Build or Buy a drone


Many people whether wanting to go pro, or just for a hobby often ask, "Should I build my own drone, or buy one?"

That's such a great question! There are so many commercial operators and they all have differing views. Essentially though, it's down to your preference. We think it's easier to give a pro's/con's approach to answering this question.

Pro's for buying a drone:

It's easier. It's so much more straight forward to find a spec you want, and then enter your card details and your up and flying as soon as it arrives at your door. Take for example the DJI Inspire Pro. It has essentially a GH4 on a stable gimbal giving you easy to control 4k video and some reasonable stills too. A lot of commercial operators will use it, and no doubt are excited to try out the RAW version when that's released. It's a great platform. DJI stuff out the box is stable, easy to fly, and of good quality.

If your the kind of person who gathers a lot on the fly and wants to be gathering up your portfolio quickly, this kind of machine is ideal. From box to flying is quick and easy and there's not a lot to go wrong.

Great news! But there are a few con's too.

These platforms tend to only let you do things the way the manufacturer wants them to be done. The Inspire for example is only four engined, so not ideal if you hit a bird or tree! Your flight systems in bits and it wasn't exactly cheap in the first place. So that's a bit of a shame. But there are other manufacturers that do similar products, like Yuneec and their heavier lift platforms carry a modified GH4 too, with the benefit of a extra motors for failures etc. But still your kind of limited to the way the manufacturer wants things to be done.

It might sound a bit like splitting hairs, but it's the niggly things that often irritate pro's. Like for example horizon drift from gimbals, but with no adjustments in the parameters, there's no way to fix that. And then there's the lenses. Your fixed to whats allowed by the manufacturer, so no fancy mods like anamorphic or wide angled lenses.

Also the business plans for out the box systems often mean that 6 months down the line someone else is getting nicer shots than you because they've just bought the new platform.

So to summarise, all in all, out the box flying platforms are great. They do pretty much what they say and they do deliver on a large scale. If collecting good quality footage over and over again quickly is your aim, these kind of solutions are ideal for you!

Pro's for building a drone

In what kind of world then would you ever consider building a drone?

Another, great question!

The answer is actually quite simple to explain. Have you ever sat in your car after someone else has used it? Do you feel a desire to make some fine adjustments? Well imagine you can't. This kind of sums up the out the box drones. They are great, but sometimes they don't suit what you need to do!

I'll give you an example; One of our customers wanted a particular look to their video's. They had a certain f-stop they want the aerial work filmed in. They wanted a graduated filter on the camera and also they wanted a certain type of lens. No problem! An afternoons tweaking we could provide that solution. The week after, a different client wanted some stills captured of a new facility. Again they had a certain style that needed to be achieved. We were able to make some custom adjustments to another camera we had, tweak the gimbal settings and the next week made another successful shoot.

The point is, custom setups let you make endless changes to suit the needs of what your need to do.

There's another side as well. A custom built drone allows you to fix any problems you have. From time to time you will have failures. If you have built the drone from scratch you can usually fix it immediately, or at least remedy it for cheap within a few days. Out the box systems will probably be months out of action, being returned to the manufacturer whilst its decided who's going to pay for it to be fixed. Meanwhile watching your customer base move on to a competitor.

It's not all rose coloured spectacles though. Building your own does have a downside. It can take months if not years of understanding to operate effectively. Every change takes time to do and often setup times are longer.

So who would build their own? Well you could think of it this way; There are photographers and cinematographers who may go out and get on mass a lot of images to satisfy many customers with commendable work. But there are also photographers and cinematographers who, by the nature of their work, have to take longer to plan out shoots, plan locations consider image quality and shooting style etc etc. Neither one is really right or wrong in what they do, they just do things differently for a different client base.

It's the same story choosing your drone. Really you need to choose what kind of quality you want to provide and to what degree you want to spend time understanding what you fly and customising it.

We hope this blog helps.

In a few months time we'll look at some example builds, what they cost and what makes them different.

In the mean time keep droning!


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Dronetec Aerial carries permission from the CAA for Aerial Work and Full Insurance.

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