With Hero 4 Gimbal)

Parts Used For The Comparison

Flight Controller $300

Controller $604x 

Motors $140

Gimbal $380

Battery $28​4x

  ESCs $52

Frame $208x 

Props $26

Charger $28​

For this comparison, I decided to go with the Phantom 2 V2 as a reference, simply because It's popular and I happen to personally own one.

Most of the parts that I used for this comparison are very similar or even identical to what’s on the DJI Phantom 2. I’m using the DJI Naza M V2 for the flight controller  with the H3-3D gimbal, which is exactly what’s used on the Phantom. For motors, I picked the Multistar Elite 2312 980kv because they’re similar in design and build quality. Things like the ESC’s and controller are completely different to what’s on the Phantom, but I tried to find something similar in price and functionality. The battery is also very different, since it doesn't have any safety features or advanced communication with the flight controller like the Phantom 2, although it does have the same voltage and capacity.

If you want to buy cheaper/lower quality parts, then it's deffinetly possible to build a drone that will cost way less than $1000, but that wouldn't be comparing apples to apples. The Gimbal and flight controller are the most expensive parts on the Phantom 2, so all you have to do in order to build a cheaper drone is find comparable replacements.​ Although, the problem with doing this in my opinion, is that you lose a lot of design-simplicity and ease-of-use.

If you just want something that you can build your self without any advanced features or camera, check out my How To Build a Quadcopter guide. 

If you're looking at possibly getting a DJI Phantom 2. check out the Phantom 2 Information page.

Hopefully That Helped

I know it's hard deciding, but hopefully this article gave you some things to think about before getting your first drone.

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