After the flying experience with the unstable mini drone, it didn’t take long to want a more capable, reliable drone. I started researching drones made by the popular manufacturer, DJI. Their drones have been critically reviewed by professionals and have been given thousands of positive consumer reviews. Finding information on these drones was easy; justifying the cost to get one was the challenge.
DJI is arguably the most reputable brand in the drone consumer industry. Their website has detailed information on their drones. I convinced myself that if I was going to spend the money on a bigger, better drone, I wanted to make sure it was going to provide everything I needed. DJI drones were sold individually or in “fly more” bundles, which were often sold with spare batteries, extra propellers, and a carrying case. Even still, at $1000 to $1500, it was difficult to convince myself to buy one brand new.
In the past, I have used craigslist.com or other buy/sell marketplace apps to sell household furnishings and other items that I did not need anymore. One popular one that I used is OfferUp. I decided to check the app for used drones being sold locally. Since drones were fairly new to the marketplace, I wasn’t certain that any would be for sale. I searched “DJI drone,” and to my surprise, there were several results. The results are based on location, so being in a major city definitely helped. When searching in a rural area, the search resulted with slim to none.
There were used DJI Mavics, Phantoms, and Sparks for sale. The prices varied but were being sold between $200-$400 below new list prices. Some were said to be “brand new” while others needed repair. I was looking for a drone that was used, flown a handful of times, and with some extra accessories like a battery, propellers, or a bag.
It was time to start negotiating. I sent messages to a handful of sellers. I sent offers to a couple people selling their DJI Mavic and to some that were selling their DJI Phantom. By comparing their price points, I figured that a fair sale price would be about $500 to $700 depending on how well it was taken care of and the accessories they were being sold with. With the varying prices, I decided to put a price cap on how much I was willing to spend. I gave myself a price cap of $500.
I was a little sad when I wasn’t able to make any negotiations for a DJI Mavic. The prices, even for a used one, was too high. There were a couple of promising options for a DJI Phantom 3 Professional. One in particular, I went back and forth with on price over two days before making an agreement to meet-up.
Conveniently, the meet-up was at a local coffee shop and the trade was quick and easy. The person who sold the drone to me was just a kid who looked like he was 13 years old. I asked him why he was selling his drone and he said that he doesn’t fly it often. It didn’t look brand new but didn’t look like it was in bad condition. It seemed well-kept and was being sold with some extra accessories. I gave him $500 for the used bundle.
I was finally on to a bigger and better drone. While sitting at the coffee shop, I looked up instructions on YouTube on how to fly the DJI Phantom 3 Pro. The quick tutorial made it easy to understand, and I wanted to find a safe spot to fly it as soon as possible. The DJI Tutorial YouTube page.
Since I didn’t register it yet, I decided to fly it at my in-law’s backyard. I figured it was the safest place until I could get the drone registered and research some of the drone rules. Calibrating and flying the DJI Phantom 3 Pro was a world of a difference compared to the mini drone I previously flew. It was completely stable after take-off. The camera feed quality was super clear and vibrant. There was immediate directional controllability and since I had already practiced flying with the mini drone, flying the DJI drone was a piece of cake. I’m pretty sure I had a big, cheesy smile while I was flying the drone around the yard.
I could instantly see how someone would be tempted to fly higher, faster, and further away. The reception from the controller to the drone was well-connected, and the battery lasted about 25 minutes. I didn’t even fly it the whole 25 minutes because there was only so much flying I could do in a backyard. I was getting ideas of where to fly, when to fly, what videos I wanted to capture. Instagram has a lot of great drone content that inspired me.
I registered the drone at FAA Drone Zone. I had to refresh myself on the drone pilot rules for recreational pilots. Soon after, I received my Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate. It was important to study and look for a summary for commercial drone pilots.
Registering, getting the Part 107 certificate, researching rules, and making sure I wasn’t breaking any rules were all barriers to simply flying. Although they are requirements mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration, it is difficult to believe that every drone consumer, whether they are a hobbyist, freelance photographer, or professional, are going to go through the process. It is so easy to buy a drone at Best Buy, Amazon.com, or a private party and fly it as high and far as it can go without going through the extra steps of getting it registered or even knowing what the drone rules are.
I was excited for the next steps in my journey. I had a good drone, a license and a general idea of where and when to fly. It was time to put my skills to the test.